Slowness Out of Sync - Understandings of Time in Ashtanga Yoga

Camilla Damkjær*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Yoga is often presented as a ‘slow’ form of exercise. Yoga magazines are filled with advice about how to ‘slow down’. However, Ashtanga yoga is considered dynamic and ‘fast’—something that dates back to its role in the modern re-invention of hatha yoga in India, highly influenced by European physical practices. It is therefore paradoxical that it has become part of the craving for ‘slow’ forms of exercise. This article argues that, when looking at the role of time in contemporary yoga practice, we first need to examine critically the different understandings of time that are part of the practice, and their geo-political circumstances. Methodologically, the analysis will be based in an auto-ethnographical approach and textual analysis of descriptions of Ashtanga yoga, especially by its main authority Pattabhi Jois (1915–2009) and his students. Philosophically, the article will draw upon the way time has been discussed (and the way Western concepts of time in philosophy, history, social sciences and anthropology have been questioned) within post-colonial theory. The analysis will focus on the different discourses of time in Ashtanga yoga as they appear in the technique and conceptual framework. Special focus will be given to the coexistence and superpositions of different discourses and understandings of time in the contemporary transnational practice of Ashtanga yoga.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSport, Ethics and Philosophy
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27. Nov 2019


  • Ashtanga yoga
  • Philosophy of sports
  • postcolonial theory
  • postural yoga
  • time


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