the roots of yoga: mark singleton & jim mallinson dig into yoga’s lost & neglected texts

Noted yoga scholars Mark Singleton and Jim Mallinson are about to embark on an ambitious and necessary project: to translate and compile a sourcebook of yoga texts from the Indian traditions. The book, Roots of Yoga, will make available for the first time in a single volume many of the most important primary texts of yoga from the ancient through pre-modern ages.

This 5-year research project to edit and translate the five earliest Hatha Yoga texts needs support from the yoga community, and Singleton and Mallinson have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds.

This is how they describe the project:

With Roots of Yoga we hope to help rectify the unreliability and/or inaccessibility of material on yoga by providing a reliable, comprehensive and useable account of yoga’s development through the ages: and all of it in the original words of the root texts themselves. The book will include material on all aspects of yoga practice and philosophy, as conceived by the original practitioners and scholars. It will draw from a variety of traditions in which yoga practices have flourished, including Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Jainism, Buddhism and Islam.

It will also include commentary and notes on the obscurer parts of the text. There will be an extensive introduction outlining the important features of the collection, and situating the texts in the wider historical context. But the main thing will be the texts themselves. We’re hoping that the book will become a first stop for anyone wishing to learn more than they are told at their yoga class, and that it will be an enduring and valuable resource for all serious yoga practitioners.

In an interview with Carol Horton, Singleton said, “It seems to me that practitioners today have only been exposed to a small part of the spectrum as to what yoga is and has been. The texts that we’ll compile in Roots of Yoga will point to many new possibilities. There could be great benefit in entering into a conversation with the past through a collection like this. Hopefully, it will enable a depth of connection with it that hasn’t previously been easily available.”

Read the full interview on Carol’s blog, Think Body Electric. I’ll be interviewing Singleton on Where Is My Guru, Friday, July 13.

Contribute to the Roots of Yoga Kickstarter campaign!

  1. How is this the first time? Does not The Yoga Tradition do the same thing? Why is Feuerstein’s work so overlooked?

    • hi there – my understanding is that Feuerstein used secondary texts for his research for The Yoga Tradition, and i don’t believe he translated anything himself (although I could be wrong). the way i see it, the intention of this project isn’t to override or negate the work that already exists, but to open it up. the texts that singleton and mallinson will access are previously not translated into english or available to westerners.

      Feuerstein actually wrote an endorsement quote on the KS campaign and seems to be supportive of this project. it doesn’t seem like he’s being overlooked at all.

      • I didn’t mean to negate this project. I am all the more, the merrier! Multiple editions of works are helpful when they exist, and I love having access to new works. I just find that there are lots of great yoga resources out there that sometimes are overlooked because they are not by the latest NY Times best-selling author, or super popular traveling teacher. Sometimes it seems like we collect texts and books and workshops in the same way that we used to collect iPods and computers and clothes. One form of “if I only get enough _____, then I’ll be perfect.”

        Once again, NOT to diss this work or this author, nor to say that either of you are doing that. Totally not that. I actually think it says a lot more about what I am sensitive about & what I am defensive about, than anything in this blog.

        • hi A ~ thanks for weighing, and no need to worry about “dissing” anyone around here. critical thinking and dissenting opinions are always welcome.

          i hear what you’re saying, but you’ll notice that this project isn’t by NYT best-selling authors or popular traveling teachers. and while i agree that many people within yoga culture have a tendency to “collect” texts and information, i don’t really think that’s the case here.

          the way i see it, this kind of work is necessary to expanding our understanding of yoga practice and history. we can’t assume that we know have access to the whole story based on the few texts that have been translated into english.