Yoga History and Philosophy Training


Yoga is so much more than the practice of yoga postures. Dive deeper into Yoga with this monthly multimedia lecture and discussion series. All levels of practitioner are welcome, including yoga teachers who want to expand their knowledge.

Yoga Philosophy Talks continue on the 2nd and 4th Thursday evening of every month. We’ll cover a variety of yoga philosophy and history topics. Investment: $15 per talk (or $40 for any 4 Talks) payable through Venmo/Erin-Mathiason or

January 2021:

The Vedas: Explore the origins of yoga. Examine key concepts and passages in The Vedas, the earliest text. Consider cultural appropriation and how we can be respectful in our practice.
The First Homegrown American Yogis: Learn about the Tantric practices of Pierre Bernard, the “Great Oom,” along with the Hatha practices of his nephew Theos.

February 2021:
The Upanishads and Vedantan Philosophy: Explore Yoga’s ancient history, focusing on key concepts and passages in The Upanishads. Learn about Vedanta, the philosophy based on the Upanishads. Examine how this philosophy inspired New Thought (Ancient Wisdom), a spiritual movement in the West that includes Divine Science and Religious Science.
Hollywood Yoga of the 1940s: Aldous Huxley, Gerald Heard, Christopher Isherwood, Krishnamurti, Indra Devi, and more

A 4-week Exploration of The Bhagavad Gita
March 2021
Yoga is so much more than the postures we practice on the mat! This 4-week series is open to all levels—no prior yoga philosophy study is required.
Week one: the backstory of The Bhagavad Gita. We’ll set the scene for reading this text, joining Arjuna and Krishna on the battlefield. Learn the history of the text. Hear stories from the Mahabharata, the epic of which the Gita is a part. We’ll also talk about how to read the text.
Week two: explore the concepts of The Bhagavad Gita, including dharma, karma, rebirth and liberation. Does the Gita make a case for war? Get introduced to the concept of yoga.
Week three: dive deeper into Yoga with an exploration of Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Dhyana Yoga. Is one path of yoga better than another?
Week four: explore Bhakti Yoga and your personal relationship to God. We’ll focus on chapters 10 and 11 to reveal who Krishna is. According to Stephen Mitchell, “The eleventh chapter of the Gita is one of the great moments in world literature. The only fitting sequel to it in the rest of the poem would be pure silence.” Get introduced as well to the Krishna of the Bhagavata Purana. (July 2020)

A 6-Week Exploration of Patanajali’s Yoga Sutras
April-May 2021
Investment: $90. Minimum of 5 participants to run the session.
Whether you’ve studied only the eight-limbs of yoga, haven’t studied the Yoga Sutras at all, or are ready for a review, join Erin Mathiason ERYT YACEP for this 6-week series. Learn:
• how to “unpack” the sutras
• the Western history of the text and why it’s important to our practice today
• how Patanjali defines Yoga as well as other key concepts
• Classical Sankhya philosophy and the tattvas
• the 8-limbs of Ashtanga Yoga from both an ancient and a modern perspective
• why an entire chapter/pada is devoted to the siddhis, yogic powers
• how Patanjali’s philosophy compares and contrasts to Buddhism and the ascetic traditions
Participants are invited to read any complete translation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras during this 6-week study. We’ll use multiple translations throughout the course.

Video recordings are available for previous Yoga Philosophy Talks.  Contact Erin to offer these presentations online for your group or studio:

  • Explore the ascetic traditions of Buddhism and Jainism. Examine how these traditions developed alongside yoga and still influence our practice today. (November 2018)
  • Explore the embodied practice of Tantra. Compare and contrast Tantra with the ascetic traditions of Buddhism, Jainism and Patanjali’s Yoga. Examine why Tantra is most often associated with sex along with your own views on yoga and sexuality. (January 2019)
  • Is instant Karma gonna get you? Explore the concepts of Karma, Karma Yoga and reincarnation. (February 2019)• What is the goal of yoga? Explore the concepts of enlightenment, bliss and liberation. (April 2019)
  • Strong as an Elephant: Yogic Powers  (September 2019). Listen to stories about yogic powers. Consider whether powers are a help or a hindrance on your yogic path. (no recording available)
  • Listen to stories about Swami Vivekananda, often credited for bringing Yoga to America. Learn about his guru, Ramakrishna, as well as the others who helped shaped Vivekananda’s Raja Yoga philosophy. Hear about the Swami’s improbable arrival in the United States in 1893 (at the World’s Fair!), and how he moves the story of how we each got on our yoga mats (and meditation cushions) forward. (July 2020)
  • What do We Really Know about the Chakras?
    Compare our familiar Western view of these energy centers with the Tantric chakra system. (August 2020)
  • Was Thoreau the First American Yogi?
    Find out how Yoga arrived in the United States. Learn about the earliest English translations of Sanskrit texts. Hear about Thoreau, Emerson and the Transcendentalist appreciation for Indian Philosophy. (August 2020)
  • Introduction to the Goddess Traditions, Part 1
    Explore the earliest global roots of the Goddess traditions, along with earliest goddesses in the Indian pantheon. Learn about and hear stories of Lakshmi and Saraswati, “Goddesses of the breast.” (September 2020)
  • The Theosophists
    Learn about how Theosophy and Western occultism are part of our yoga history (as well as the history of New Thought). Mohandas Gandhi was introduced to the Bhagavad Gita by London Theosophists and was given the title “Mahatma” by Annie Besant.  Anusara Yoga Founder John Friend had a “love of magic and Madame Blavatsky” (according to the New York Magazine article, “Karma Crash,” April 15, 2012). Listen to stories about Madame Blavatsky, Annie Besant, Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, C.W. Leadbeater and Krishnamurti. Learn about how Theosophy influenced our modern yoga practice. (September 2020)
  • Physical Culture and the Roots of Power Yoga and Hot Yoga
    Learn about how the physical culture movement and Western forms of exercise have been integrated into our modern yoga asana practice. Hear stories about physical culture pioneers Eugen Sandow and Bernarr MacFadden and the influence of physical culture in India in the early 1900s. Explore the roots of Power Yoga, including the influence of the Baptiste family. Learn about Bikram Choudury, his guru Bishnu Ghosh (brother of Paramahansa Yogananda), and the roots of Hot Yoga. (October 2020)
  • The Roots of Hatha Yoga
    How old is Hatha Yoga and the yoga postures we practice? Learn about the new research into the origins of Hatha Yoga (it might surprise you!). Review Hatha Yoga and asana in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, The Siva Samhita and The Geranda Samhita. Learn which poses are part of an older tradition and which are modern innovation. (November 2020)
    • Krishnamacharya and the Hatha Yoga Lineage
    Hear about Krishnamacharya and the lineage of our modern yoga asana practice: B.K.S. Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, Indra Devi and T.K.V. Desikachar. (December 2020)

You can purchase these video recordings by contacting Hatha Yoga with Erin. Investment: $15 per video.


Contact Erin to present yoga philosophy and history for your studio (online only at this time), either as a part of teacher training or as a continuing education workshop.

Erin was on the faculty of Mudra Yoga’s teacher training program, offering training in yoga history and philosophy including the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita (the studio closed in December 2019).

Erin has extensive training in Yoga philosophy, including hundreds of hours of study with Dr. Douglas Brooks. Erin completed Embodied Philosophy’s Yoga Philosophy 300-hour Online Training & Certification, with an emphasis on the Bhagavad Gita. She has studied and taught The Gita, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras,  Tantra philosophy and more. Erin is currently writing a book on the contemporary history of American yoga.