The keynote sessions: "traditions, transmissions, transformations"

To give a coherent structure to the conference, we chose the three key themes listed above. Although we do not expect these themes to be tightly interwoven into all presentations, we are using them, in consultation with the keynote speakers, to orient the keynote sessions. We also hope that paper presenters will try bear them in mind, along with the keynote sessions topics, while preparing their own papers.

TRADITIONS: ‘General patterns of emergence of sanskritic traditions, with special reference to problems of authorship in relation to the Yogasūtra/Pātañjalayogaśāstra.
Michel Angot (EHESS, Paris) and Philipp Maas (University of Vienna)
chair: Dominik Wujastyk
The two speakers' presentations will be followed by a discussion with the chair, and by questions from the floor.
Topic overview: The general patterns of emergence of sanskritic traditions, with special reference to problems of authorship in relation to the Yogasūtra/Pātañjalayogaśāstra. Points of agreement and disagreement between the two discussants will be highlighted by their responding to each other's presentations. Methodological issues and differences in the understanding of authorship in modern and pre-modern settings are also relevant topics.
Suggested background reading:
Michel Angot (2012 [2008]). "Le Yoga-Sūtra et la tradition du yoga" ("The Yoga-Sūtra and the yoga tradition"; pages 13-46; in French) in Le Yoga-Sūtra de Patañjali et le Yoga-Bhāṣya de Vyāsa: La parole sur le silence. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.
Philipp Maas (2013) "A concise historiography of classical yoga philosophy". In Eli Franco (ed.), Periodization and Historiography of Indian Philosophy. Vienna: Sammlung de Nobili, Institut für Südasien-, Tibet- und Buddhismuskunde der Universität Wien. Pre-print version available here:
TRANSMISSIONS: ‘A History of Physical Yoga Practice, with a Focus on Inversions‘
James Mallinson (SOAS, London) and Jason Birch (SOAS, London)
chair: Gudrun Bühnemann
The two speakers' presentations will be followed by a discussion with the chair, and by questions from the floor.
Topic overview: The first systematic description of the practice of yogic postures other than seated positions for meditation is that found in the c. 1450 Haṭhapradīpikā. In this presentation James Mallinson will examine sources for such practice prior to the time of the Haṭhapradīpikā's composition, drawing together traveller's reports, textual references and iconographic representations. The textual sources will include hitherto unused material from the Jaina tradition; the iconographic material is the only known such source, a series of reliefs in Gujarat dated to 1220-1230 recently discovered by Dr Mallinson and his colleague Dr Daniela Bevilacqua. These sources will be drawn on to consider who practised such postures and what they were practised for.
From the sixteenth to eighteenth century, the Haṭhapradīpikā was quoted in many yoga compendiums as an authoritative source on Haṭhayoga. Jason Birch will discuss several of these compendiums in order to examine the process by which Brahmanical religions absorbed Haṭhayoga. In this process, the teachings of Haṭhayoga were integrated with those of the Pātañjalayogaśāstra, Tantra and orthodox Brahmanical texts, such as the Bhagavadgītā. Also, other textual sources, such as Śaiva and Vaiṣṇava ritual manuals, a commentary on Patañjali's Yogasūtras as well as Jaina and Persian works, will be considered in an attempt to assess the pervasiveness of physical yoga techniques and their role in other religions of India at this time.
Suggested background reading:
Mallinson, James (2011) "Haṭha Yoga," entry in The Brill Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Vol.3, ed. Knut A. Jacobsen, pp. 770-781. Leiden: Brill. Available here:
Mallinson, James and Diamond, Debra (2013) "Āsana", an article containted in the section on "The path of yoga" in Debra Diamond (ed.), Yoga: The Art of Transformation, Smithsonian Institution's Freer Gallery: pp.150-159. This and several other sections of this book can be downloaded here:
Birch, Jason (2013) "Unpublished Manuscript Evidence for the practice of numeous Āsanas in the 17-18th Centuries", slides for a paper presented at the University of Vienna, conference Yoga in Transformation. This can be dowloaded here :
For a short overview of the Haṭha Yoga Project in which both Mallinson and Birch are currently involved see:
Mallinson and Singleton, January 2017 (forthcoming), chapter on āsana in Roots of Yoga, Penguin Classics. For more information see here:
TRANSFORMATIONS: 'Yoga and the Academy: Approaches and Issues'
Christopher Chapple (Loyola Maryont University), Ulrich Pagel (SOAS, London), Federico Squarcini (Università Ca'Foscari, Venezia), Dagmar Wujastyk (University of Vienna), Michel Angot (EHESS, Paris)
chair: Mark Singleton
The five speakers' short presentations will be introduced by comments from the chair. This will be followed by a discussion, and by questions from the floor.
Topic overview: In recent years there has been a significant increase in the number of courses on yoga in western universities, and at least three dedicated MA programs have been established. In this round table session, we will discuss some of the issues and approaches in teaching yoga's history, philosophy and practice in the academy, as well as issues regarding academically-informed teaching in non-academic contexts (such as yoga studios and yoga teacher training programmes); insider-outsider status; the place of research within pedagogy; the construction of academic authority; and the political dimension of yoga teaching in the secular western university.
Suggested background reading:
Douglass, Laura (2012) "North American Educators and the Use of Yoga as Pedagogy: Results of a Mixed Methods Study", published by the author here:
Three of this session's speakers (Chapple, Pagel and Squarcini) are currently managing university MA courses on yoga and related disciplines. Reading the presentations of these courses (links here) will be useful to understand their comments and to appraise the courses themselves: