This PhD constitutes an in-depth study into the field of modern yoga practice. It aims to identify and analyse the primary developments of leading transnational organizations through the 20th and 21st century in India and the UK. A core argument will be that the expansive dissemination of modern yoga practice can be largely attributed to the work of a handful of Indian gurus and the transnational organizations founded in their name. To this end, I shall focus on the lineages of Sivananda Saraswati (1887-1963) and Professor T. Krishnamacharya (1888-1989) whose founders and disciples made a substantial contribution to the diffusion of knowledge of yoga beyond India’s borders and facilitated the establishment of a mainstream globalized practice.
The thesis will utilise sociological research methods and adopt a multi-paradigmatic approach centred on analytical approaches to studying organizations. In this regard, the nature of the field of yoga lends itself to an engagement with a number of parallel (but largely hitherto separate) traditions, including the sociology of religion, social movement theory and organizational theory.
Drawing upon fieldwork in the UK and across India, fresh empirical data has been collated to underpin the findings of this thesis and to shed light on previously unstudied areas or resolve inaccuracies. Through archival work, immersion in the field and interviews with key informants (both sannyasins (or renunciates) and grhastha (or householders)), I have been exploring the differing mechanisms and processes that have supported or constrained the development yoga schools, by mapping the foundational structure of the dominant lineages in modern yoga whilst paying particular attention to cultural mechanisms and contextual factors.
With developments at a field or organizational level tending to go largely unnoticed or under-analysed in the literature, this thesis aims to partially redress the balance and take a preliminary step towards a more rigorous analysis of the field.
‘An Organizational Approach to Modern Yoga: Social Structure in the Krishnamacharya and Sivananda Lineages’. Presented at the ‘Spalding Symposium of Indian Religions’, March 2012 at Merton College, Oxford University.