The (an)aesthesia of technique: the discipline of hatha yoga

Authors: Anna Mclauchlan*, University of Strathclyde
Topics: Cultural Geography, Geographic Thought, Geographic Theory
Keywords: Aesthesia; anaesthesia; yoga; technique; sensitivity
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 4:50 AM / 6:05 AM
Room: Virtual 15
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Yoga, although it has many meanings, is popularly understood as a physical activity comprising of sequences of postures, breath awareness and meditation. Such techniques are thought to foster health and well-being by disrupting and altering habitual movements and thought patterns. Yoga is credited with tackling stress by increasing the practitioner’s consciousness of, and sensitivity to, their surroundings; encouraging a sense of being ‘in the moment’. That sense is emblematic of the classic philosophical meaning of yoga, the restraint, or complete control, of ‘thought waves’ in the mind.

Deeper engagement with the implications of what ‘restraint’ and ‘control’ mean complicate how yoga can be interpreted as nurturing sensitivity. To committed devotees, yoga permeates, and thus disciplines, life in its entirety. Yoga is philosophically bound up with perpetual discernment or discrimination (viveka) that comes to question and collapse accepted drivers of human relations: identity; individuality; competition; hierarchy. To facilitate realisation yoga encourages a numbing or anaesthesia, that includes an ability to re-understand, and thus not respond to, pain. Drawing from this extended example, this paper argues aesthesia and anaesthesia are bound in to commitment to technique.

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