Embodying asana in all new places: transformational ethics, yoga tourism and sensual awakenings




Lalonde, Angelique Maria Gabrielle

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Yoga has been an organizing feature of community for thousands of years, shaping and being shaped by the bodies, minds, spiritual worlds and social relationships of its practitioners. Over the course of the last century, it has become a global celebrity-endorsed exemplification of how to live a “good” life and been transformed from the “exotic,” grotesque menageries of ascetic “sinister yogis” and itinerant sages, to define the fit, graceful, radiant, blissful personages of American supermodels and pop-stars. Yoga has moved from the ashrams of India to gyms, church basements and specialized studios of Europe, North America and Australia, and from these centers of economic and political power, to “exotic” peripheries through the global and bodily movements of world-travelers seeking self-discovery, health, spiritual transformation, and connection with the natural world in “less developed” locales. This dissertation explores and documents the movement of yoga-motivated travelers to tourism locales with no historical connection to yoga, asking questions about 1) how yoga travelers’ activities fit in larger contexts of ethical tourism and cross-cultural consumption as yoga travels across borders, 2) the role yoga plays in practitioners’ lives, shaping health, gender, sexuality, and lifestyle, 3) outcomes of sustained contemporary yoga practice on the bodies of practitioners, including affective transformation through bodily manipulation, the expansion of sensual awareness through breath, auditory techniques, meditation and mind-body synthesis, 4) how these bodily transformations are interpreted and applied to contemporary life through syncretic adaptations of yoga ethics from classical yoga texts with contemporary ethical discourses of environmentalism and consumer choice, and 5) how yoga tourists and the owners of yoga tourism locales view, interact with, and mobilize “foreign” locals and locales through sustainable development narratives and ideas of global community and universal spirituality. I apply contemporary anthropological agendas to yoga as a means to explore different ways of being alive, paying particular attention to how sensual potentials are brought to conscious experience by relational engagement with nature and culture, thus shaping our affective worlds. This dissertation charts intimate bodily and cross-cultural human relationships played out through yoga. It considers the spiritual, economic, political and cultural impacts of globalized yoga and yoga tourism. Close attention is paid to the experiential aspects of yoga and how yoga enlivens and relates to larger social narratives of nature sanctity under contemporary stresses of neoliberalism, including how yoga practitioners engage with the ethics of yoga and consumption to make lifestyle choices that align with political and economic concerns for viable ecological, social and cultural futures.



Yoga, embodiment, autoethnography, ethical consumption, sensual studies, tourism, globalization, neoliberalism, lifestyle, posthumanism