Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Feminism From the Inside Out: Women and Yoga in the United States
by Champ, Amy Elizabeth, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 2013, 455; 3602020
Abstract (Summary)

This study is a theoretical and qualitative analysis of the personal, social, and historical ramifications of almost 17 million women in the United States practicing Yoga. Focusing primarily on Yoga teachers, their in-depth practice is analyzed as a somatic performative, operative within a spiritual lifepath, serving to generate feminist epistemologies of self and community, and informing both short- and long-term feminist activism.

Research consisted of participation at approximately 75 Yoga events, workshops and conferences, and observation of approximately 50 Yoga teachers. Cases are provided through in-depth profiles, narratives, interviews, and workshop summaries. Data analysis utilizes a Performance Studies’ framework of performativity and phenomenology, in association with feminist theories of embodiment and nondualism, sociological studies of Modern Yoga, and is framed with an understanding of the historical transnationalization and commodification of Yoga.

Women practicing Yoga in the U.S. initially undergo several stages of healing from an emotional, physical or mental wound, experiencing a subsequent transformation, which leads to a sense of personal empowerment and development into a modern yogini (female Yoga practitioner). This process of becoming is facilitated by cultivating a relationship of power with the divine feminine (shakti), and through developing a personal Yoga practice (sadhana), spiritual studies (swadhyaya ), and ongoing ethical development (yamas/ niyamas). Yoga teachers eventually become women leaders within their community, finding their purpose (dharma) through engagement with service projects (seva), teaching Yoga to the underserved and special populations (karma yoga), and through public gatherings, workshops and festivals.

These women, consciously or not, are introducing feminist performance strategies. Some activism is more directed to the political, operating as pure performance in the short term, for larger, public communities, but is limited in the long term and tends to produce rigid structures. Long-term Yoga activism focuses on encouraging women to speak the values that emerge from their somatic Yoga practice, in the supportive communities in which they work. The latter are working with performativity, forging ongoing appropriate processes that create values which give people reasons for living. These behaviors are flexible, and work over the long term within smaller communities, even as they are more difficult to recognize.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Venkatesan, Archana
Commitee: Chapple, Christopher, Hunter, Lynette
School: University of California, Davis
Department: Performance Studies
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 75/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Womens studies, Performing Arts, Spirituality
Keywords: Ethics, Feminist activism, Modern yoga, Service, Women, Yoga
Publication Number: 3602020
ISBN: 978-1-303-53791-2
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