New Manuscript Evidence for the Practice of Numerous Yoga Postures (Āsana) in the 16–17th centuries (HT15)

Location: OCHS Library
Speaker: Dr Jason Birch
Date: February 26, 2015
Time: 2:00pm to 3:00pm

Many of the āsana of modern yoga are not mentioned in the well-known scriptures of Haṭhayoga, such as the Haṭhapradīpikā. This has led to recent claims that relatively few āsanas were practised in traditional Hathayoga and those we see today are largely the invention of twentieth-century Indian gurus. In this talk, these assertions will be assessed in the light of three unpublished manuscripts which contain long lists of āsana. It is apparent that brief references to eighty-four āsanas in the early literature on Haṭhayoga were replaced by actual lists and descriptions of eight-four āsanas after the sixteenth century. During this time in the history of yoga, medieval yoga practices were synthesised with more orthodox Brahmanical literature including Pātañjalayoga.

Jason Birch completed his DPhil in 2013 at the University of Oxford. The title of his thesis is, “The Amanaska: King of All Yogas: A Critical Edition and Annotated Translation along with a Monographic Introduction.” For first half of 2014, he was a visiting scholar at Loyola Marymount University where he taught courses on the history of yoga and Sanskrit for a Masters program in Yoga Studies. Since that time, he has been a visiting research fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies.