SOAS University of London

Centre of Yoga Studies

SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies - Yoga Studies Week

Various speakers

Date: 25 March 2019Time: 6:30 PM

Finishes: 29 March 2019Time: 8:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Various

Type of Event: Talk

You will find some recordings from these sessions on our Soundcloud.

Yoga Studies week, 5 days, 9 speakers, cutting-edge yoga scholarship

Full schedule and booking details

Monday 25th March
Directions in Yoga Studies: Established and Emerging Research - Dr Suzanne Newcombe (Open University and Inform, KCL) and Karen O’Brien-Kop (SOAS)

6.30-7.45pm, Khalili Lecture Theatre (KLT), SOAS

Introducing a week of guest speakers, this talk will provide an overview of the main and emerging areas of yoga studies in academia currently. We will highlight new and interesting trends in research for yoga and meditation studies, taking into account many different disciplinary framings, geographical areas, and historical periods. The lecture will conclude with a discussion on areas of contemporary interest in regard to yoga and meditation both within and outside the academy.

This event is free but booking is required. Booking and more details via Eventbrite.


Tuesday 26th March
Between Sound and Silence in Early Yoga: Meditation on OM at the Moment of Death - Dr Finnian Gerety (Brown University, USA)

6.00-7.20pm, Khalili Lecture Theatre (KLT), SOAS

This talk examines how Vedic texts and rituals inform the construction of mantra-based contemplative practices in early Yoga. Tracing the development of meditation on the sacred syllable “OM” at the moment of death, Dr Gerety will argue that the techniques of several early Yoga systems have roots in the little-known rite of  “yoking” (yukti) from the Jaiminīya school of Sāmaveda. In this rite, the seated practitioner controls his breath and senses, visualizes the liturgy, and chants OM out loud while meditating in silence on other mantras—with the aim of ascending to the sun and attaining immortality.

Jaiminīya sources thus furnish the oldest link in a chain of Indian soteriologies associated with OM, death, and solar ascent—a genealogy that extends from the Vedas up through foundational discourses of early Yoga. By examining the tension between sound and silence in contemplative practices involving OM, this talk aims to bring attention to the interplay of mantra and meditation, and to invite a reappraisal of Brahmanical contributions to premodern Yoga systems.

This event is free but booking is required. Booking and more details via Eventbrite.


Yoga as Neoliberal Spirituality: Personal Growth, Self-Care & the Quest for Liberation - Dr Andrea Jain (Indiana University, USA)

7.30-8.45pm, Khalili Lecture Theatre (KLT), SOAS

Neoliberal spirituality relies on the selective deployment of key neoliberal assumptions, such as the importance of self-governance and individual responsibilization. It privileges meritocracy insofar as many activities revolve around discerning and certifying the merit that leads to the envied lifestyle of personal growth, self-care, and liberation. At the same time, spirituality has suffered the fate of other cultural areas under the global dominance of neoliberal capitalism. Adherents must “do more with less,” cutting costs while meeting ever-greater demands.

In this talk, Prof. Andrea Jain evaluates the ways the global yoga industry serves as a crucial node of neoliberal spirituality, analyzing different and conflicting narratives in the yoga industry in order to shed light on larger systemic issues, particularly by illuminating the following: a globally pervasive neoliberal logic whereby control over one’s body is valued, but is defined as an individual achievement; and capitalist strategies of commodification that contain dissent against dominant ideologies through gestural subversions. Together, these brew an industry that largely buttresses the oppressive ideologies of, for example, neoliberalism and heteropatriarchy.

This event is free but booking is required. Booking and more details via Eventbrite.


Wednesday 27th March
Sanskrit Reading Room: Singing for Immortality: Texts and Rites of the Jaiminīya Sāmaveda -  Dr Finnian Gerety (Brown University, USA)

1.00-3.00pm, B102, Brunei Gallery, SOAS

The Sanskrit Reading Room is a reading forum for budding Sanskritists to improve their Sanskrit language skills and be up-to-date with current research in Sanskrit studies.

Because the texts of the Jaiminīya school of Sāmaveda lack complete and up-to-date critical editions and translations, the important contributions of this lineage of Vedic ritualists to the history of Indian religions have not always been duly appreciated. Chief among these is the construction of “OM” as a sacred syllable that leads to immortality, a project undertaken by the authors of the Jaiminīya Upaniṣad-Brāhmaṇa (ca. 700 BCE). Combining reflection on ritual in the style of a Vedic āraṇyaka with metaphysical speculation similar to an upaniṣad, this seminal prose text explains esoteric modes of singing “melodies” (sāman) from the Sāmavedic liturgy, emphasizing the soteriological efficacy of OM in Vedic sacrifice.

