Sanskrit Texts on Yoga

Key information

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Module code
South Asia Section

Module overview

This is a language based module for students with good basic knowledge of Sanskrit. Besides providing more practice in reading, understanding, and translating Sanskrit texts, it is designed to give the student a thorough introduction to the genre of Sanskrit texts on yoga, and an understanding of yoga’s historical development.


Sanskrit Language 1A and Sanskrit Language 1B (or equivalent)

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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

  • read a variety of Sanskrit texts on yoga;
  • place their teachings in the context of the historical development of both yoga and the academic study of yoga;
  • access and work with a variety of secondary sources on yoga;
  • use primary textual examples to back up arguments and hypotheses;
  • write essays on a variety of aspects of the history and practice of yoga.


This module will be taught over 20 weeks with 2 hours classroom contact per week in seminars.

Scope and syllabus

This module will give students an advanced level of understanding of one of the most important aspects of South Asian religious culture, and a broader appreciation of the linguistic, literary and religious culture of the subcontinent. Four texts on yoga will be studied, ranging from the c.4th century Pātañjalayogaśāstra (aka “The Yoga Sūtras”) to early modern texts on physical yoga. The texts will be read in their Sanskrit originals and particular attention will be paid to critical assessment of the editions used.

Method of assessment

  • One three-hour written examination taken in May/June (70%)
  • one 1,500 word essay to be submitted term 2 (15%) one 1,500 word essay to be submitted term 3 (15%)
  • The exact assessment deadline dates are published on the relevant module Moodle/BLE page

Suggested reading

  • Yogasūtra of Patañjali with the commentaries (Bhāṣya, Tattvavaiśāradī, and Yogavārttikā) of Vyāsa, Vācaspatimiśra, and Vijñānabhikṣu, ed. Nārāyaṇa Miśra. Benares: Bhāratīya Vidyā Prakāśan. 1971.
  • Haṭhapradīpikā of Svātmārāma, ed. Svāmī Digambarjī and Dr Pītambar Jhā. Lonavla: Kaivalyadhām S.M.Y.M. Samiti. 1970.
  • Jacobsen, K.A. 2012 (ed.). Yoga Powers. Brill: Leiden.
  • Mallinson, J.:
    • 2004. The Gheranda Samhita. New York:
    • 2007a. The Khecarīvidyā of Ādinātha. A critical edition and annotated translation of an early text of haṭhayoga. London: Routledge.
    • 2007b. The Shiva Samhita. A Critical Edition and An English Translation. New York:
    • 2011b. “The Original Gorakṣaśataka,” pp.257–272 in White 2011.
    • 2011c. “Nāth Saṃpradāya,” entry in the Brill Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Vol. 3, ed. Knut A. Jacobsen, pp. 407-428. Leiden: Brill.
    • 2011d. “Haṭha Yoga,” entry in the Brill Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Vol.3, ed. Knut A. Jacobsen, pp. 770-781. Leiden: Brill.
    • 2012. “Siddhi and Mahāsiddhi in Early Haṭhayoga,” pp. 327–344 in Jacobsen 2012.
    • 2013. “Yogic Identities: Tradition and Transformation”. Smithsonian Institute Research Online.
  • Maas, P. 2013. “A Concise Historiography of Classical Yoga Philosophy”. Pre-print version of the article that is to be published in: Eli Franco (ed.), Historiography and Periodization of Indian Philosophy. De Nobili Series, Vienna.
  • White, D.G. 2011 (ed.). Yoga in Practice. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

[Some of the Sanskrit texts to be studied will be unpublished critical editions by James Mallinson and others, which will be distributed as pdf files via Moodle.]


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules