Transcendent Urges: Brilliant Anxiety in the Yoga Sutras (1.5CR)

What do the Yoga Sutras have to say to a period plagued by individual, social and political anxiety? Independent scholar Matthew Remski discusses how the teachings of the Sutras are relevant today. 

PREVIEW: "What's the role of moksha in a scientific society?"


  • fresh and unique perspectives on the philosophy of the Yoga Sutras.
  • how to understand the Sutras as a therapeutic text is a misunderstanding of its original intention.
  • how to interpret certain sutras from a contemporary perspective.

"Transcendent Urges: Brilliant Anxiety in the Yoga Sutras"

The Yoga Sutras is not a therapeutic text. It doesn't direct yogis to become more resilient, better adjusted, or more integrated. It has no interest in positive self-regard, body image issues, holistic health care, or combatting internalized oppression. In short: virtually none of the values of global yoga culture -- immersed as it is in liberal humanism and scientific materialism -- are to be found amongst its stark aphorisms. It's not about the nurturance of the changing, adaptive self. It's about the complete deconstruction of a self that thinks it's a changing thing. The method is a meditative suicide in which thought, action, and the endless subject-object dialogue comes to a complete stop, releasing the eternal principle of observatory consciousness. 

More than a century of evolutionary biology, developmental psychology, and consciousness studies have all but eliminated Patanjali's hard dualism of matter and spirit from the landscape of working philosophy. So what exactly is so appealing about these instructions from the Iron Age? Do they push back against the superficiality and privilege of the self-improvement project? Do they offer an alternative to the endless gunic cycle of consumer capitalism? Do they remind us that all of the therapy in the world cannot solve the problem of being an individual who will die? 

Sutra 2:40 states that the virtue of physical cleanliness is valuable insofar as it shows the yogi that her body and the bodies of others are disgusting. In my 2012 psycho-social commentary on the Sutras, I held this verse up as a prime example of the text's incompatibility with contemporary yoga aspirations. Here I offer a different idea: that to a culture obsessed with adaptation and advancement, the Yoga Sutras returns our focus to a more primal anxiety. It offers a radiant meditation on despair, and perhaps a way to see the transcendent urge as a therapeutic necessity.

A Little about Matthew...

Matthew Remski has been practicing meditation since 1996 and asana since 2000. He’s taught yoga, yoga philosophy, and Ayurveda in Toronto and beyond since 2005. He maintains an active Ayurveda consultation practice from his home, which he shares with his partner Alix, and their son Jacob. He’s authored several books on yoga and related subjects, and is working towards completing What Are We Actually Doing in Asana? — an examination of pain, injury, and healing in modern yoga. His blog hosts an average of 20K readers per month:

Your investment for this masterclass is $27. 
1.5 Embodied Philosophy Credits will be applied to your account. For information about the Wisdom Training Accreditation, go here.

The masterclass runs for about 90 minutes. You will have instant and ongoing access to the online recording so you can watch it whenever you want, how often you want.


If you're new to online workshops, don't worry, it's very easy. It's just like any workshop, except on video and online.

After you submit your payment, you’ll be sent an email with the link to the masterclass website page. There you can watch the workshop and will be given an option to download the video to your personal wisdom library. You don’t need any special software or equipment. You can watch the workshop streaming online, but if you don't have an excellent wifi connection, it will be best to download the video before viewing. 


Matthew is one of the most original and innovative thinkers in discussions around yoga philosophy.”   Jacob

“Matthew's talk was profoundly thought-provoking and original.” – Sarah

“I love these offerings! So nice to have access to such thoughtful teachings when you live in a place as remote as I do.” – John


Get the whole series...

Matthew's talk is part of a 15-hr series exploring the Sutras and Gita. Save 50% by purchasing all eleven videos today. 

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