Senior Honors Projects, 2010-2019

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Department of Sociology and Anthropology


Rebecca E. Howes-Mischel

Liam M. Buckley

Mieka Polanco


This thesis is an examination of how Ashtanga practitioners engage one another over issues of authority and community boundaries as they define and defend their commitment to a shared tradition. My analysis is grounded in ethnographic research from interviews with 10 Ashtanga yoga practitioners and in multi-sited participant observation conducted in Mysore, India at the Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute (KPJAYI) and in various Ashtanga yoga practice settings in northwestern Virginia, U.S.A. In each chapter, I draw on practitioners’ practice narratives to analyze the relationship of an individual practitioner to her community and the importance of membership in that community. Although this community is a chosen and non-contiguous community, I draw on Benedict Anderson’s theory of “imagined community” (1991) to illustrate how practitioners understand their membership in a global community built around a shared acknowledgement of how Ashtanga yoga practice produces a powerful effect on their lives. By participating in the community’s negotiations about authority and tradition, practitioners demonstrate their reliance on feelings of belonging to this larger community. The negotiations I discuss reveal practitioners’ attempts to make room for their personal experiences in a collective narrative about what it means to practice Ashtanga yoga.



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