Ancient Futures
Ancient Futures
Why Study Yoga? – Graham Burns

Why Study Yoga? – Graham Burns

On finding a balance of scholarly knowledge and practical insight

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What are the benefits of studying yoga academically? Is critical thinking a practical obstacle? Might the two ways of seeing be complementary? Expanding on last week’s essay, I talk about these questions – among many others – with Graham Burns.

Graham Burns in a contemplative pose

Graham has been teaching yoga for more than 20 years. He holds a PhD from SOAS, University of London, and his thesis was titled “Neti, neti: the Search for the Ultimate Principal in the Vedic Upaniṣads”. He also taught on the M.A. in Traditions of Yoga and Meditation, to which I contribute.


As I explain in the introduction, I never imagined that I’d find myself doing that when Graham and I spoke at the start of this year. Back then, I didn’t have a proper podcast, so I originally posted our dialogue on YouTube. I’m now sharing it here for those who missed it – it’s well worth revisiting.

We discuss what we’ve learned from intellectual engagement with yoga, as well as from practice. Many scholars who write about yoga are also practitioners, yet their priorities aren’t always the same as practitioners who study, so we consider what that difference consists of – and how to strike a balance between both perspectives.

That’s also the aim of my online courses on texts and traditions at

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Ancient Futures
Ancient Futures
Timeless wisdom for modern dilemmas, combining critical thinking with yoga philosophy and practical insights. Hosted by Daniel Simpson.
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