History of Yoga Course for Yoga Teacher Trainings

Intro to the History of Yoga is a 20-hour online course, approved by Yoga Alliance, to fulfill the foundational yoga history and philosophy curriculum in your yoga teacher training program.

Our course provides a deep dive into the ocean of ideas, practices, and culture that evolved into modern Yoga. The comprehensive curriculum moves through over 2500 years of South Asian cultural and spiritual innovation, including profound philosophical inquiry into the nature of the human experience, and the disciplines of meditation, mantra, ritual, and breath that are the heart of Yoga as a spiritual practice.

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

A university-level introduction to Yoga history from an engaging scholar-practitioner, designed for yoga teacher training programs.

History of Yoga Course
integrating history & practice

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.

Integrating this course into your curriculum not only ensures you are covering all of the foundational history and philosophy content, it ensures that graduates of your program will be equipped with a deep understanding and reverence for the culture and traditions from which these transformative practices arose.

Meet your guide, Dr. Sean Feit Oakes

Buddhism & Hatha Yoga

Sean Feit Oakes, PhD, E-RYT, SEP, teaches Buddhism and Haṭha Yoga with a focus on the integration of meditation, trauma resolution, and social justice. He has studied in Theravāda, Zen, and Vajrāyāna Buddhist lineages, including training as a monk in Burma, and was authorized to teach Insight Meditation by Jack Kornfield. He studied yoga with Alice Joanou, Rachel Shaw, Amanda Moran, and David Moreno, taught mindfulness-based vinyasa for 10 years, and now focuses his teaching on individualized āsana and prāṇāyāma for experienced students, and a somatic approach to inquiry, ethics, and meditation as the heart of the path.

Continue reading Dr. Oakes’ full bio and statement of positionality…

After years of teaching the history and philosophy components in both 200 and 500 hour YTT programs, Dr. Oakes is proud to make this content widely available in this flexible and affordable format. We are particularly passionate about expanding access to this material, strengthening modern Yoga education to respect and preserve historical context, and deepening in our communities the skills of cultural competence that are so necessary in an increasingly complex world.

History of Yoga Course Details

One of the beauties of using our online course is that the whole experience has already been created. You can simply plug it in to your program. We also value human connection and spiritual community, and are excited to collaborate and customize details for you, to the extent you wish. You can think of us as part of your teaching faculty, and come to us with any questions or requests you might have.

included for students
  • 16 hours of engaging, professionally recorded video lecture
  • Over 4 hours of guided meditations to integrate the concepts studied
  • Inquiry questions for each class
  • 70 page manual, including text excerpts & suggestions for further study
  • The ability to learn from anywhere, anytime, and at their own pace
  • Lifetime access for continued study and reference
included for you
  • Course access for the program director and lead instructors
  • Direct support from Dr. Oakes and team
  • Option to add Q&A sessions and a group forum 
  • Group Management dashboard to add your students and view their progress
  • Full scale technical support 
  • University-level education materials for a fraction of the cost!

Even in the most thoughtfully designed programs, the demands of educating competent teachers and the expenses of YTT classroom time often ends up squeezing the history and philosophy components in ways that diminish the quality and depth of the student experience. Moving that part of your curriculum into an online program assures your students are receiving a complete, consistent education year after year. It also connects you with a highly specialized philosophy and history teacher which can otherwise be hard to find or afford. 

let this course help you!

Fulfill Your Hours

Comprehensive coverage of all foundational history and philosophy topics.

Approved by Yoga Alliance for 20 hours in the Yoga Humanities category.


This course delivers the content in a fully designed and optimized online learning experience.

Your students simply log-in and flow through the classes. 


Dr. Oakes and team are dedicated to your program and to the education of your students. We’re available for student and faculty questions regarding both content and execution. 

Bonus Content

Feel welcome to use the handouts, discussion points and suggested practices to provide additional classroom hours with your in-house faculty.


