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Scholars Seek to Decipher “Roots of Yoga” Once and For All With New Book Project

in YD News, Yoga Origins

Yogis under a banyan tree, Mughal, c. 1630

A single book to clear up all the questions over history, lineage and traditions of yoga, by the dorkiest of yogadork scholars? Sound like the the yoga bible you’ve been looking for?

Mark Singleton and James Mallinson have set out on a mission to combine their yogic knowledge with two years of research, translations of ancient texts (about half never before translated) and trips to India to create the ultimate collection of yoga info in the Roots of Yoga, “a comprehensive, single volume collection of centuries of traditional yoga knowledge for scholars, practitioners and teachers of yoga.”

They’ve launched a kickstarter campaign to raise $50,000 to fund the project over the course of the next couple of years. (They’re currently at 37% with $18,779 pledged and 17 days to go)

Why do we need such a definitive tome? Singleton and Mallinson explain:

It’s the kind of book we would have liked to have when we started our own investigations into yoga. So much of the material on yoga in today’s popular market is inaccurate, vague, or misleading. It’s very hard to tell what you’re getting, or where the ideas and practices being put forward come from. Often, it turns out, they are straight from the creative imagination of the authors themselves, rather than from a yoga tradition as such.

They intend the book to be “arranged thematically and highlight the major historical moments of yoga’s evolution within the Indian subcontinent (from about 500BCE to 1750CE), showing the continuities, disjunctions and developments that have characterized its theory and practice across the centuries.”

Topics covered include:

  • Preliminaries (ethical rules, the yogi’s abode, diet, vows etc.)
  • Pranayama (breath-control)
  • Asana (posture)
  • Mudra (manipulating the vital energies)
  • Bindu (the drop/vital energy)
  • Nada (internal sounds)
  • Dharana (concentration)
  • Dhyana (meditation)
  • Mantra
  • Kundalini
  • Chakras
  • Samadhi
  • Siddhis (attainments)
  • Mukti (liberation)

Interested? Check out their kickstarter page for more info and to make a donation should you so wish. If they don’t reach their goal, the project likely will not happen. Read an interview with the two dudes here.



12 comments… add one
  • wondering

    It sounds like an interesting research project and I look forward to it. What I love about yoga is the mystery itseslf. I believe (heard /read?) India has some 21 different “official languages” and over 600 dialects. Probably shifting over the years. I do find it hard to imagine that any book on the history etc. of Yoga could be very complete or comprehensive. Hopefully it will be another well written source for practicioners. The mystery will always remain and unknown sources hidden awaiting discovery thru time.

  • Vic

    William Broad’s book – The Science of Yoga – does a little of this already. Shame nobody read it, I thought it was great! Espesh for yogi’s with analytical minds.

  • There is no comparison between William Broad’s book and Mark Singleton’s book . You might want to read Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern posture practice and see what a scholarly work looks like. I have read both.

  • some guy

    this looks like a really spectacular project, if I wasn’t a yoga teacher and made any money I would donate to this in a heartbeat.

  • NCDan

    Genevieve is absolutely on target here! Singleton’s book, the Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice is a high quality scholarly work by an Oxford trained historian who is also an accomplished yogi. It’s also readable by non-historians. Presumably, we will eventually see a work of similar quality if this project goes forward to completion. I expect to read and re-read the new work as I have The Yoga Body, which I highly recommend.
    Kudos to Yogadork for bringing this project to our attention.

  • Chris

    The ancient Hindu science of Yoga is enshrined within the Vedic Hindu religion that was born in India, about 5000 years ago.

    The great Hindu Rishi, Patanjali, who lived in ancient South India, compiled from various ancient Vedic sources, a comprehensive and scholarly work on the Science of Yoga – the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – which also included Rishi Patanjali’s scholarly commentaries and interpretations of the ancient Hindu texts that he compiled.

    The Yoga that we know today is the Yoga described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

    This much is also abundantly clear :

    1) Yes, Yoga IS an ancient Hindu science, born in ancient India.

    2) Yes, Yogis ARE REQUIRED to be vegetarian, in adherence to one of the guiding Principles of the ancient Hindu Science of Yoga, namely, Ahimsa ( Non-violence).

  • I would LOVE to read this book, Mark Singleton’s book was so well written and interesting. History of yoga is fascinating.

  • Dominik

    I’ve pledged some money to this project because I think it’s simply the best yoga book project I’ve heard of for years.

    Hey, “some guy,” don’t hold back. I don’t have spare cash either. But if you can afford $10, then pledge it. Crowdsourcing works like that – lots and lots of modest contributions. Leveraging the amazing connectivity of the Web and the law of large numbers.

    Mark and Jim’s earlier books are such a treat, in the vanguard of a whole new wave of first class research and writing on yoga. I very, very much hope that they get enough support to carry out this new project.

  • Frank

    Pledged enough to get a signed first edition hardcopy hot off the press, and I’m an unemployed recent college grad. Crazy? Possibly. Consider supporting high quality works on yoga extremely important? Of course. Kind of a yoga geek? Most definitely, yes.

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