triyoga talks episode 9 part 1: what is yoga?


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What is yoga? In September 2018, five of the world’s leading scholars on yoga philosophy gathered at a special triyoga teachers’ symposium to try to answer this deceptively simple question. The event sold out so, due to popular demand, we’re releasing it as a two-part podcast. If you missed out, you can now tune in to what proved to be a fascinating and thought-provoking discussion on a complex topic.

This question itself is likely to provoke as many different answers as there are as many different practitioners, with thoughts and theories ranging from it being a spiritual path of enlightenment to a fitness regime in pursuit of the body beautiful. So who’s right and how is it that this ancient spiritual tradition has now become such a world-wide phenomenon where posture based practice dominates and proliferates on social media? Is what we practise today anything like the forms of practice that evolved from antiquity?

In this episode, the panellists present their most current and pioneering research and direct experience.

  • Jason Birch received a doctorate in Oriental Studies (Sanskrit) from the University of Oxford. His area of research is the medieval yoga traditions of India, in particular those called Haṭha and Rājayoga, which he taught on at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, Loyola Marymount University and SOAS in London.
  • James Mallinson is a world renowned expert on Sanskrit and Classical Hatha Yoga and author of eight books including Roots of Yoga which he co-authored with Mark Singleton. He was the only Westerner ever to become a mahant – a senior sadhu (ascetic holy man) in a sect of yogis, which he has spent time with since he was 18.
  • Suzanne Newcombe is a lecturer in religious studies at the Open University and a research fellow at Inform, based at the London School of Economics. She has published chapters in several edited books on this subject, as well as articles in the Journal of Contemporary Religion, Religion Compass and Asian Medicine.
  • Richard Rosen began his practice of yoga in 1980 and graduated from the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco in 1985. He is the author of five books on yoga including The Yoga Of Breath: A Step-by-step Guide to Pranayama, Original Yoga, and Pranayama Beyond the Fundamentals: An Indepth Guide to Yogic Breathing.
  • Mark Singleton has published extensively on the history of yoga, including the books Yoga in the Modern World, Contemporary Perspectives and Yoga Body, the Origins of Modern Posture Practice as well as many book chapters and articles. His most recent book is Roots of Yoga, a sourcebook of yoga practice texts from the Indic traditions through the ages.

Listen to part 2 of this podcast here.

Listen to our other podcasts in the ‘triyoga talks’ series here.

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