Let us send you a free resource that you can begin using in your programs immediately: “8 Yoga Texts that Every YTT Should Include” with key text excerpts and discussion prompts, pulled from our course manual and packaged into a shareable PDF.

Course Content

Browse through the complete course syllabus to see just how much content is poured into this course, organized in a mostly chronological and easy to digest format.

1.1 Intro: What is Yoga?
1.2 The Indus Valley Civilization
1.3 Two Vedic Hymns
1.4 Yoga in the Upaniṣads
1.5 Death as Guru: The Kaṭha Upaniṣad
1.6 Q & A, 25 Tattva (elements)
1.7 Practice: 5 Great Elements & 5 Senses
1.8 Q & A
Class 1 Inquiry: Renunciation & discomfort

2.1 Śramana review & stories of Young Gotama
2.2 Gotama studies Yoga
2.3 Gotama’s ascetic practice & childhood insight
2.4 Q & A: formless concentration & ancient yoga practice
2.5 Early Buddhist philosophy & practice
2.6 Two Early Buddhist practices
Class 2 Inquiry: The Buddha & his community

3.1 Opening Practice: Sense Experience & Awareness
3.2 Core Doctrines of Classical Yoga
3.3 The Philosophical Schools of Yoga & Sāṃkhya
3.4 The Philosophy of the Yoga-Sūtra, part 1
3.5 Patañjali Q & A: Yama
3.6 The Philosophy of the Yoga-Sūtra, part 2: 8 Limbs
3.7 Meditation based on the Yoga-Sūtra of Patañjali
Class 3 Inquiry: Flow, stillness, ethics

4.1 The Great Indian Epic: Mahābhārata, part 1
4.2 The Great Indian Epic: Mahābhārata, part 2
4.3 Teachings of the Bhagavad Gītā, part 1: karma
4.4 Teachings of the Bhagavad Gītā, part 2: yoga; colonialism
4.5 Teachings of the Bhagavad Gītā, part 3: bhakti
4.6 Bhakti Practices: mantra, chanting, kirtan
Class 4 Inquiry: Karma & Devotion

5.1 Intro to Second Half of Course & Review
5.2 Two Classical Yoga Practices: Meditation & Mantra; Q & A
5.3 So many Gods & Goddesses!
5.4 Myth: Churning the Ocean of Milk
5.5 Vaiṣṇava Bhakti: Stories of Viṣṇu in the form of Kṛṣṇa
5.6 Śaiva Goddess Worship: Stories of Devī in the Forms of Durgā & Kālī
Class 5 Inquiry: Deities & mythology

6.1 Review & Intro to Tantric Philosophy: Dualism & Non-dualism
6.2 Tantra in Indian History: Philosophy & Practice
6.3 Tantra in Practice: The Guru Principle, Q & A
6.4 Principles of Tantra: Definitions, Texts, Doctrines
Class 6 Inquiry: social norms & gender in Tantra

7.1 The Tantric Roots of Haṭha Yoga
7.2 Practices of Early Haṭha Yoga
7.3 The Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā: Practices
7.4 The Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā: kuṇḍalinī, lāya, Q & A
Class 7 Inquiry: Health, power, & sex in Haṭha Yoga

8.1 Meditation: Sensation, embodiment, gratitude
8.2 Yoga comes West: Emerson, Vivekananda, Colonialism
8.3 “Modern Yoga”: Northern & Southern Lineages
8.4 Issues: cultural appropriation, spiritual materialism, race, diversity & inclusion, feminism, body image
Class 8 Inquiry: Modernity & all its issues

Enjoy a sample video from the course, presenting of one of the most widely covered topics in YTT courses: the historical and philosophical aspects of Patañjali’s Yoga-Sūtra. 


per-student pricing to support trainings of any size

Dr. Oakes is known for his commitment to affordability and accessibility. One of the goals in creating this course was to make a more sustainable option for educators to provide quality instruction in their Yoga teacher training programs.

If you would like to discuss a reduced rate or per-training price, please contact us. In particular, if you cater your offering to an underserved population, or if you are in the Global South, please contact us to discuss scholarship options. And thank you for your dedication to expanding access to Yoga as a historically-informed, justice-centered healing and liberation practice.

