Jason Birch & Jacqueline Hargreaves


Session one

Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati: A Re-construction of the Practice.



This workshop will present the history and practice of the only sequential āsana routine that has been preserved in a premodern manuscript, namely the Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati (‘a manual on the practice of Haṭhayoga’). Students will learn about this text's significance in the corpus of Haṭhayoga and its contribution to the traditions of yoga at the Mysore Palace and its possible influence on Kṛṣṇamācārya.

This session will guide participants through an exploratory practice based on a truncated sequence of the more accessible āsanas in the Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati. The Sanskrit descriptions and some nineteenth-century illustrations will be presented so that various possibilities and ambiguities for each āsana can be investigated. The earliest known dog and cat poses, which are very different to those in modern yoga, will be included, as well as various birds and reptiles.


In total, one hundred and twelve āsanas, many of which are based on the movements of animals, are described in this eighteenth-century yoga text. The āsanas are divided into six sequences and some of them involve repetitive movement and require extraordinary strength and flexibility, as well as the use of rope. Many of these āsanas remain unknown to modern yoga practitioners.


What can people expect?

Talk, Asana, Slide Presentation, History, Sanskrit.


Session TWO

Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati: A Precursor to Modern Yoga 

Film Seminar & Panel with Mark Singleton, Jacqueline Hargreaves, Jason Birch & Ruth Westoby.


The Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati is one of the ten Sanskrit texts that is to be critically edited and translated as part of Haṭha Yoga Project (HYP), a 5- year ERC research project hosted at SOAS, University of London. The Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati extends our knowledge of Haṭhayoga in India prior to the arrival of British colonialism as it locates moving and strenuous āsanas within a premodern tradition. Another striking innovation is the categorisation of āsanas into groups with the notion of sequences. This panel will begin with an introduction by Jason Birch and Mark Singleton, followed by a video re-construction of an āsana section along with Sanskrit recitation. A Q&A session will conclude the panel.


What does Dharma mean to you?

Jacqueline Hargreaves: Dharma is a Sanskrit term that has a long and complex history in Indian religious traditions. It has a strong association with epic literature. Some scholars consider the term to be untranslatable as it has such broad and varied connotations. When considered in certain contexts, it can be described as ‘virtuous behaviour’ or ‘moral action’.



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Jason Birch

Jason Birch completed a DPhil in Oriental Studies (Sanskrit) at Balliol College, University of Oxford. His doctoral research produced a critical edition and an annotated translation of the Amanaska, the earliest known text of Rājayoga. In 2015, Dr Birch was invited to research the histories of Yoga, Ayurveda and Rasashastra as a visiting post-doctoral fellow on a project called AyurYog at the University of Vienna. He is currently a post-doctoral research fellow at SOAS University of London on the Haṭha Yoga Project, which has been funded for five years by the European Research Council. Dr Birch’s area of research is the history of physical yoga on the eve of colonialism. He is editing and translating six key texts on Haṭha and Rājayoga, which are outputs of the project, and supervising the work of two research assistants at the Ecole française d’ Extrême-Orient, Pondicherry.

At SOAS, Dr Birch has taught two courses for the MA in Traditions of Yoga and Meditation and a Sanskrit reading course for fourth-year undergraduates. He has given seminars on the history of yoga for Masters programmes at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Università Ca’ Foscari in Venice, and Won Kwang University in Iksan, South Korea. He also collaborates with Jacqueline Hargreaves on the independent research hub, The Luminescent.

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Jacqueline Hargreaves

Jacqueline Hargreaves, BE (Hons), E-RYT, has a special interest in Indian Yoga traditions and Japanese Zen. Jacqueline researches the contemporary meeting place between historical practices and their application in a modern (mainly therapeutic) environment. She has travelled throughout India for fieldwork and studied meditation intensively for a year in a remote part of Japan. Her teaching combines the physical practices of haṭhayoga with the therapeutic application of mindfulness-based meditation (MBCT and MBSR). Jacqueline enjoys working specifically to assist those with chronic health issues, stress, anxiety and depression.

Jacqueline holds a Bachelor of Engineering (with Honours) from the University of NSW and worked for eight years as a research consultant for cutting-edge IT/AI projects in Australia, Canada, USA, China and India. She has been dedicated to the practice and teaching of Yoga and Meditation since 1998.

She is a founding member of the Journal of Yoga Studies, an open-access peer reviewed academic journal, and The Luminescent, an independent, evidence-based research hub for the history and practice of Yoga. In collaboration with the Haṭha Yoga Project, Jacqueline is currently producing a documentary film, which aims to bring to life the eighteenth-century yoga of the Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati.