Don’t miss the Penn State Symposium on Yoga, Ethics, and Neoliberalism! On April 25 and 26, 2019, Penn State welcomes four of the world’s leading scholars to campus for a wide-ranging conversation about the history, practice, and ethics of yoga in a time of the global commodification of spirituality. All events are free and open to the public. 

All events are organized and moderated by Yoga Lab’s very own Jeremy David Engels, Associate Professor of Communication Arts & Sciences. Events are sponsored by the Rock Ethics Institute, Penn State University Libraries, and the Center for Spiritual and Ethical Development.

Friday, April 26—A Symposium.
All sessions in Memorial Lounge, Pasquerilla Spiritual Center

Panel 1, 9:00-10:30am

“Old Beginnings: On the Past, Present, and Future of Yoga”

The word “yoga” has over ninety different meanings in Sanskrit, not to mention its myriad meanings in English and other languages. Its history comprises many millennia. To study yoga is to be confronted with difficult questions of definition and history. In this panel, we take up the following questions: What is yoga, and how can/should we define it? How should scholars and practitioners approach yoga’s long and complicated past? How should we deal with questions of Orientalism and cultural appropriation? And questions of race, gender, sexuality, and class?

Panel 2, 10:45am-12:15pm

“Responsibility without Responsibilization: On the Ethics of Yoga in a Neoliberal Age”

In this panel, we consider how the philosophy, practice, and traditions of yoga might act as resources for ethical action in the present moment. We take up the following questions: how should we understand the ethics of yoga, as a type of deontology, virtue ethics, care ethics, or something else altogether? What does it mean to live a yogic life? How should ethics feature into the classes we teach, the workshops and seminars we lead, our yoga teacher-trainings? Do the inherited categories of yogic ethics (the yamas, niyamas, and kleshas) still make sense, or must they be updated for the present? How does the discourse of neoliberalism or market fundamentalism complicate our understanding of the ethics of yoga?

Panel 3, 1:30-3:00pm

“Yoga as Training to be a Citizen of the World”

Many scholars today view yoga as a selfish practice of retreat from the world—we practice on our mats in order to ignore the suffering around us. And yet many practitioners of yoga would argue the opposite, that their practice prepares them to confront the challenges of contemporary life. In this panel, we discuss whether or not yoga can act as training to be a citizen of the world, and if so, how.


Anya Foxen, PhD, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Religious Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies, California Polytechnic State University, SLO

Andrea Jain, PhD, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Indiana University-

Purdue University Indianapolis

Christa Kuberry, PhD, Vice President for Standards, Yoga Alliance

Patrick McCartney, PhD, JSPS Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies, Kyoto University, Japan


Jeremy David Engels, PhD, Associate Professor of Communication Arts & Sciences, Affiliate Faculty Member of the Rock Ethics Institute, Penn State University