The Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati: A Precursor of Modern Yoga Practice

Key information

7:30 PM to 9:00 PM
Paul Webley Wing (Senate House)
Alumni Lecture Theatre

About this event

Jason Birch, Jacqueline Hargreaves and Mark Singleton

This event was not recorded. For other event recordings see our Media page.


The Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati is a Sanskrit text on the practice of Haṭhayoga, probably composed in the eighteenth century in Maharashtra. Its most remarkable feature is the section on āsana (yogic posture), which contains six groups of poses, many of which are unusual or unique among yoga texts. Also unique is that the postures appear to be arranged into sequences intended to be practised in order. It is likely that the Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati was known to the most influential teacher of modern postural yoga, T. Krishnamacharya, and therefore has a special significance for contemporary yoga practice.

In this presentation, Jason Birch, Jacqueline Hargreaves and Mark Singleton discuss the Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati , its importance for our understanding of yoga history, and the making of a film based on its groups of āsanas .

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Speaker Biographies

Jason Birch

After completing a first-class honours degree in Sanskrit and Hindi at the University of Sydney, Jason Birch was awarded a DPhil in Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford, under the supervision of Prof. Alexis Sanderson. His dissertation focused on a seminal Rājayoga text called the Amanaska , and he has published on the early history and meanings of Haṭhayoga. In 2015, Dr Birch was invited to join the Ayuryog Project at the University of Vienna, for which he published a foundational paper on the shared history of yoga and āyurveda. He is currently a post-doctoral research fellow at SOAS University of London on the Haṭha Yoga Project. Through extensive fieldwork in India and the reconstruction of primary sources, Dr Birch's research has identified the earliest text to teach a system of Haṭhayoga and Rājayoga and defined a corpus of Sanskrit and vernacular texts that emerged during Haṭhayoga's floruit, the period in which it thrived on the eve of colonialism. He is the principal editor and translator of six Sanskrit texts that will be primary outputs of the project.

Jacqueline Hargreaves

Jacqueline Hargreaves researches the contemporary meeting place between historical practices and their application in a modern (mainly therapeutic) environment. She has a special interest in Indian Yoga traditions and Japanese Zen. Jacqueline holds a Bachelor of Engineering (with Honours) from the University of NSW and has worked internationally as a consultant in Australia, Canada, USA, Japan, China, Korea and India. She has spent the last two decades studying and teaching yoga and mindfulness-based meditation practices specifically to assist those with chronic health issues, stress, anxiety and depression. She is a founding member of the Journal of Yoga Studies, a peer-reviewed, open access academic journal, and curator of The Luminescent, an independent, evidence-based research hub for the history and practice of Yoga and Meditation. In collaboration with the Haṭha Yoga Project (SOAS London University), Jacqueline is currently producing a documentary film, which aims to interpret the physical techniques in a historically significant eighteenth-century Sanskrit text called the Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati .

Mark Singleton

Mark Singleton is Senior Research Fellow in the in ERC-funded Haṭha Yoga Project, Department of Languages and Cultures of South Asia, SOAS, University of London. His research focuses on the tensions between tradition and modernity in yoga, and the transformations that yoga has undergone in recent centuries in response to globalization. He has published book chapters, journal articles and encyclopedia entries on yoga, several edited volumes of scholarship, including Yoga in the Modern World (2008) and Gurus of Modern Yoga (2013), and a monograph entitled Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice (2010). His last book, Roots of Yoga (2017, with James Mallinson), is a comprehensive, primary source collection of texts on the practices of yoga, mainly in its South Asian contexts prior to the modern period.