The Hatha Yoga Project
Dr James Mallinson, the world’s leading scholar of pre-modern haṭha yoga and lecturer at SOAS, University of London, has received an European Research Council (ERC) grant worth €1.85m to lead a research project on the history of hatha yoga.
Hatha yoga is the source of much of the modern yoga practised around the world today. This five-year research project will draw on haṭha yoga’s textual corpus and fieldwork among its current ascetic practitioners, in order to reconstruct the history of its practice.
The project will analyse hatha yoga and its practitioners in the period in which it was formalised, the 11th to 15th centuries CE, document its subsequent proliferation and development, and identify what constituted yoga practice in India on the eve of colonialism. It will also focus on hatha yoga’s physical techniques in order to chart their history and identify continuities with and differences from the practices of modern globalised yoga.
Dr Mallinson said: “The history of hatha yoga is crucial for an understanding of both Indian religion and modern yoga, but is yet to be the object of serious study. As a result key questions about yoga — such as who were hatha yoga’s first practitioners and why did they practise it, and which modern yoga practices predate colonialism and which are innovations — are yet to be answered satisfactorily.
“The Hatha Yoga Project seeks to redress this by identifying the origins of both hatha and modern yoga. Its methodology will be predominantly philological and ethnographic, and it will draw on resources that are fast disappearing: crumbling manuscripts of Sanskrit texts on yoga and traditional Indian ascetic yogis whose practices are starting to change under the influence of modern globalised yoga.”
jm63 @ soas.ac.uk