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Thinking in Āsana

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Thinking in Āsana is an exploration of three popular lineages of modern postural yoga – Viniyoga, Iyengar Yoga, and Ashtanga Yoga. The book describes in detail the different styles of yoga practice advocated within the three lineages, and traces the influence of this practice on the corresponding “yoga philosophies”.

While Viniyoga, Iyengar Yoga, and Ashtanga Yoga name the yoga of Patañjali as the source of their teachings, the interpretations of Patañjali’s system differ significantly between the three lineages. A careful examination suggests that these differences can be accounted for by referring to the differences in the kinds of movement experienced during yoga practice. Linguistic theories of George Lakoff and Mark Johnson provide methodological groundwork for such examination.

By deconstructing the experience of movement specific to modern postural yoga practice, and by juxtaposing it to a linguistic analysis of a textual corpus, Thinking in Āsana argues that there is a systematic relation between how yoga is practiced and how yoga philosophy is understood. In doing so, the book not only gives a detailed, insightful look at modern postural yoga in practice and theory, but it also emphasises the role of movement in human meaning-making activity.

Published: Oct 17, 2022

Section Chapter Authors
List of Abbreviations Matylda Ciołkosz
Prologue Matylda Ciołkosz
Acknowledgements Matylda Ciołkosz
Part I: Enactivism as a Framework for Yoga Studies
1. Introduction: The Legacy of Descartes and the Mind-machine Matylda Ciołkosz
2. Towards Enactivism: Redefining the Mind and Cognition Matylda Ciołkosz
3. Enaction and Language Matylda Ciołkosz
4. About this Study Matylda Ciołkosz
Part II: Thinking in Āsana: Movement and Philosophy in Modern Postural Yoga
5. Construing Yoga: A Sketch from a Few Perspectives Matylda Ciołkosz
6. The Legend and Legacy of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya Matylda Ciołkosz
7. Viniyoga, or the Yoga of T.K.V. Desikachar Matylda Ciołkosz
8. Iyengar Yoga Matylda Ciołkosz
9. Ashtanga Yoga of K. Pattabhi Jois Matylda Ciołkosz
10. Yogins, their Yogas, and their Worlds: A Summary Matylda Ciołkosz
Epilogue: Yoga, Autopoiesis, and Change Matylda Ciołkosz
End Matter
Bibliography Matylda Ciołkosz
Index Matylda Ciołkosz


Matylda's book presents her thought-provoking research on three of Kṛṣṇamācārya's disciples whose teachings have been at the forefront of transnational yoga. Her comparative discussion applies hermeneutical theories on cognition, language and kinaesthesia to reveal new perspectives and insights into modern yoga. This book should interest both scholars and practitioners of yoga alike.
Jason Birch, Senior Research Fellow, SOAS University of London

Thinking in Āsana is a remarkable achievement. In clear, illustrative language, Ciołkosz articulates how different yoga traditions construct different ways of being in the world through a combination of embodied practices and conceptual framings. This book’s phenomenological analysis of contemporary yoga practices articulates a much needed advancement to our understanding of modern yoga.
Through a close examination of the embodied practice and published literature of the three most globally influential yoga students of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (i.e. T.K.V. Desikachar, B.K.S. Iyengar and K. Pattabhi Jois) Ciołkosz unpacks the distinctions between each tradition, exploring in detail how and why these practices are physically and psychologically transformative.
Thinking in Āsana should be required reading for all those interested in yoga as a transformative or health-promoting practice.
Suzanne Newcombe, Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies, The Open University

In this compelling book, Matylda Ciołkosz deploys cognitive science and phenomenological theory to offer a fascinating perspective on embodiment and meaning-making in postural yoga. It should be essential reading for anyone interested in thinking more deeply about the meaning of practice in contemporary yoga.
Mark Singleton, Research Associate, Centre of Yoga Studies, SOAS University of London, and author of Yoga Body and Roots of Yoga

Thinking in Āsana is a sophisticated and coherent account of how yoga practice and philosophy interconnect, which will be an invigorating read for both scholars and practitioners alike. Beyond the academy, it will be a valuable addition to teacher training programmes on yoga, inviting dialogue on how philosophical metaphors are deconstructed in praxis. The productive combination of linguistics and kinaesthetics is a novel addition to current scholarship on yoga in the humanities and will likely become an influential text in shaping future interdisciplinary studies, particularly in the context of bridging the gap between biology and sociology, science and philosophy, scholars and practitioners.

Overall, Thinking in Asana ̄ provides an impressive discussion of Viniyoga, Iyengar Yoga, and Ashtanga Yoga and illustrates how yoga practice influenced by the specific philosophy and language of each produces different experiences with and understandings of the body and of yoga for practitioners. Matylda Ciołkosz’s book should appeal both to scholars of yoga as well as more advanced practitioners.
Nova Religio