The History of Yoga Course with Jason Birch
The aim of this course is to present the history of Indian Yoga, while attempting to answer questions that are relevant to those practicing Modern Yoga. If one knows something about the history of today's Yoga, it becomes easier to understand doctrinal differences between Indian Yoga systems and the various teachings of Gurus, and to avoid the mistake of thinking that one system of Yoga is the best because its the oldest.
These lectures shall consider the following general questions: Why are there so many different types of Yoga and how old are they? What is the difference between Patañjali's Astanga Yoga and Hatha Yoga? How is modern Yoga different to both Patañjali's Astanga Yoga and Hatha Yoga? Why is Modern Yoga so narrowly focused on Asana?
Week 1: The Ancient Origins of Yoga
This lecture will look at some important archeological, iconographic and textual evidence on Yoga before the common era. It will also look at the Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita, which in many respects, stands apart from Patañjala and Hatha Yoga systems.
Week 2: Patanjali Yoga: the Theory and Practice
Most Modern Yogis are familiar with the Astanga yoga system of Patañjali, but how does it fit into the rest of his work? Why is there a whole chapter devoted to attaining special powers and why does Patañjali talk of separating matter from spirit, when Yoga is commonly understood to mean 'union'? Does Patañjali’s metaphysics have any relevance to Modern Yoga practitioners?
Week 3: Hatha Yoga: its Tantric Saiva and Buddhist origins and its Rise to Prominence
There is no doubt that Hatha Yoga has its origins in Tantric literature and it borrows much terminology from Yoga sections in Tantras, but is it 'Tantric Yoga' or is it better viewed as a reaction against later developments in Saiva Tantra? This lecture will also look at how Hatha Yoga absorbed and prevailed over many other systems of Yoga, such as rajayoga, vahniyoga, vayuyoga etc, to become the Yoga of the Hathapradipika.
Week 4: Modern Yoga: Indian Gurus and Western Yogis
Modern Yoga is defined by the teachings of several Indian Gurus, such as Krsnamacarya, Swami Sivananda, Sawmi Kuvalayananda etc, but why are their teachings so different to traditional Hatha Yoga? This lecture will also look at the difference between Modern Indian Yoga and Modern Western Yoga, and the role of Western Yogis in developing the latter.
Dr. Jason Birch
Jason Birch received a doctorate in Oriental Studies from the University of Oxford in 2013. His area of research is the medieval yoga traditions of India, in particular, those called Haṭha- and Rājayoga.