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Exploring Yoga Asana and Storytelling Through Myth

All cultures have stories to tell. Those stories illustrate that culture’s mythology. In ancient Greece, stories of gods, goddesses, and heroes (mythos) were told, so that rational philosophy and logic (logos) gradually developed in much the same way that all cultures use mythology and storytelling to raise consciousness.

In the tradition of India — the birthplace of Yoga — the Puranas (which means ancient or old) created a vast genre of Indian literature that focused on myths, legends, and other traditional lore. The purpose was to help seekers find Sat (which means Truth or The Unchanging). Stories and myths existed in an oral form before being written down. Even the stories of Jesus Christ were told orally for hundreds of years before being organized and edited into a written form, known to us as The New Testament of the Bible.

In this workshop, we will explore the oral storytelling of myth and how it can be incorporated into a Yoga asana practice. The workshop will be broken down into three parts:

Part One will be a lecture on Mythology and storytelling. We will explore questions, such as:
• How important is storytelling? Why is it important?
• What are the different elements of storytelling?
• Is the storytelling of ancient myth relevant to us in a modern world?
• Is myth from another culture relevant to me?
• If a myth belongs to a culture other than mine, should I — or can I — tell the story?
• Is there more to a myth than just the story?

Part Two examines basic storytelling. As Yoga teachers, we are limited to the class duration to tell a story; many of the stories we refer to a were originally told as epic festival plays that may have taken place over days or weeks. How can we accurately tell a long story in a one-hour Yoga class? We will examine concise, focused and effective storytelling that will excite and involve students through music, visual art and other forms. How do you start the story and move forward to integrate the story into the physical practice of Yoga asana?

Part Three will explore moving from the setup of storytelling into a Vinyasa Yoga practice where the story is continuing to be told through movement. This allows students to experience the myth within the movement of the body; becoming forms and shapes that are related to the story being told by the storyteller.

Following the asana part of the lecture, there will be time for questions and answers as well as this homework assignment, which will be to choose a myth that has characters, animals or objects that are also in Yoga asana.

For example, Krishna herds cows, the asana for cow would be gomukhasana. How can you weave gomukhasana and other asanas into a Vinyasa Yoga sequence about a story of Krishna? You can use music, mantra, images, video, written and recorded words, and other components that will help you create an exciting and inspirational class for your Yoga students. You can use any myth story you wish to explore. It does not need to be within the India tradition.

Here are a few suggested reading materials, which are also great resources to have in your Yoga library:

  1. The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
  2. Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata by Devdutt Pattanaik
  3. Sita by Devdutt Pattanaik
  4. Seven Secrets of..., a series of books by Devdutt Pattanaik
  5. Downward Dogs and Warriors by Zo Newell
  6. Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes: A No-Bullshit Guide to World Mythology by Cory O’Brien

About Austin Sanderson
CO-OWNER / DIRECTOR Jivamukti Yoga Jersey City 


Austin moved to NYC in 1998 to attended New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, Design and Production Department. After graduating with his Masters degree in set and costume design, he has spent the next eighteen years working as a designer in the American theater. His work as a professional designer has been seen on Broadway, regional theaters, in operas, cruise ships, circus, numerous television commercials and industrials.

In 2008 he was introduced to Jivamukti Yoga at a yoga class at Club H Fitness. The teacher was Susan Steiner. As he continued to take classes with Susan and other Jivamukti teachers, he wanted to learn more and share with others his life-changing experience with Jivamukti Yoga.

In 2011, Austin attended and graduated from the Jivamukti 300+ hour teacher training program at the Omega Institute. In 2012, he completed his 800-hour Jivamukti Teacher Certification.

Austin is extremely grateful to all his teachers, but most of all to Sharon-ji and David-ji for giving us the amazing gift of Jivamukti Yoga.

All my love to Sandhi Ferreira, my teacher, friend and mentor for all your love and wisdom during my 800 hour Jivamukti training certification.

Certification: 800-Hour

Degrees: BFA North Carolina School of the Arts: Costume Design: 1989 MFA NYU Tish School of the Arts: Set and Costume Design: 1992 300 Hours Jivamukti Teacher Training: 2011 800 Hours Jivamukti Teacher Training: 2012

Earlier Event: January 21
Gentle Yoga Workshop
Later Event: February 3
Intermediate Sanskrit