LIVE ONLINE: A History of Female Yoga Practitioners June – July 2020

WorkshopA History of Female Yoga Practitioners
DatesFridays June 5, 12, 26 and July 3 2020
VenueLive, online (Zoom)

A History of Female Yoga Practitioners

This is a new four-week course on the history of female yoga practitioners exploring text, image, and the latest research.

Image above: A prince and attendants visiting a noble yogini at an ‘ashram’ Murshidabad c.1765. Victoria and Albert Museum: IS.1 1950.

Join yoga studies researcher and practitioner Ruth Westoby for four interactive seminars on the history of female yoga practitioners. This course surveys image, text and analysis of female practitioners from early premodern India to gender in modern yoga. Ruth will share her own research, shedding new light on the practices of haṭhayoginīs. Ruth contextualises this study within critical perspectives which require us to explore our personal perspectives and responses.

Course Curriculum

Session One – Ascetic practitioners in art and word
The first session offers an overview of the course, suggests interpretative strategies for interrogating the material, and surveys early material on ascetic practitioners.

Session Two – Haṭha yoginīs in art and word
The second session examines approaches to women and female practitioners in the Haṭha corpus from the 11th through 18th-centuries.

Session Three – The gendered yogic body
The third session draws on Tantra, Haṭha and Daoist materials to understand the central role within yoga praxis of the gendered yogic body for female and male practitioners, using menstruation as a case-study.

Sessions Four – Gender in modern yoga
The final session explores gender and female practitioners in modern globalised forms of yoga: the reception of the premodern Indian tradition within contemporary formulations of yoga, the depiction of yoga practitioners in popular yoga communities, and new analysis of pedagogy post-#metoo.

Learning Outcomes

  • The course will provide you with a clear overview of the history of female yoga practitioners
  • The course will encourage you to integrate critical perspectives, and requires active learning and analysis as part of your learning process
  • You will be oriented to the latest research and perspectives in the study of women in yoga and will receive a comprehensive reading list for future study
  • You will receive a study pack of richly-illustrated slides for revision and further study


This course is designed for curious yoga practitioners, teachers, teachers-in-training and teacher trainers. The course does not require prior study in the history of yoga though familiarity will help. Students are directed towards the introductory sections of James Mallinson and Mark Singleton’s 2017 Roots of Yoga to acquaint themselves with the broad outlines of the history of yoga.

Course Tutor

Ruth Westoby is a doctoral researcher in yoga and an Ashtanga practitioner. As well as offering workshops and lectures at studios and conferences, Ruth teaches on some of the principal teacher training programmes in the UK and beyond. Ruth convenes the SOAS Yoga Studies Summer School, facilitates Yogacampus’s online History of Yoga course, and curates yoga seminar programmes through the SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies.
Ruth has recently collaborated with the Haṭha Yoga Project’s ‘embodied philology’, interpreting postures from an 18th-century text teaching a precursor of modern yoga, the Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati, in 2016 and 2017. Ruth is also researching for a doctoral thesis on the yogic body in premodern Sanskrit texts on haṭhayoga at SOAS under the supervision of James Mallinson.


You will receive a Yogacampus CPD certificate on completion of this course