Embodied Liberation II: The Textual, Ethnographic and Historical Research of the Hatha Yoga Project [virtual exhibition]

Key information

10:30 am to 5:00 pm
Brunei Gallery
Virtual Exhibition

About this event

This exhibition in its first incarnation was given its inaugural showing from 15 January to 21 March this year in our Foyle Special Collections Gallery. The exhibition was to be extended with refreshed content including rare Sanskrit manuscripts drawn from the SOAS Special Collections & Archive, to be shown from 17 April to 27 June.

As this is no longer possible over the coming weeks we would like to share with you some of the highlights from what would have been the exhibition EMBODIED LIBERATION II which showcased the most recent research discoveries in the field of Yoga Studies as identified by the Hatha Yoga Project , SOAS.

The exhibition presented different chronological periods of yoga’s history using a variety of visual and interactive mediums which derive from the diverse methodological approaches used by the research team. Handwritten Sanskrit manuscripts which are fascinating samples of the principal textual discoveries of the project; vivid Mughal paintings of pre-modern asceticism contrasted with photographs and video material sourced during extensive ethnographic fieldwork of present-day ascetic practitioners in India, including very rare examples of female practitioners.

The exhibition included photographs of the oldest known sculptures of complex yoga postures (i.e., the twelfth-century Mehudī Gate of Gujarat, India) and a multimedia video installation of embodied philology - the reconstruction of the āsanas (along with Sanskrit recitation and English translation) of the Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati, an eighteenth-century Sanskrit manual on the practice of haṭhayoga, which is one of the ten critical editions to be published by the project.

The first highlight we would like to share with you is the film Yogāsana

Loading the player...


This film is a collection of videos from ethnographic fieldwork, shot in different areas of India between 2016 and 2019. It aims to vividly describe the use and understanding of āsanas (postures) among contemporary ascetics, while providing the viewer with an intimate view of the ascetics’ world ( please note this film contains some nudity )

Video Maker & Coordinator : Dr Daniela Bevilacqua

Editor : Simone Ludovici

Time : 24 minutes

The second highlight we would like to share with you is the film MANUSCRIPTS | Yoga On Leaves

Loading the player...

MANUSCRIPTS | Yoga On Leaves

This film offers the viewer a visceral experience of working with palm leaf Sanskrit manuscripts on Yoga. The philological fieldwork of the Hatha Yoga Project requires searching through hundreds of catalogues and unpublished manuscripts in order to locate, identify, transcribe, and collate a text before a critical edition and annotated translation into English are possible. The fieldwork took place in many libraries, museums, and private collections across India between 2016 and 2019. This film provides the viewer with an intimate behind-the-scenes view at one of these locations.

Producer and Photographer: Jacqueline Hargreaves

Hatha Yoga Project Researchers: Dr Jason Birch, SOAS University of London and Dr SVBKV Gupta, École française d'Extrême-Orient.

Librarian: Dr Tejasvini Jangda

Time: 11 minutes

Images from the exhibition