What people are saying


Our course is a complete package. The online course totals 20 hours and consists of 8 video modules, which include lecture, slides, practices, and prompts for writing and reflection. The course also includes a full PDF manual, Q&A discussions, guided meditations, and recommendations for supplemental study. All of this is organized on our professional learning platform where every design detail has been thoughtfully curated to promote a distraction free learning environment. 

Yes. Dr. Oakes holds the E-RYT 500 and YACEP titles with Yoga Alliance. This course is approved and listed on their continuing education board here

You know better than anyone what makes the most sense for your students and your program. Our course is flexible enough to cater to your unique needs. You can create deadlines for completion, choose to collect the homework assignments or not, create your own homework assignments, use the discussion points as supplemental in-class material, book Dr. Oakes to lead an in-class or virtual discussion, and create many more personalizations to make this just right for you. 

You will have access to a group leader dashboard where you can add your list of students (name and email). This will trigger an account and login information to be automatically created in our system, as well an email to each student with their information and a link to get started.  You can do this in under 5 minutes, and can even import it from a list to make it faster!

Your group dashboard shows a snapshot of  your student’s progress, with a list of names and %complete bar. From there you can dive deeper into each student’s course details to monitor exactly where they are in the course. You will receive a course completion notice via email when each student completes the course. Additional notifications can be arranged.

When you are ready to enroll, we’ll send you to a portal where you can pay for your group. Students will not need to make a payment. Payplans can be arranged, with full payment due before student’s receive access to the course. Contact us for more details about setting this up.

Not at all. Someone forgot their log-in? Don’t worry about it, we handle this and all other technical needs or questions.

Is this course right for my program?

This course is the result of years of experience teaching the history and philosophy of Yoga to Teacher Training courses, and we put the full force of our care and effort into crafting the most engaging, culturally-appropriate, and professional online presentation possible. We’re super proud of the finished product but know there are many factors for you to consider while making this choice.  Every training is unique, with it’s own perspective and priorities.

We think our History of Yoga Course is perfect for you if:

You are looking to upgrade your content, at an affordable price. If you don’t happen to be one of the lucky studios to have a history of yoga scholar in your area or within your budget, you now have a new option. Yoga Alliance’s change in allowing more online hours was in part to expand access to senior specialty teachers. This course brings Dr. Sean Feit Oakes directly into your program for a fraction of the cost of having him, or any senior teacher, scheduled for live sessions.

You want to focus your curriculum on going beyond the basics. Over the years newer and younger practitioners are choosing to dive deeply into their yoga experience through teacher training. Many students may not have exposure to some of the most fundamental concepts of yoga philosophy or have any historical context. Let this course do the legwork of providing your trainees with a thorough foundation in the material so that they show up to class ready for meaningful dialogue and the profound transformation that you have planned for them.

You want to graduate culturally competent teachers. It’s up to us to ensure that the future of yoga remains connected to its history. This course provides a start by ensuring that new teachers are equipped with a comprehensive understanding of  the depth and diversity of the South Asian traditions, and acknowledge their duty to honor these cultures through respectful engagement with the practices. 

You’re a new program just building your curriculum. Including our course in your program takes care of 20 of the 30 required hours in the Yoga Humanities category, covering all history and philosophy topics from the required list. Give yourself peace of mind that this content is well covered and focus your programming efforts on highlighting the skills of your in-house faculty. 

Want to look deeper at the content?

We are happy to offer complimentary access to the full course so that you can test-drive the material. What could be better than knowing exactly what your students will be getting, the depth of the content and the quality of the presentation? We think full transparency is invaluable and ultimately, we want you to feel completely confident with the decision to use our course in your program.

We look forward to getting to know you and supporting your program.

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Thank you for your interest in our course! We will respond shortly to answer any questions and set up complimentary access. We’ll also send you a downloadable handout that you can begin using in your YTT program immediately.

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