Debashish Banerji, PhD is Haridas Chaudhuri Professor of Indian Philosophy and Culture and Doshi Professor of Asian Art at the California Institute of Integral Studies. He is also the program chair in the department of East-West Psychology.
Professor Banerji obtained his PhD in Art History from the University of California, Los Angeles. Later, he served as Professor of Indian Studies and Dean of Academics at the University of Philosophical Research in Los Angeles. He has taught as adjunct faculty in Art History at the Pasadena City College, University of California, Los Angeles and University of California, Irvine. From 2005-2009, he was the Director of the International Center for Integral Studies in New Delhi, India, which he took through accreditation under the Indira Gandhi National Open University system. From 1992-2006, Banerji served as the president of the East-West Cultural Center, Los Angeles, an institution dedicated to academic research and presentation of Indian philosophy and culture in the US. He is presently the Executive Director of Nalanda International based in Los Angeles. Banerji has curated a number of exhibitions of Indian and Japanese art. Banerji's interests are in yoga psychology, contemplative studies, postcolonialism and posthumanism. He has edited several books, including one on the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, and is the author of two books: The Alternate Nation of Abanindranath Tagore (Sage, 2010) and Seven Quartets of Becoming: A Transformational Yoga Psychology Based on the Diaries of Sri Aurobindo (DK Printworld and Nalanda International, 2012).
After completing a DPhil in Oriental Studies at Balliol College, University of Oxford, 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, Ayurveda and Rasashastra 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.
Christopher Key Chapple
Dr. Christopher Key Chapple is the Doshi Professor of Indic and Comparative Theology and Director of the Master of Arts in Yoga Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. His research interests focus on the renouncer religious traditions of India: Yoga, Jainism, and Buddhism. He has published several books on these topics with SUNY Press, including Karma and Creativity (1986), Nonviolence to Animals, Earth, and Self in Asian Traditions (1993), Reconciling Yogas (2003), and Yoga and the Luminous: Patanjali’s Spiritual Path to Freedom (2008).
He has also edited and co-authored several books on religion and ecology, including Ecological Prospects: Religious, Scientific, and Aesthetic Perspectives, Hinduism and Ecology, Jainism and Ecology, Yoga and Ecology, and In Praise of Mother Earth: The Prthivi Sukta of the Atharva Veda. His most recent books are Poet of Eternal Return and Sacred Thread.
Chris serves as academic advisor for the International Summer School of Jain Studies and on the advisory boards for the Forum on Religion and Ecology (Yale), the Ahimsa Center (Pomona), and the Jaina Studies Centre (SOAS, University of London). In 2002 he established the first of several certificate programs in the study of Yoga at LMU’s Center for Religion and Spirituality and founded LMU’s Master of Arts in Yoga Studies in the fall of 2013.
Jacqueline Hargreaves, BE (Hons), E-RYT, has a special interest in Indian Yoga traditions and Japanese Zen. Jacqueline researches the contemporary meeting place between historical practices and their application in a modern therapeutic environment. She has travelled throughout India for fieldwork and studied meditation intensively for a year in a remote part of Japan. Her teaching combines the physical practices of haṭhayoga with the therapeutic application of mindfulness-based meditation (MBCT and MBSR). Jacqueline enjoys working specifically to assist those with chronic health issues, stress, anxiety and depression.
Jacqueline holds a Bachelor of Engineering (with Honours) from the University of NSW and worked for 8 years as a research consultant for cutting-edge IT/AI projects in Australia, Canada, USA, China and India. She has been dedicated to the practice and teaching of Yoga and Meditation since 1998. She offers specialist workshops in Singapore, United Kingdom, USA and Japan, and most recently facilitated a ‘Foundations for Longevity in Teaching and Practice’ Teacher Training programme in Bali.
She is a founding member of the Journal of Yoga Studies, an open-access academic journal and The Luminescent, an independent, high-quality, evidence-based research hub for the history and practice of Yoga. Jacqueline regularly publishes her research and writings on The Luminescent, which aims to offer an excellent standard of research on the rich history and diverse practice of Yoga to the broader community in the form of open-access articles, essays and visual material.
