Marissa Clarke

The Featured Researcher for June 2022 was Marissa Clarke.

Working Title: Sensing Yoga Bodies: A Phenomenological-Ethnographic Inquiry

University of Edinburgh, School of Divinity

Sensing Yoga Bodies

The experiential process of learning, developing, and finessing embodied technique as a yoga practitioner is a limited area of research. Some practitioners have regarded the experiential process as ‘spiritual’ (Smith, 2007), but questions remain as to how the experience of the ‘somatic’ affects the perception of the ‘spiritual’. In its simplest definition, yoga is understood as ‘spiritualized-breath-movement practice’ (Foxen, 2020: 13) and given that the word spirit comes from the Latin word spiro ‘to breathe’, it makes sense that “to aspire to any spiritual state, is to breathe after it” (Foxen, 2020: 101). Attention to the breath as an embodied, and perhaps, ‘spiritual’ experience deserves further investigation in yoga research and the wider field of religious studies. My research intends to address this knowledge gap by firstly asking what interdisciplinary studies could learn from ‘sensing yoga bodies. Secondly, exploring the ways in which attention to the breath (such as between vinyasa and asana) can alter states of embodiment. Thirdly, inquiring to what extent altered states of embodiment intersect with the term ‘spirituality’. These questions are underpinned by new materialist philosophy and sensory, phenomenological ethnography.

Yoga DarśanaYoga Sadhana

recently attended the ‘Yoga DarśanaYoga Sadhana: Methods, Migrations, Mediations’ conference delivered in partnership by the Jagiellonian University Institute for the Study of Religions and the SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies, from 18th to 21st May 2022 in Krakow. The conference has been the highlight of my PhD journey so far, as I had the opportunity to meet many inspiring international scholars of yoga studies and hear about their latest research projects. I presented a paper titled ‘Yoga & the Gig Economy: Pandemic, Precarity and Yoga Teacher Labour’ as part of the ‘Mediating Authority’ panel alongside Dr Matylda Ciołkosz and Dr Theodora Wildcroft. In my conference paper, I applied economic and sociocultural frameworks to problematise the labour of yoga teachers in a neoliberal, free market economy. However, I proposed that yoga teacher labour cannot be understood through socially constructed frameworks alone, and that processes of social production must also be accounted for to offer more materially grounded perspectives on what yoga teacher/practitioner bodies can do. The argument for more materialist perspectives lays that foundation for my doctoral research ‘Sensing Yoga Bodies’, which aims to foreground lived bodily experiences and sensory ways of knowing. 

Marissa visiting Uniwersytet Jagielloński in Krakow for the ‘Yoga darśana, yoga sadhana: Methods, migrations, mediations’ conference, May 2022.

Connect with Marissa


Twitter: @marissaaclarke 

Instagram: @marissaannclarke