Swaying Mountains

Swaying Mountains: Moving into Stillness in a Hot Yoga Community

Julien Cossette

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Abstract

This article contributes to a growing body of anthropological work on the senses and on yoga as an experiential, embodied practice. It began as an inquiry into the oxymoronic lumping of movement and stillness in yoga teachers’ suggestion to “move into stillness.” Through an autoethnographic description of my sweaty participation in a hot yoga community of the Greater Toronto Area, my aim is to explore this particular relation between movement and stillness. I first discuss my contention that hot yoga is a “kinaesthetic culture” (Samudra 2008:666)—a culture mediated by movement that highly values a sense of motion as a way of knowing—that considers body, mind, and breath as interconnected. I then elaborate on a sensory model specific to its practice, and further argue that yoga cannot be adequately represented by the limits of a Western five-sense model, based on binary oppositions of movement/stillness and mind/body, which problematically excludes kinaesthesia from its sensorium. Finally, I return to my initial inquiry to discuss how the embodied mutual constitution of movement and stillness actually constitutes, in my view, the epitome of a larger biosocial configuration of a yogic way of moving and sensing.

Keywords: Senses; movement/stillness; yoga

Download Full Text – Cossette 2014

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