Anne-Sophie Balzer

 Anne-Sophie Balzer © privat

PhD Supervisor Univ.-Prof. Dr. Anne Koch
PhD Co-Supervisor

Prof. Dr. Almut-Barbara Renger

Start 2018
Contact anne.sophie.balzer(at)
Topic/Title Authority and Dominance in Transcultural Yoga.
Sexual Violence in Yoga, Christian Churches and Sports. A Comparison of Structural Factors and Emotional Configurations



When we of yoga we usually think of wellness, health and spirituality. Yoga is meant to be a place for personal growth, mindfulness, non-violence, and the playful expansion of mental and bodily boundaries. But classes, retreats, ashrams, and teacher trainings can also be the site of cultic worship, of totalitarian or nationalist authority, of exploitation and abuse. Over the last decades many yoga styles and meditation traditions have seen scandals of various shaping, e.g. Agama Yoga, Anusara Yoga, Ashtanga Vinyasa, Bikram Yoga, Jivamukti, Kundalini, Kripalu, the Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy, SadhanaOm Yoga, Satyananda Yoga, Shiva School of Meditation and Yoga, Siddha Yoga, Viniyoga and Yoga in Daily Life. Since 2017, the #metoo debate has been shedding light on sexual misconduct, violence, assault, and violation – in the mundane as well as in the yoga world.
My dissertation project aims to find links between two only superficially contradictory spheres: yoga and violence. To gain knowledge of structural preconditions and patterns of abuse I turn to Christian churches and sports and recent rehabilitation reports on abuse. While there has been notable effort to understand the systems of abuse that were at work in schools, in churches and church organizations, in sports clubs, and youth organizations, similar incidents in the yoga world are treated so far as unfortunate singular cases. I am interested in the connecting conditions and structures of these cases. I see presupposing factors both routed in organizational structures and in emotional configurations. The first part of my thesis deals with these ideological, structural, and organizational factors in cases of abuse and sexual violence in said institutions. Sociology of violence, Pedagogical and Organizational Theory provide useful frameworks. The overall goal of my thesis is to name causes for sexual violence in transcultural yoga, to understand their patterns and conditions of occurrence and their emotional impact. My methodical approach is a mix of qualitative interviewing and a close reading of discourses in the yoga blogosphere, in social media, and teacher training manuals.


since 2018 Dr.phil. in Religious Studies at Salzburg University
2013 – 2017  Master of Arts in Cultural History and Theory at Humboldt University Berlin, Focus: Cultural Practices and Body Techniques;
Master Thesis: “Who’s the Real Hillary?“ Media Discourses on Hillary Clinton’s Authenticity and Her own Strategies in the Election Campaign
2016 2009–13 Bachelor of Art.
1. General and Comparative Literature at Erfurt University,
Focus: Literature and Gender, Literature of Displacement, Literature and Psychoanalysis Thesis: SCUM Utopia – Subversion and Self-Constitution in Valerie Solanas’ SCUM Manifesto
2. Communication Studies (Subsidiary Subject)
Focus: Transcultural Communication, Cultural Studies, Pop Culture  

Other qualifications          
Journalist and Yoga Teacher. As a teenager I was trained in Classical and Modern Dance at HfMT in Cologne

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