Workshops: Yoga & Cultural Theory

The White Liberal Body

This Theory/Asana workshop will explore the myth of Gandhian non-violence and its on-going relationship to colonial culture, i.e. how Gandhi grasped Ahimsa, a religious vow and retrofitted it as a secular concept for civil disobedience.

In popular cultural parlance, Gandhi is seen as the father of India’s independence movement and non-violence as the means of this national achievement, but between the Salt March and India’s Independence there are 17 years of anti-colonial resistance, currently unaccounted for in our collective imagination.

Gandhi employed a term initially reserved for renunciates and politicised it. We’ll tease out what he meant by non-violence and investigate the implicit hypocrisies, including Gandhi’s own relationship to race, class and empire. This will provide a mirror to reflect upon the current socio-economic climate of Yoga in the Global north and how the Yoga Industrial Complex serves to maintain colonial power with the pacification of the Western Yoga masses.

I’m particularly interested in spiritual activism and how white culture has co-opted and sanitised both Gandhian and Kingian non-violence in ways that foster complicity towards colonial imperial violence.

Through Asana we'll explore the "core" structure, activating the diaphragmatic psoas complex for both physical and pranic stability.

Yoga for Contemporary Dancers
Racial Decoy
Race & The Post-Modern Dance Experiment

We’ll look at the work and companies of foundational post-modern choreographers like Yvonne Rainer and Trisha Brown in light of the social movements that were simultaneously occurring at the time, i.e. the civil rights movement, the Vietnam war, the women’s movement and somatics to consider the intersection of post-modern dance with race.

We’ll particularly explore Movement Research, a NYC based dance organisation founded in 1978 to curate curriculum, performance and on-going experimentation, with its theoretical and aesthetic roots in the Judson Dance Theatre, in their recent journey to desegregate their organisation.

Racial Decoy seeks to use the model of racial accountability and equity currently being forged at Movement Research to inspire and generate change in your own local dance community.

This is also an Asana based workshop that will consider Thomas Hanna’s ideas of the three somatic reflexes: green light, red light and trauma to create a fourth reflex, the woke reflex.

This workshop explores whiteness in the post-modern dance experiment, investigating Anna Halprin's multiracial Reach-Out company, the formation of Judson Dance Theater and the burgeoning NYC downtown dance scene that morphed from it.

Yoga & Antifa

This workshop will push back on fascist ideology through exploring anti-fascist activism, from the 80’s punk scene and the Dead Kennedy’s anthem, Nazi Punks Fuck Off to Anti-Fascist organising and street demonstrations in Athens, Prague, London, Stockholm, Vienna and Berkeley!

We’ll consider issues of labour, immigration, border imperialism and the state’s monopoly on violence, which necessitates non-violence as the only respectable, or government sanctioned option for resistance.

Using a Fanonian approach to understanding the brutality of the colonial or authoritarian regime, we’ll reflect on notions of himsa (violence) and ahimsa (non-violence) in relationship to the ethics of abstraction and what the materiality of fighting back might actually mean.

Join Yoga & ANTIFA as we immerse our physical practice in Warrior poses and their multiple variations. From Virabhadrasana Ekam-1, Dve-2 and Trini-3 to Parivrtta Uttitha Parsvakonasana. This workshop is about urging the body/mind to take a determined stand in precarious times.

"Shooting at the walls of heartache, Bang Bang, I am the warrior!" – Patty Smyth

Premiered at Impulstanz 2017

Yoga & The White Mask

Is Yoga in the West wearing a white mask and therefore “forced” to identity itself with colonial culture? This workshop explores Euro/American ideas of Yoga. What is it, Who gets to decide and why? In reshaping Yoga to our own self-image do we inadvertently capitulate to western, colonial hegemony? Familiarising ourselves with the anti-colonial critique of Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks and Glen-Coulthard’s Red Skin, White Masks, we’ll explore the coercive cruelties of colonialism and what post-colonial, decolonisation might mean in the current context of Yoga.

Although motivated by theoretical discourse, this workshop is ultimately an embodiment practice that uses Asana as a psycho-somatic tool for sensing how our experience of ourselves, has been largely shaped by colonial conditioning.

The week will focus on a full range of backbending postures from Anjaneyasana to Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana to Dhanurasana and Chakrasana in all their classical and variant forms.

All bodies and levels welcome.

Class instruction, reading and video materials are in English.

Recommended: If you intend on attending this course you can find Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Mask in your mother language. I do not think Coulthard’s Red Skin, White Masks has been translated into other languages. It is not necessary to do any pre-requisite reading, as the subject matter will be unfolded in the context of class/practice, but if you desire, Fanon is widely available. 

Premiered at Impulstanz 2017

Yoga & Radical Non-Duality: An Ontology for Social Justice

The Clay/Pot allegory was first used in the Chandogya Upanisad to illustrate the reality status of a thing, pot in relation to its cause, clay. The drsthanta, example, although limited, is used to explore the non-dual significance of what is generally conceived of as an ontological binary. Swami Dayananda Sarasvati, calls it Ganges bank people's arithmetic; If there are five clay pots, how many pots are there and how many clays?

In the West, E=mc2 presents an equation that envisions forms and the energy behind them as equal. How does this vision of equality impact our social conscience? Radical Non-Duality: An Ontology for Social Justice explores the philosophy of non-duality from a Vedantic perspective and asks, on what basis will you construct and discriminate against the "other?"

