SOAS University of London

South Asia Section, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics

Introduction to Yoga Studies

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2022/2023
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Term 2

This module is a text-based introduction to the study of yoga within the context of South Asian cultural history, religion, and society. The focus of this introductory module will be the history and development of yoga in South Asia - from the philosophical and religious backgrounds of yoga to the emergence of physical yogic practices



Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of the module a student should be able to:

  • Successfully continue their studies of South Asian languages, cultures, philosophy, religion and history and will be equipped with the tools needed to further develop their academic interests in Yoga Studies.
  • Analyse academic materials on these topics more critically and to engage with Sanskrit primary sources in a more nuanced way.


The module is taught over 10 weeks in a two hour seminar each week

Scope and syllabus

  • The Śramaṇa traditions: the first yogis
  • Yoga in the Mahābhārata, including the Bhagavadgītā
  • Yoga in the Tantras and Purāṇas
  • Early Haṭhayoga: the rise of physical yoga
  • Classical haṭhayoga: the triumph of physical yoga
  • Yoga in vernacular sources: who were the yogis
  • The rise of the yogi sects in the early modern period
  • Yoga in Buddhism and Islam
  • Yoga and Art: reading history through image
  • Modern Yoga: yoga’s 20th-century transformations

Method of assessment

  • Attendance of seminars (10%)
  • Learning Portfolio (500 - 1000 words) to be submitted on day 1, week 4, term 2 (20%)
  • Learning Portfolio (500 - 1000 words) to be submitted on day 1, week 8, term 2 (20%)
  • 1 x Essay (1500 - 2000 words) to be sumitted on day 1, week 3, term 3 (50%)

Suggested reading

  • Selections from Roots of Yoga, Mallinson and Singleton, Penguin Classics 2017
  • Yoga Body, Singleton, OUP 2010.
  • Yoga: the Art of Transformation, ed. Debra Diamond, Smithsonian Books 2013
  • Yoga in Practice, ed. David Gordon White, Princeton University Press, 2011.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules