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.

Sample One

Questions in the Body: Yoga Philosophy and History Module

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:

  1. The world-renouncing asceticism of the Yoga Sutras;
  2. The enigmatic challenge of the Bhagavad Gita to embody states of devotion and flow;
  3. The exuberant body-breath-mind experimentation of the medieval Hatha Yoga period; and
  4. 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

Sample Two

Between Transcendence and Therapy: What does the body in yoga want?

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/language issues, and ultimate existential concerns.

Sample Breakdown:

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?

Student Testimonials

Ayurveda Modules

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.

Ayurvedic Instruction for YTT Programs

Yoga Philosophy Instruction for YTT Programs

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:

  1. “Who’s in Your Class?”: teaching to constitution
  2. “The Ecology of Movement”: an ayurvedic approach to asana
  3. “Daily Ayurvedic Support for Yoga Practice”
  4. “Elemental Rest”: an ayurvedic basis for restorative yoga