This workshop will spend the first half hour exploring verses from various Vedic texts, which reveal the non-dual identity of oneself. The next two hours will use Asana, Pranayama and Meditation to physically ruminate on these teachings.

Rooting into traditional Hindu knowledge, we will reduce our fuzzy Yoga notions, our imperial longing for planet bliss and embrace a vision of ourselves and the world we inhabit that is inclusive and subsequently without fear.

Premiered at Impulstanz 2016
What Makes Yoga, Yoga
​​​​​​​​​​​​​In a climate where every fitness class is headlined as Yoga, it can be difficult to know, what makes Yoga, Yoga.

This intensive, geared towards beginners and open to all levels, including Yoga teachers, will explore Asana, physical postures, within the larger framework of Hatha Yoga.

What is the utility of Asana in conjunction with Pranayama, adjustment of breath and Dhyanam, meditation.

What is the "theory" of Yoga and why does it prescribe these practices.

In other words, what is the philosophical point of view that makes these practices meaningful or What Makes, Yoga, Yoga?                     

Premiered at Impulstanz 2016

Yoga & Whiteness: Facing the Self, or Outing the Hippie Woo-Woo Colonial Crap

Part I:

This Yoga Workshop will be an interactive mapping project, a kind of personal return to incarnate history as a way of embodying our Ancestors. Each day will seed a research project into Home and Homeland through the discursive lens of Privilege Theory asking, What's the Genealogy of Colonialism.

Please bring a journal, a camera and copies of photos of your family to be used in the Mapping Project.
Part II:

Asana as an Archival Process. Using the psycho/physical template of Asana to explore the body as archive. We will investigate the Breath as a primary source of endurance, as a mode of "enduring cultural, historical or evidentiary value" or simply as a way to self-preserve in conflicting historicities. Connecting our personal Survival Tactics to Post-Colonial Theory in an attempt to out the Hippie, Woo Woo, Colonialist Crap.

Premiered at Impulstanz 2015

                         Yoga Twerkshop 
Yoga, Art & Cultural Appropriation

This workshop will critically explore Yoga, Art, i.e. Dance and the ways in which privilege culturally appropriates for the staging of either the Performance of Identity and/or the Performance of Ideas. Looking into the fetishisation/commodification of indigenous cultures, many that have been oppressed by Euro-American colonialism, we will discern between exchange, assimilation and appropriation. The first half hour of class will be dedicated to lively dialogue about the dynamics of Cultural Appropriation, the implications of Race and Class and how to participate in Art and Spiritual praxis without being a Jerk.
Then we’ll explore the Gluteal field, differentiating the utility of your buttock muscles in various Asanas; where to contract the Gluteus Maximus & when to relax the outer Butt-Boss and allow the under-glutes, the Medius and Minimus to initiate. …It won’t really be Twerking, but you will definitely Get Your Ass On!
Premiered Impulstanz, Vienna, Austria 2014

Global Uprising: Locating the Body as a Site for Critical Change
Conceived for FRESH Dance Festival San Francisco, 2014

Week 2  Invert to Subvert


This workshop will continue the anatomical investigations explored in Shine A light, highlighting the integration of the Arms, via the Shoulder Girdle, into the Abdominal Body and Pelvic Bowl, for postural inversions such as Handstand, Headstand and Forearm Stand.
In conjunction with turning the Body/Mind upside down, we’ll explore Post-Colonial concepts of Inversion and Subversion in a psycho/somatic attempt to resist normative binaries of Dominance & Submission.

Week 1  Shine A Light

This one week workshop will give a global view of the Asana practice. Unfolding the anatomical logic of the Sun Salutation to discover the Soma/Spiritual components of the entire Asana system. If a stretch is the elongation between two points, this workshop will focus on the dynamic precarity between release and constructive resistance.

This workshop will deconstruct the bodily internalisation of Patriarchy. We will explore how political systems influence our psycho/somatic self-image, i.e., how power structures forge or derail personal/collective identity.

If you loved Detoxing Capitalism you are going to thrive in SmashAsana!

Yoga has been employed by capitalist companies, not as a way to liberate the employee, but to improve the production of labour. We are going to understand Yoga as a means to resist all forms of co-optation!

Get ready for Yoga Anarchy!

Premiered at Impulstanz 2013
Detoxing Capitalism
This workshop will address our long held racial privilege and prejudices and will explore how we store this enculturation in our bodies. The imperial body is not just a nation state, it is the psyche of every individual. The economics of globalization have “normalized” the excessive self-absorption that drives imperialism. Detoxing Capitalism will acknowledge Yoga as a colonized practice and will brave the discharge of behavioral toxins, which otherwise internalized, keep us complacent with capitalism.
Common Detox Symptoms:
*A deep and unnerving sadness over our disappearing world
*Anger at injustice; a Pandora’s Box of Rage
*Profound irritability with friends’ and family’s expressions of dissociated, white privilege
*An inability to enjoy at the expense of another’s well-being
*Various aches and pains due to the release of discriminatory biases
*Anxiety related to relinquishing attachment to material objects that have *become an extension of one’s identity
*Existential Ennui, a self-boredom that arises when one seizes compulsive fixation
Disclaimer: Withdrawal symptoms from our addiction to capitalism, may persist for a very long time…
Premiered at Impulstanz, Vienna, Austria 2012