Alongside the more intensive courses I’ve taught through my studio and online work since 2006, I teach Yoga Philosophy, History & Culture, and Ayurveda modules for YTTs around Toronto and abroad. The YTT format is particularly enjoyable for me, as it brings students who are at a strong transitional moment in life that allows them to consider substantial shifts in self-perception, self-care, and worldview. The ethos and poetry of the material tends to substantially complement and support their growth in physical and contemplative intelligence.
My focus is on opening the doors of yoga philosophy and history for lifelong study. In many YTT programmes, this material is simply glossed over, but as the industry grows and changes, the students and instructors who grow and change with it are those who can creatively engage the deepest questions the Yoga tradition asks. The culture is broad and its literature is vast, but every new instructor can get a clear foothold on its territory through considering the texts and practice contexts of four eras:
- The world-renouncing asceticism of the Yoga Sutras;
- The enigmatic challenge of the Bhagavad Gita to embody states of devotion and flow;
- The exuberant body-breath-mind experimentation of the medieval Hatha Yoga period; and
- Modern Hatha Yoga in the globalization era — which is what we’re most familiar with. It carries the echoes of everything that came before, but in a contemporary context that offers new possibilities and challenges.
Over the course of one or two weekends, we explore these four historical zones and their key ideas, and workshop how their ideas resonate with practice today. There will be lecture format, but we’ll also discuss, journal, and explore the various “bodies” of the Yoga tradition with free movement (and mental digestion) breaks. We’ll use a reading list and journaling assignments.
The overall goal is to workshop a contemporary synergy of yoga’s past with our current aspirations for a practice that is safe, therapeutic, and social justice oriented while retaining the threads of mystical inspiration that are as old as time. We’ll also look at the ethics of instructing in the modern era by not shying away from what has gone wrong (guru and lineage scandals, injury coverups) and what has gone really really well (innovation, trauma sensitivity, interdisciplinary sharing).
Alter, Joseph S. Yoga in Modern India: The Body between Science and Philosophy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2004. Print.
Bryant, Edwin F., and Patañjali. The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali: A New Edition, Translation, and Commentary with Insights from the Traditional Commentators. New York: North Point, 2009. Print.
Buitenen, J. A. B. Van. The Bhagavadgītā in the Mahābhārata: Text and Translation. Chicago: U of Chicago, 1981. Print.
Goldberg, Elliott. The Path of Modern Yoga: The History of an Embodied Spiritual Practice. Rochester: Inner Traditions, 2016. Print.
Jain, Andrea R. Selling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture. Print.
Larson, Gerald James. “The Bhagavad Gītā as Cross-Cultural Process: Toward an Analysis of the Social Locations of a Religious Text.” J Am Acad Relig Journal of the American Academy of Religion XLIII.4 (1975): 651-70. Web.
Michelis, Elizabeth De. A History of Modern Yoga: Patañjali and Western Esotericism. London: Continuum, 2004. Print.
Remski, Matthew. Threads of Yoga a Remix of Patanjali-s Sutra-s, with Commentary and Reverie. Createspace, 2012. Print.
Singleton, Mark, and Jean Byrne. Yoga in the Modern World: Contemporary Perspectives. London: Routledge, 2008. Print.
Singleton, Mark. Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice. OUP, 2010. Print.
Syman, Stefanie. The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010. Print.
Svātmārāma, and Brian Dana Akers. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Woodstock, NY: YogaVidya.com, 2002. Print.
White, David Gordon. The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: A Biography. Print.
“Matthew’s thoughtful exploration of Ayurveda, The Yoga Sutras, The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, and The Bhagavad Gita is an integral part of our teacher training program. He offers knowledge and insight that honors yoga’s complex histories and philosophies while placing his teachings in a rich context. Students consistently finish our program expressing gratitude for the ways in which Matthew’s gentle and informed approach touches their hearts and nourishes their daily practice.”
