Haṭhayoga, Tapas and Modern Postural Practice

Key information

7:30 PM to 8:45 PM
Paul Webley Wing (Senate House)
Alumni Lecture Theatre

About this event

Jason Birch

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Hathayoga, Tapas and Modern Postural Practice: Distinct Collections of Complex Āsanas on the Eve of Colonialism

Our first talk of 2020 will be from Dr Jason Birch, SOAS. He will examine three distinct collections of complex āsanas that were practised by yogins in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Each collection can be located in a specific region of India. Two of the collections were influenced by ascetic traditions and the third most probably by the physical culture and military training of the time. Also, two gurus who were at the forefront of the revival of postural practice in early twentieth-century India and whose systems of yoga were instrumental to the development of transnational yoga, integrated postures from two of these collections into their teachings.

The textual and visual sources for these collections will be discussed, as well as the peculiarities of some āsanas . The paper will conclude by assessing the relationship between tapas and Haṭhayoga on the eve of colonialism, and it will reveal the different approaches of modern gurus to integrating premodern material in their efforts to adapt yoga to the changing circumstances of their time.

This event is free but booking is required. Book your place via Eventbrite .

Speaker Biography

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.