Jason Birch – Āsanas of the Yogacintāmaṇi

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1:00 pm to 2:30 pm
SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies
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About this event

SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies is thrilled to host Jason Birch (University of Oxford), author of Āsanas of the Yogacintāmaṇi: The Largest Premodern Compilation on Postural Practice in discussion with respondents, James Mallinson (Boden Professor of Sanskrit at University of Oxford) and Shaman Hatley (Professor of Asian Studies and Department Chair at University of Massachusetts Boston).

This book introduces, critically edits, and translates the largest premodern compilation on postural practice (āsanas) that is preserved in a unique manuscript of the Yogacintāmaṇi, which is dated 1659 CE and is currently the earliest dated record of more than eight-four names of āsanas.

Writing in Varanasi in the sixteenth century, when the Mughal empire was at the height of its power, the monk Śivānandasarasvatī composed an extensive Sanskrit compendium on yoga entitled “The Wish-fulfilling Gem of Yoga” (Yogacintāmaṇi). Śivānanda was an initiate of a sannyāsin lineage descending from the great philosopher Śaṅkarācārya (fl. ca. 800). Śivānanda was among the first to combine Pātañjalayoga with Haṭha and Rājayoga. 

In the seventeenth century, an anonymous redactor used Śivānanda’s work to create a unique compilation of yoga postures (āsana), many of which are not found in other yoga texts. Arguably the largest surviving premodern compilation of its kind, it includes six postures that the redactor attributed to Mohan of Mewar, who was a disciple of Dādū and a practitioner of Haṭhayoga and breath prognostication (svarodaya). 

These postures were part of a collection that was appropriated and repurposed by Sufis, translated into Persian and illustrated for a royal treatise commissioned by Prince Salīm, the future Mughal emperor Jahāngīr (r. 1605–1627 CE). This book presents this unique compilation, transmitted to us in a manuscript written in the redactor’s own handwriting.

The book will be of interest to scholars, students, and practitioners of yoga alike.


Jason Birch (DPhil Oxon) is a historian of South Asian traditions of yoga and medicine. He is co-Director of the Yogacintāmaṇi Project at the University of Massachusetts Boston and an associate of the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Oxford. 

His recent publications include, The Amaraugha and Amaraughaprabodha of Gorakṣanātha: The Genesis of Haṭha and Rājayoga (EFEO, 2024), an online critical edition of the Haṭhapradīpikā (with colleagues of the Light on Haṭha Project, 2024), and On the Plastic Surgery of the Ears and Nose: The Nepalese Version of the Suśrutasaṃhitā (with Dominik Wujastyk and colleagues of the Suśruta Project, HASP, 2023). 

At SOAS University of London (2015–2023), he was a Senior Research Fellow of the Light on Haṭha Project and a Post-doctoral Research Fellow of the Haṭha Yoga Project. He is a founding member of the SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies and the peer-reviewed Journal of Yoga Studies.


James Mallinson is Boden Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Oxford. He was the PI of the ERC-funded Hatha Yoga Project (2015–2021) and the AHRC- and DFG-funded Light on Hatha Project, and has authored several books and articles on the history of yoga and its practitioners, including the Khecarīvidyā of Ādinātha (Routledge, 2007), Roots of Yoga (with Mark Singleton, Penguin Classics, 2017) and the Amṛtasiddhi and Amṛtasiddhimūla (EFEO, 2021).

Shaman Hatley is an associate professor of Asian Studies and Religious Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and chair of the Asian Studies Department. He studied Indology and Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania under the direction of Harunaga Isaacson, completing his doctoral thesis in 2007 and then teaching at Concordia University until 2015. 

His research is primarily in the areas of Śaiva tantric traditions in the early medieval period, goddess cults, and the history of yoga.