From self-study
arises union with the desired deity.

(Patañjali, Yoga-Sūtra 2.44, tr. Chapple)

Our first course

Intro to the History of Yoga: Philosophy, Practice, Transformation

Dr. Sean Feit Oakes

Dive into the ocean of ideas, practices, and culture that evolved into modern yoga. Designed for serious students of yoga and meditation, this is a university-level introduction to Yoga history from an engaging scholar-practitioner.

You love (or even teach) Yoga
& want to go deeper into the philosophy & spirituality…

You know Yoga is more than postures,
but don’t understand how all the schools & ideas fit together…

You’ve hit a plateau in your practice
& are ready for new information & inspiration…

This course is for you.

Course summary

Intro to the History of Yoga is a deep dive into the ocean of ideas, practices, and culture that evolved into modern yoga. We look at over 2500 years of Indian cultural and spiritual innovation, including profound philosophical inquiry into the nature of existence and experience, and the disciplines of meditation, mantra, ritual, and breath that are the heart of yoga as a spiritual practice.

  • 16 hours of engaging lecture, including stories, philosophy, images, and excerpts from classical texts, recorded live in Berkeley, CA in 2017
  • Hundreds of beautiful slides with classical imagery & text excerpts
  • Guided meditations for personal practice
  • Comprehensive handouts, including text excerpts & suggestions for further study
  • Inquiry questions to support you on your path
  • Monthly video chats with Dr. Oakes & a community of sincere practitioners

Embodied Study

The course explores Yoga from two perspectives: history & practice.

  1. Through the lens of history, ideas are explored by looking at the cultural conditions that surrounded them, the dynamic social and political contexts in which Yoga developed.
  2. Through the lens of practice, we engage with the teachings of yoga as spiritual practitioners, concerned with the result of dedicated practice in our lives and relationships now.

Some of the topics covered...

Vedic ritual & the birth of Yoga in the Upaniṣads
Buddhism, Jainism, & the śramana movement
Saṃkhya & Yoga in Patañjali’s Yoga-Sūtra
Vedānta, Bhakti, & the Bhagavad Gītā
Hindu gods & goddesses in the Purāṇas
Ritual, Transgression, & Nonduality in Tantra
Sex & transcendence: the practices of early Haṭha Yoga
Colonialism, cultural appropriation, & the complexity of Yoga now

Studio & group enrollment

Are you a studio owner or teacher running a YTT program? Let’s connect about how this course can affordably supplement your history & philosophy hours. 

Pricing: The radical practice of Gift Economy

A Gift Economy is a culture or community that sees the movement of resources between people as a means to deepen connection, not as competition or commerce.

The term is borrowed from analyses of some pre-industrial societies, and we use it to describe a variation of the ancient Buddhist practice of giving (dāna) material resources to monastics, which is the single most important factor in the existence of a strong community that can preserve and transmit the teachings. Monastics give their lives to practice and pastoral care, and the laity support them the way you might support your family: as a gesture of love and connection, not as a market exchange.

Many teachers in the Insight Meditation community try to offer the teachings we’ve been gifted by the Buddhist traditions in a similar spirit: as freely as we can in a culture that doesn’t seem to value this kind of generosity. This is challenging partly because as non-monastics, our expenses are high, and institutional support minimal.

Different from some other Insight Meditation teachers, I use the term Gift Economy rather than dāna, partly to differentiate our model from that of the monastics, and also to emphasize its beauty as an economic method outside Buddhist practice and culture. Here’s a short video on the idea.

We are experimenting with a variation of Gift Economy in our offering of our first large online course: Intro to the History of Yoga. It works like this:

You can pay a set price,

We suggest a price for the course that is enough that we can invest in creating and offering more resources like this. It’s a “non-profit-level” price. You can choose that price and proceed through checkout without further effort, treating it as a standard set price. This is what you’re used to doing all the time if you live in a market economy.

You can choose your own price,

You can follow the link below to our scholarship form where you can select a price you choose, either lower or higher.


To choose a price that’s lower than the suggested price, please complete the scholarship form to request assistance. We ask that you write a bit about yourself, and what brings you to ask for the gift of a scholarship. We especially invite LGBTQ & POC folks to use this, as well as people of any heritage Buddhist or Hindu culture, if you choose.

or higher.

To choose a price that’s higher than the suggested price, please complete the scholarship form to offer assistance. We’ll ask you to write a bit about yourself, and what brings you to offer this gift. We especially invite White folks and others with privilege in the current global system to use this, if you choose.

In both cases, what’s important to us is that we pay forward what we have been given from this venerable lineage with as much respect to its formal structures, like dāna, as possible, including working to cast the seeds of dhamma widely, without limitation based on material wealth.

Please support us to offer this radical anti-Capitalist pricing structure by offering the highest amount you can afford, and by giving above the suggested price if you can, which directly gifts scholarship support to those who need it.

Thank you for your generosity.