(St. John’s College, New Mexico, U.S.A.)


Evaluating Modern Yoga and its Relationship to the Past

This paper offers some thoughts on the ways in which new understandings of yoga’s past can inform our thinking about its globalised present. How should on-going research into the pre-modern textual history of yoga reshape our understanding of yoga in the modern world? In what ways has the academic study of yoga in modernity contributed to revealing continuities and ruptures with the practices and self-understandings of the yoga tradition? And should this be considered as its primary contribution? Can modern yoga be studied on its own terms, as some have claimed, without reference to pre-modernity, or is there an obligation to reflect on it in the light of tradition? The paper will examine and evaluate some modern expressions of Haṭhayoga in the light of current research into Haṭhayoga’s early textual history, from formulations of characteristically haṭhayogic mudrās in the eleventh-century Amṛtasiddhi, to its c. 1450 locus classicus, the Haṭhapradīpikā. It will also briefly inquire into subsequent pre-colonial developments of Haṭhayoga, and offer some thoughts on their relevance for a reconsideration of the global “modern yoga renaissance”. This is intended as a provisional reflection on new research departures.