– Christi-an Slomka, Director of Kula Annex in Toronto
This weekend will explore the unfolding history of practice, grounded with conceptions of the yoga body and its purpose through time. We’ll look at Indian sources for the cosmic body, the body of sacrifice, the body as temple, the meanings of dismemberment and mortification in mythology, and then the “hydraulic awakening laboratory” of the medieval Tantric body. We’ll look at the confusing way in which “hatha” has been translated—as “violent exertion”. Is that accurate?
How do these bodies relate to modern, global, middle-class bodies of therapy and performance? How did the perception and consideration of the yoga body change with colonization, industrialization, photography, and the burgeoning of the Indian Independence movement?
Who was T. Krishnamacharya? Why was he teaching yoga? For whom? How many roles did he have to play? What role did demonstration have in his pedagogy? What did he teach the students who would go on to globalize yoga as a “secular religion”?
Finally, how can we see all of these influences—somatic, psychological, philosophical, and religious—in the contemporary yoga marketplace?
Throughout this journey, we’ll see a primary tension and paradox emerge: it can be hard to know what we’re actually doing in asana, because we’re unclear about the relationship between drives towards transcendence and therapy. The former often depends on vertical power relationships and can foster cultic environments, while the latter attempts to value horizontal learning relationships and informed consent.
In researching how modern practitioners navigated the physical and emotional costs of practice in terms of disillusionment and injury, Matthew has also had the great pleasure of interviewing thought-leaders who are revolutionizing practice to address these very stresses. Woven throughout the weekend will be the findings of researchers and teachers in biomechanics, neurophysiology and breath, psychology, cognitive/academic/
Friday 5:30 to 8:00 pm
What sensations do we value in practice? The basic tension: Is “moksha” compatible with “self-care”?
Saturday 12:30 – 5:30 pm
Yoga bodies through history. How do we carry — consciously or not — drives towards sacrifice, transcendence, performance, perfectionism, consolation, protection? How do our yoga bodies reject, reflect, or spiritualize ideals from the culture in which we practice?
Sunday 12:30 – 5:30 pm
Yoga bodies moving forward. Are the values of scientific materialism and feminism compatible with yoga traditions? How does the singular body of the heroic yogi in history resonate with the individualistic body of neoliberalism? Can we practice in a way that fosters embodied interdependence?
It’s natural for everyone to have a private definition of yoga practice. What could be more intimate and personal than the sensations and meanings of movement, breath, meditation, and contemplation? And yet, if we stop with our private definitions, we miss out on not only the historical richness and diversity of yoga literature, we run the risk of further fragmenting a heritage that has struggled to survive colonialism and now globalization. In this discussion, we’ll explore the difference between “yoga as a personal journey” and yoga as an historic spirituality with specific roots in Indian wisdom practice.
Saturday 2-4:30pm: The Trouble with Adjustments: Problems and Possibilities.
In many yoga spaces, teachers and students share the expectation that adjustments are a standard part of practice. But this aspect of modern yoga is marred by an uncomfortable history. At the dawn of the global movement in 1930s India, adjustments in key learning spaces such as the Mysore Palace merged with the somatics of corporal punishment. They conveyed assumptions about spiritualized pain and surrender, delivered through a pedagogy of unquestioned charisma and presumed consent. In combination, these factors have led to decades of blurred boundaries, sexualized touch, and general intrusion. If you’re a yoga teacher and you want to adjust people, this discussion will help you get square with this history first. It will help you think about how you will protect your students from it, especially in an unregulated industry. It will offer guidelines for moving forward in the creation of safe and student-driven yoga education.
Sunday: 10-12: What Is the Yoga Teacher’s Scope of Practice?
The modern yoga industry has aspirations towards therapeutic and social service, but few mechanisms to guide competency. It also has emerged from a pedagogy in which teachers have been explicitly rewarded for overstepping their trained skill sets. Some of this happens through earnest enthusiasm, but some of it intersects with outright manipulation. Complicating it all is the industry’s allergy to legal regulation. It is left to yoga educators, therefore, to get really smart about understanding and defining what the limits and possibilities of their training are. In this discussion, we’ll explore five potential guidelines that can positively inform scope of practice for the yoga teacher.
Sunday: 2-4: Does Yoga Support Social Justice Work? No and Yes.
