Date of Award


Degree Type

Creative Project

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair(s)

Ravi Gupta


Ravi Gupta


Danielle Ross


Michael Sowder


Yoga’s immense growth and popularity during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, along with its proliferation into countless varieties and styles, presents teachers, students, and scholars with the question: “What is yoga?” Answering this question requires the investigation of a number of cultural, historical and philosophical tensions at play in modern expressions of this ancient tradition: (1) Is modern postural yoga (MPY)—the yoga widely practiced in studios across the country today—an authentic expression of yoga or is it simply another form of physical fitness? (2) Does the modern focus on the physical dimension of yoga forsake its original purpose of pursuing spiritual enlightenment? (3) Should the academic study of yoga proceed through a scientific study of yoga’s health benefits or through a humanistic study of yoga as a religious, cultural and philosophical phenomenon? This paper will explore these questions by tracing the history of modern postural yoga to uncover the sources of these tensions and the cultural forces that have kept them in play. The paper will then offer suggestions as to how such tensions can be navigated productively by both scholars and practitioners.