 In this session of the Sanskrit Reading Room, we will read several passages from the Jaiminīya Upaniṣad-Brāhmaṇa with the aim of understanding how Jaiminīya authors approach mantra, ritual, the body, and liberation. To this end, we will attend to the strategies they use to codify, elevate, and interpret OM as a recitational technique for attaining immortality. We will also look for clues in the text that give insights into its broader social and religious context, including political patronage, attitudes towards asceticism, and influence on other Vedic schools.

This event is free but registration is required as space is very limited. Please email to book your place.


Visions of Patañjali as a Nāga, Siddha & Sage - Dr Gudrun Bühnemann (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA)

3.30-4.30pm, Khalili Lecture Theatre (KLT), SOAS

Patañjali was the name of an ancient Indian sage to whom important works on Sanskrit grammar, Yoga philosophy and the medical system of Āyurveda are ascribed. In recent decades increasing attention has focused on Patañjali as an authority on and figurehead of Yoga. Believed to be the author of a set of aphorisms on Yoga philosophy (the Yogasūtras), which has attained canonical status in many Yoga traditions, he is eulogized with invocations in Sanskrit recited at the beginning of Yoga classes. Dr Bühnemann’s talk will discuss this multi-faceted legendary personage and explore the development of visual representations of the sage, and beliefs and concepts associated with him.

This event is free but booking is required. Booking and more details via Eventbrite.


The Politics of Yoga: Sex, Religion, and Power in the Global Industry - Dr Andrea Jain (Indiana University, USA)

6.00-7.15pm, triyoga Camden

In recent years, the global yoga industry—including the popular Iyengar, ashtanga, hatha, flow, and Bikram (“hot”) yoga forms—has come under scrutiny for its commercialization, penchant for commodification and cultural appropriation, and abuses of power. For example, in the wake of #MeToo, there have been countless revelations that influential gurus and teachers sexually assaulted students. Arguably, the controversies around yoga reflect anxieties regarding religion, spirituality, post-colonialism, capitalism, gender, and identity. In this talk, Prof. Andrea Jain will discuss the religious, social, and political forces animating contemporary yoga debates.

NOTE: This event takes place at triyoga Camden. Tickets £12. Booking via the triyoga website. 


Thursday 28th March
Yoga and Meditation Traditions in Indonesia - Dr Andrea Acri (École Pratique des Hautes Études, PSL University, France)

1.00-1.45pm, G3, Main Building, SOAS

Lunchtime lecture. This talk will survey the Indic yoga and meditation traditions that developed in what is now the nation-state of Indonesia, from ca. the eight century CE to the present. It will present evidence from premodern Sanskrit-Old Javanese texts on the philosophical and soteriological traditions of Pātañjala yoga and tantric Śaiva yoga and discuss in a comparative fashion their Indic roots vis-à-vis their local reconfigurations, as well as their continuation into modern Balinese Hindu practice. It will then discuss yoga motifs that have survived in an Islamic garb in Classical Malay texts from Sumatra and in modern Javanese mystical currents.

This event is free but booking is required. Booking and more details via Eventbrite.


Friday 29th March
Alchemy in Daoism and Hatha Yoga - discussion with Professor Louis Komjathy (University of San Diego) and Dr James Mallinson (SOAS)

6.00-8.00pm, Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS

Chaired by Suzanne Newcombe (Open University and Inform, KCL). Followed by a drinks reception.

The perfection of the human, seen as either a means towards ultimate liberation from suffering or immortality, has a central place in both the Indian and Chinese esoteric traditions. To these ends, both Haṭha and Daoist traditions have ‘internal’ practices relating to the manipulation of energy inside the body as well as more ‘external’ practices which can involve the ingestion of substances. Both of these Indian and Chinese traditions have also developed a variety of physical exercises aimed at strengthening the physical body.

By bringing two leading scholars in their respective fields together in dialogue, it is hoped that the discussion will further elucidate both similarities and distinctions between the Indian and Chinese traditions. Each scholar will make a short presentation on the internal and external practices of alchemy in their respective tradition(s), before an extended question and answer session and informal reception.

With support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreements No. 639363 (AYURYOG: Entangled Histories of Yoga, Ayurveda and Alchemy in South Asia) and No. 616393 (The Haṭha Yoga Project (HYP).

This event is free but booking is required. Booking and more details via Eventbrite.