Degree Name

Master of Philosophy


School of Education


The past two decades has seen an explosion of research on yoga as an aid for people recovering from trauma. Specifically for Iyengar yoga, a popular style based on the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar, there is a small but growing body of quantitative literature suggesting it is an effective intervention for addressing trauma related symptoms. This literature, however, gives insufficient attention to the role of pedagogy and relational dynamics in learning Iyengar yoga as a trauma aid. There are currently no published studies that examine the pedagogic skills used by Iyengar yoga teachers in teaching students with trauma. This is significant because Iyengar yoga is known for its substantial body of therapeutic knowledge and has an international network of teachers, some with considerable experience teaching students with trauma. This study seeks to address that gap by examining the potential of Iyengar yoga for students with trauma as told through the perspectives of eight Australian Iyengar yoga teachers with experience teaching students with trauma, along with document analysis of key Iyengar yoga texts. Drawing on Shilling’s (2007) concept of body pedagogics and Lusted’s (1986) theory of pedagogy, this study examines the interrelationship between Iyengar yoga culture, its specific pedagogic means, its intended embodied changes and outcomes, and the dynamic relations in which Iyengar yoga teachers and their students negotiate issues of power and agency. This examination reveals how, amongst other pedagogic skills, Iyengar yoga teachers bring their skills in observation to read their students’ bodies to understand the disposition and capacity of their students with trauma and to individualise their approach to teaching. These decisions are mediated through the subjectivities of both teacher and student and the context of the learning exchange. In examining these concepts, this study seeks to contribute an Iyengar yoga teachers’ voice to the emerging qualitative literature on yoga for trauma.

FoR codes (2008)




Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.