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Women's contemporary yoga lifestyles: An embodied ethnography of becomings

Within this thesis, I offer insight into the lifestyles of contemporary women Yoga practitioners. Delving into complex and nuanced experiences of women embodying Yoga lifestyles offers multiple opportunities to extend upon current understandings. In examining the various ways that the women of this study are navigating an increasingly popular movement culture that has foundations in ancient texts from India, I illustrate how today’s Yoga lifestyles are a cumulative expression of ancient and contemporary knowledges. Moving alongside women practitioners throughout an embodied ethnographic study, I gained deep insights into the philosophies and practices of the women. Informed by the experiences of 19 women living in the Waikato region of Aotearoa/New Zealand through in-depth and informal interviews, observations, journals and focus groups, I offer rich, embodied knowledge from the women alongside my own creative writing. Engaging in feminist methods and in dialogue with yogic principles, I build an entangled ethnographic approach inspired by both the embodied philosophies of Yoga practitioners and contemporary feminist theory. Working at this intersection, I develop a mutually enriching research experience where multiple ways of knowing and a complex engagement with both theory and method can resonate. Findings are presented in three empirical chapters that demonstrate nuanced and complex understandings of women’s Yoga lifestyles. The first addresses the concept of lifestyle as understood by contemporary women Yoga practitioners. Drawing upon feminist lifestyles research, this chapter follows these women’s journeys as they claim and maintain Yoga lifestyles. The second chapter moves into a dialogue with feminist new materialisms, and in particular, Karen Barad’s (2007) concept of entanglement. I conceptualise an entangled Yoga body as always intra-acting and continually becoming. Using the women’s experiences, Barad’s concept, and evocative writing, I provide three examples (breath, Yoga mats and the heart) to represent an entangled Yoga body. The third and final empirical chapter weaves together recent work from Rosi Braidotti (2019) with insights from the women to contemplate the components of Yoga lifestyles as expressed by the women’s daily choices. This chapter suggests the women find meaning for their contemporary Yoga lifestyles through everyday ethically-informed acts contributing to an affirmative becoming. Moving, teaching and embodying Yoga philosophy as a researcher and experienced member of the Yoga community, I consider the complexity of the women’s lived experiences and my place amongst them. Inquiring deeply into questions around embodiment, materiality, and posthumanism, I develop an ethico-onto-epistemological stance that extends upon previous Yoga lifestyle research and contributes to the growing body of literature on women’s lived experiences in moving bodies.
Type of thesis
Jeffrey, A. (2020). Women’s contemporary yoga lifestyles: An embodied ethnography of becomings (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13578
The University of Waikato
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