Laura von Ostrowski

Laura von Ostrowski, M.A. © privat

PhD Supervisor Prof. Dr. Andreas Nehring
PhD Co-Supervisor Univ.-Prof. Dr. Anne Koch
Start 2015
Contact laura.von.ostrowski(at)
Topic/Title The Significance of the Yoga Sutra in Modern Postural Yoga


The Significance of the Yoga Sutra in Modern Postural Yoga My Ph.D. project analyzes the German yoga scene from the turn of the millennium to the present day from a religious studies perspective, with a special focus on the reception of ancient Indian Sanskrit yoga texts in Modern Postural Yoga.

A key passage in the Yoga Sūtra, arguably the most important textual source for the yoga scene in question, refers to a state beyond intellectuality: yogaścittavṛttinirodhaḥ (Sūtra I/2), which roughly translates into “[y]oga is the cessation of the fluctuations of mind” (Sarbacker). This state has been described for example as one of immediate self-awareness, and various practices for attaining it have been established and legitimized by making recourse to the texts (body, breathing, meditation, and recitation exercises, in particular). These constitute performative presentifications of tacit bodies of knowledge, i.e. the ritual / somatic performance of social, somatic, emotional, and semantic knowledge. In this context, the question arises as to how this knowledge – as textual knowledge of the texts’ translations – is transferred to the level of tacit experiential knowledge. Both the yoga texts and the practices associated with them undergo cultural transfer and processes of appropriation; therefore, they shed light on social phenomena and developments.

My Ph.D. project examines the discourses relevant in this context and furthermore aims to analyze ethnographically how textual contents are translated into practices and rituals. By employing a variety of methods such as participant observation and qualitative interviews, I aim to provide a thick description of the field in order to capture the multifarious significance of ancient Indian yoga texts for the members of the late modern, alternative religious scene.

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