History of Yoga Course for Yoga Teacher Trainings

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

Dr. Sean Feit Oakes, e-ryt 500

A 20-hour history of Yoga course designed specifically to provide the history and philosophy foundation for Yoga teacher training programs. 

History of Yoga Course

Intro to the History of Yoga is a deep dive into the ocean of ideas, practices, and culture that evolved into modern Yoga.

This course takes students on a journey, looking at 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. 

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.

Our 20-hour online history of Yoga course meets Yoga Alliance requirements and is fully accepted under their new standards, which allow for 20 of the 30 required hours in Yoga Humanities to be completed online.

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.

The creation of this course was born out of Dr. Oakes’ passion for supporting and strengthening modern Yoga education to respect and preserve historical context, sharing the depth and diversity of the South Asian traditions, and deepening in our communities the skills of cultural competence that are so necessary in an increasingly complex world.

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 making this content widely available in this flexible and affordable format.

Sean is a talented teacher with an incredible depth of knowledge. He brings the long and complex history of yoga into relevance for modern practitioners through practice and inquiry. The content is clear and easy to understand. I recommend this course for anyone looking to understand the roots of what we are doing as we practice the rich traditions of yoga. This course is a gift to the world.”

-Ashley Sharp, E-RYT, YTT instructor

History of Yoga course package

Implementing our course in your program goes beyond securing a top tier instructor and a deeply comprehensive curriculum, it includes transparency and support for your team.

We make ourselves fully available to collaborate, learn your vision and goals, and to provide answers and support from the beginning all the way through your student’s graduation. 

included for students
  • Lifetime, log-in access to the course on a user-friendly, professional learning platform
  • 16 hours of engaging, high quality video 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 downloadable manual (over 70 pages!), including text excerpts & suggestions for further study
  • Inquiry questions that explore the relevance of the material for contemporary practitioners
  • The ability to learn from anywhere, anytime, and at their own pace
  • Repeat and replay content as much as desired
included for you
  • Course access for the program director and lead instructors
  • Support from Dr. Oakes regarding your questions and how to best answer student questions
  • Opportunity to book a guest appearance or video conferences with Dr. Oakes 
  • The ability to use course practices and reflection questions as homework assignments or in-class discussion
  • Ongoing administrative support including student set-up and technical support as well as progress and course completion reports
  • University-level education materials for a fraction of the cost!

We are proud to partner with Yoga schools who are dedicated to educating the next generation of teachers in a way that honors the root traditions of Yoga, supports teachers in their own spiritual practice, and lays the foundation for a lifetime of study and growth.

Even in the most thoughtfully designed programs, the demands and expenses of YTT classroom time often ends up squeezing the history and philosophy components of trainings in ways that diminish the quality and depth of the student experience. In addition, many YTT programs lack a specialized philosophy and history teacher. 

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. 


Increase information retention by allowing your students to learn from anywhere, anytime and to stop, start and repeat as needed.

Bonus Content

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

“This was an outstanding course which gave a great overview and insight into yoga history and philosophy as well as contemporary issues. It was the best overview reference that cleared up many confusing issues for me thanks to his clear, concise, logical/chronological presentation. I loved being able to pause the video anytime to take notes and breaks. Loved the entire class and look forward to hearing him “live”! 

-Bob M., course participant through a 300 hour YTT

Course Syllabus

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

Sample a Class

Enjoy a sample video from the course. Get a sense of Dr. Oakes’ teaching style through his presentation of one of the most widely covered topics in YTT courses (the philosophical aspect of Patañjali’s Yoga-Sūtra). 


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. 

We are pleased to offer the lowest, most generous price possible:

Intro to the History of Yoga
for Yoga teacher training programs


Booking a highly experienced and specialized faculty member for live hours in your training can be expensive. 20 hours of content at that rate could easily cost $3000. 

We know that the reality is your budget can limit your options. Regardless of your intentions and desires the final question tends to always be: “but, can I afford it?”

We hope the answer is now, “Yes!”

We chose to price our course at one flat rate based on the hours of content, rather than charging per student, as we feel that our commitment and offering is to you, the program as a whole. If you would like to discuss a custom option, please contact us.

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.


We’d love to collaborate with you and support your efforts in providing exceptional education to the next generation of yoga teachers.


What are the benefits of online education?

Learn anywhere, anytime. Let’s face it, everyone is busy these days. Offering 20 hours of your program in a more convenient manner will make your program stand out to students who are already juggling a lot of commitments (and who isn’t, really?). Students aren’t the only ones who are busy, wouldn’t it be helpful to free up 20 hours of space on your studio schedule to fit other classes and workshops and to reduce the overall running cost of your program?

Stop, start, repeat. Ever notice that some students get tired towards the end of a long day together in YTT? Do you see yawns and wandering eyes, even when they are trying to focus? Online learning allows students to take a break when needed without missing anything or to pick back up the next day. They can rewind to listen to those words that didn’t quite sink in a few more times, or repeat a whole video, even the whole course as many times as they like!

Control the pace. Our course is broken down into 8 classes, each consisting of multiple, short videos. This format allows students to move at a pace that works for them. The flexible structure also allows you to build the course into your syllabus in a way that integrates easily with the flow of your training.

Improve engagement and information retention. Studies have shown that some students have trouble retaining information in live, in-person environments. The online learning environment allows students to cater their experience to their own needs and return to the material as much as needed. We provide 1000 days of access to our course (equal to the famed 3-year retreat in some Buddhist schools), so that students may return and refresh their knowledge long after graduating from YTT.

How does the course integrate into my program?

Our course is a complete package. Your students will log into our professional learning platform to take the course where every design detail has been thoughtfully curated to promote a distraction free learning environment. The course includes an overview, full PDF manual, video lectures, Q&A discussions, guided meditations, and recommendations for supplemental study.

Customization. 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. 

Shared transparency. You have visibility to your students’ progress and will be notified when anyone completes the course. Additional notifications can be arranged.

No tech headaches. Someone forgot their log-in? Don’t worry about it, you have enough details to tend to with managing a YTT program. 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 want the best education possible for your students, 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 recent 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. 

You need to adjust your curriculum to meet the new Yoga Alliance standards. If you are like most programs, you used to have about 20 hours of content included in your 200 hours that were non-contact. With all 200 hours being required as classroom hours now, you are likely looking to fill 20 more hours into your schedule. This course fits exactly into that spot and helps you avoid any impact to your existing training schedule.

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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