Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
This paper draws from (1) a carnal/auto-ethnography of training to be a yoga teacher in India and (2) an on-going auto-ethnography of learning Tai Chi, to describe how culture, the body and the material world intersect to influence knowledge/philosophy/perspectives about individual well-being. It is argued that knowledge about well-being results from the ways in which practices, corporal/material experiences, concepts, interests, the environment/contexts and questions coalesce. Forming an understanding of well-being is informed by concepts and methods that are brought to the process of observing and interacting with bodies, substances, practices and the environment. These concepts and practices then become modified and adjusted over time, as the body also transforms. Ultimately, this means that “well-being” is not a single target, but the result of many interacting parts that congeal (or do not) into a working system. In yoga, the (intermediate) goal is to reach equanimity. This state occurs when the body and mind are continually able to move toxins through and (therefore) out of the body, allowing the mind and body to stay unattached or un-needy. In Tai Chi, the goal is to perform practices that allow your body to move, generate (i.e. take in from the surrounding environment) and store energy. In either case, well-being can only be achieved by learning to perform practices attuned to the individual’s body, environment, and philosophical teachings. In both cases, the space/place in which one lives and the way in which one relates to others (human and otherwise) is key to achieving well-being.