Embodied Neo-spirituality as an Experience Filter

From Dance and Movement Practice to Contemporary Yoga


  • Lina Aschenbrenner University of Erfurt
  • Laura von Ostrowski Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich


Body knowledge, neo-spirituality, yoga, Gaga, experience filter


The authors outline the framework of ‘experience filters’ as a theoretical and methodical approach to grasp the aesthetic effect and the cultural and social influence of religious practices beyond religious settings: Participation in and enactment of practices and rituals (e.g., ‘neo-spiritual’) shape the embodied experience of further practice and ritual performance, as well as cultural and social participation in general. They create experience filters which influence experience beyond the context in which they were created, and which are intrinsically linked to the transformation of ‘body knowledge’ in practice. Experience filters are embodied conditions for the selection, perception, and interpretation of experiences. Thus, the framework underlines the importance of a body focus in cultural studies of religion, and simultaneously offers a practical possibility of including the body in cultural research.

The article is based on ethnographic data obtained in the context of two neo-spiritual phenomena – the Israeli movement improvisation practice Gaga in Tel Aviv and Ashtanga Yoga in Germany. The authors sketch an exemplary evolution of different neo-spiritual experience filters in the two practice settings: the awareness, transformed body, positive emotions, and ‘secular’ filter in Gaga; and the mindfulness, balance, and spiritual filter in Ashtanga Yoga. The authors trace the filters in techniques and body knowledge actualizations, and demonstrate how the filters become effective with participants. Ultimately, the comparison of both sets of experience filters shows not only that typical neo-spiritual experience filters and common and collective effects of neo-spiritual practices exist, but also the way in which the framework experience filters enable researchers to close in on neo-spirituality as a greater social and cultural phenomenon.


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Body and Religion