Modern Postural Yoga and the Health-Spirituality-Neoliberalism Nexus


  • Matteo Di Placido University of Turin
  • Anna Strhan University of York
  • Stefania Palmisano University of Turin



yoga, health and wellbeing, field, biopolitics, governmentality, Health-Spirituality-Neoliberalism Nexus


The practice of yoga has become an integral part of practitioners’ lifestyles, spirituality and therapeutic paths across the world, not to mention institutional and governmental interventions of a pedagogical, rehabilitative and political nature in settings as diverse as schools, hospitals and prisons. While social science literature has explored some of these areas of analysis, we currently know little about how particular conceptions of health and wellbeing, of the sacred and of the economic-political continuum overlap, diverge and reciprocally influence each other, with reference to yoga and beyond. Using the example of “modern postural yoga”, this article aims to provide a preliminary account of what we term the Health-Spirituality-Neoliberalism Nexus, that is, of the ways in which different “social fields”, such as the medical/therapeutic, the spiritual/religious and the political/economic fields, are partly governed by the same practical-discursive logics and display profound “symbiotic relationships”. More specifically, this article elucidates how specific health discourses, centred around practitioners’ self-care, self-responsibility and self-control, dominate not only the medical/therapeutic field, but also the landscape of contemporary spiritualities and the widespread neoliberal ethos that characterizes the current social, political and economic model of Westernized societies. Here, the categories of physical and psychological health, the idea of a fulfilling spiritual life, and economic success display deep “elective affinities” that we seek to uncover by mobilizing a series of foundational sociological concepts such as the Bourdieusian notion of “field” and a Foucauldian reading of “biopolitics” and “governmentality”. 


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Author Biographies

Matteo Di Placido, University of Turin

Matteo Di Placido is a cultural sociologist and currently works as a Post-doctoral Fellow for the University of Turin. Matteo was a Visiting Scholar at the Department of Political Science and the Center for Ideas and Society at the University of California Riverside (UCR) and an Academic Associate at the Cardiff School of Sport and Health Sciences at the Metropolitan University of Cardiff, Wales.

Anna Strhan, University of York

Anna Strhan is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of York. She is the author of The Figure of the Child in Contemporary Evangelicalism (Oxford University Press, 2019), Aliens and Strangers? The Struggle for Coherence in the Everyday Lives of Evangelicals (Oxford University Press, 2015), and Levinas, Subjectivity, Education (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).

Stefania Palmisano, University of Turin

Stefania Palmisano is Associate Professor in the Sociology of Religion at the University of Turin, Italy, where she teaches the sociology of organization and the sociology of religion. She was Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at Lancaster University and Visiting Research Fellow, Department of Religion, Philosophy and Cultural Heritage at Wolverhampton University.


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How to Cite

Di Placido, M., Strhan, A., & Palmisano, S. (2022). Modern Postural Yoga and the Health-Spirituality-Neoliberalism Nexus. Fieldwork in Religion, 18(1), 8–36.