The Bhagavad Gita was the favourite book of both Gandhi and his assassin. European fascist movements of the 1930s were fascinated with yoga. And today, practicing yoga is not a reliable predictor of one’s political persuasion. The Yoga Sutras will not teach you about reproductive rights, rape culture or white privilege. The Hatha yoga texts are in no way feminist. Is it a mistake to believe that practicing yoga makes you a better citizen or ally? In this discussion we’ll explore how social justice work really begins with education that comes from beyond the yoga mat. And — how those who are working in social justice movement really can trust yoga practice to help build resilience.
"Matthew brings a rare intelligence and poetic sensibility to his teaching of Ayurveda. Always attentive to modern applications and contemporary context, his classes encompass a riveting dialogue between different times, places and ways of knowing. He makes Ayurveda feel at once intuitive and familiar, while at the same time, offering it as a way think about and experience the the world in radical new ways."
"The Everyday Nectar course with Matthew has opened an oceanic world of insightful information for me. The wealth of Ayurvedic principles, knowledge and integrating lifestyle practices presented, has initiated a deeper awareness of my body’s inner intelligence, beneficial change and a loving relationship with self. It’s a true blessing and has made a positive impact in my life. I’m looking so forward to diving deeper."
"Everyday Nectar with Matthew Remski is an in depth, comprehensive first step into the world of Ayurveda. It sets the student up with a strong enough foundation of knowledge and experience to then explore the subtle nature of your their own inner health. I thank Matthew for helping me deepen the relationship between myself and my environment."
"Everyday Nectar with Matthew is a life affirming, life enhancing, and life changing experience. The wisdom shared is rich, deeply relevant for our time, and of practical use for anyone on the path. The material is presented with reverence, dedication and abundant creativity."
"In a world that too often emphasizes busy work schedules, imbalance and disconnection, I found that Everyday Nectar offered concrete and practical ways to retune my awareness towards health and wholeness. I think it would be impossible to be unchanged by the course learning. There are opportunities to make the simple adjustments in your day-to-day experience that may have significant health benefits. Matthew is a caring, knowledgable teacher that creates space for a warm, nourishing inquiry into how Ayurveda can positively support our human experience."
Kelly Anderson, MD
"From our first online course, I knew I had found a teacher worth “tuning in” to. Matthew Remski’s online course is perfect if you’d like to move beyond the surface and eradicate confusion. While I have studied with Ayurvedic physicians and consultants over the years, Matthew Remski expresses a fresh voice on ancient wisdom. His teaching is clear, accessible, and approachable for modern day body/minds. If you are considering an online course, I highly recommend that you block the time and participate “live” rather than review the recording later. Be prepared to be challenged and fully dive into the homework and quizzes. Your presence, focused attention, and skillfully applied effort will be rewarded with a fuller appreciation and understanding of Ayurveda. The best outcome will be your ease of application of Ayurveda’s wisdom in your daily life."
"Matthew Remski’s approach to Ayurveda is simultaneously pragmatic, poetic, reverent, critical, and honestly quite brave. He is willing to question dogma while cherishing the spirit of Ayurvedic inquiry, and his teaching emboldens me to do the same."
E-RYT500, Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist & Group Facilitator
Because every training is different, I’ve had to develop several tools to accommodate hours requests. I’ve taught in 3, 4, 8, and 12 hour segments within 200-300 hour programs. At Del La Sol, I teach a 12-hour segment that also covers their lifestyle/nutrition categories. In some places, more extensive programming has been offered in elective format. Some programmes are grounded with the foundational work of my online “A Year of Ayurveda” programme, through Naada Yoga Montreal.
My presentation style is interactive, and always leaves room for workshop-style digression into any pressing personal or group questions that arise in the moment. I have done my best to activate the pedagogy with Powerpoint (keeping eyes up and out of notes), and breaking up data with activity and partner work.
Aside from the introductory material, I also present on special topics in yoga pedagogy:
- “Who’s in Your Class?”: teaching to constitution
- “The Ecology of Movement”: an ayurvedic approach to asana
- “Daily Ayurvedic Support for Yoga Practice”
- “Elemental Rest”: an ayurvedic basis for restorative yoga