This week I speak with Jason Birch, PhD about the history of yoga and yoga philosophy. Jason is a scholar of classical Indian religions and philosophies at the School of Oriental Studies (SOAS), University of London. He is a Sanskritist and a scholar of the yoga tradition. He is also a practitioner who does a great service in bridging the divide between scholars and practitioners.
After completing a first class honours degree in Sanskrit and Hindi at the University of Sydney under Dr Peter Oldmeadow, Jason was awarded a Clarendon scholarship to undertake a DPhil in Oriental Studies at Balliol College, University of Oxford, under the supervision of Prof. Alexis Sanderson, All Souls College. Jason was a student of Prof. Sanderson for six years. His dissertation (submitted 2013) focused on the earliest known Rājayoga text called the Amanaska and included a critical edition and annotated translation of this Sanskrit work along with a monographic introduction which examines the influence of earlier Śaiva tantric traditions on the Amanaska as well as the significance of the Amanaska in more recent yoga traditions.
In 2014 Jason was a research fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and a visiting associate professor at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles. In 2015 he was invited to research the histories of yoga, āyurveda and rasaśāstra as a visiting post-doctoral fellow on a project called Ayuryog at the University of Vienna. He is currently a post-doctoral research fellow at SOAS University of London on the Haṭha Yoga Project, which has been funded for five years by the ERC. His area of research is the history of physical yoga on the eve of colonialism. He is editing and translating six texts on Haṭha and Rājayoga, which are outputs of the project, and supervising the work of two research assistants at the Ecole française d’ Extrême-Orient, Pondicherry.
At SOAS Jason has taught two courses for the MA in Traditions of Yoga and Meditation and a Sanskrit reading course for fourth-year undergraduates. He has given seminars on the history of yoga for MA programs at the Università Ca’ Foscari in Venice, Italy and Won Kwang University in Iksan, South Korea. He also collaborates with Jacqueline Hargreaves on The Luminescent.
Jason Birch’s SOAS page, including research interests