Veena Howard, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Coordinator of Peace and Conflict Studies, California State University at Fresno. She is a versatile and accomplished scholar and an authority on the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi. In addition to nonviolence and peacemaking, her interests include environmental ethics, interfaith interactions among Hindus and Muslims, gender issues in Indian philosophy and the Sant spiritual tradition of northern India, to which she belongs. She has been extensively involved in interfaith activities including the Interfaith Community Dialogue Group and monthly Interfaith Prayer Service in her former home of Eugene, Oregon and organized a panel on “Interreligious Perspectives on the Death Penalty” in a conference sponsored by the UNESCO Center for Intercultural Dialogue, where she was a Board member. More generally she seeks to foster cross-cultural understanding of the practice of nonviolence. Veena is broadly connected in the Hindu world both in India and the West, with astute practical judgment and understanding of complex and politicized religious and interreligious issues of India’s religions.. She attended the Salt Lake City Parliament where she organized a panel on Mahatma Gandhi and spoke in several other programs.
Philipp André Maas is currently a research associate at the Institute for Indology and Central Asian Studies, University of Leipzig and was previously an assistant professor at the Department of South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies at the University of Vienna, Austria. He received his M.A. (1997) and Dr. phil. (2004) degrees from the University of Bonn, Germany, where he studied Indology, Comparative Religious Studies, Tibetology and Philosophy. His first book (originally his PhD thesis) is the first critical edition of the first chapter (Samādhipāda) of the Pātañjala Yogaśāstra, i.e. the Yoga Sūtra of Patañjalitogether with the commentary called Yoga Bhāṣya. He published, inter alia, on classical Yoga philosophy and meditation as well as on the textual tradition of the Pātañjala Yogaśāstra. For the last couple of years, he worked in several research projects directed by Prof. Karin Preisendanz (at the Austrian Academy of Sciences and at the University of Vienna, Austria) that aim at a critical edition of the third book (entitled Vimānasthāna) of the oldest classical text corpus of Āyurveda, the Carakasaṃhitā. Since 2009 he is a member of the “Historical Sourcebooks on Classical Indian Thought” project, convened by Prof. Sheldon Pollock, to which he contributes with a monograph on the development of Yoga-related ideas in pre-modern South Asian intellectual history.
James Mallinson’s interest in yoga grew out of a fascination for India and Indian asceticism – he spent several years living with Indian ascetics and yogis, in particular Rāmānandī Tyāgīs. His MA thesis, part of a major in ethnography, was on Indian asceticism. He became frustrated, however, with (to quote Sheldon Pollock) the “hypertrophy of method” that afflicts much of the humanities, and anthropology in particular, so sought to ground his future research in philology. The one aspect of ascetic practice that is well represented in Sanskrit texts is yoga, so for his doctoral thesis he chose to edit an early text on haṭhayoga, the Khecarīvidyā, which teaches in detail khecarīmudrā, one of traditional haṭhayoga’s most important practices, and he used fieldwork among traditional yogis in India to shed light on the text’s teachings.
As he worked on his thesis he became more and more unsure that the received wisdom on the origins of haṭhayoga (whose practices form the basis of much of modern yoga) was correct, in particular its blanket attribution to the Nāth sect, based as that wisdom was on a very small selection of the available texts and modern oral history (which is rarely a reliable source in India). But it was clear that to put his work in the broader context was going to be impossible while working on his thesis. When he was revising it for publication a few years after completing it, he was asked to contribute to a volume on the Nāths and their literature. He agreed and decided to concentrate on the corpus of texts of haṭhayoga. It soon became apparent that this was going to be too big a task for a single chapter of a book and he apologised to the volume’s editor but continued with his research. Four years on he has identified a corpus of eight works that teach early haṭhayoga and about a dozen more that contribute to its classical formulation in the Haṭhapradīpikā. With this philological basis established it has been possible at last to put all of haṭhayoga’s aspects into context, which is what he is doing in the monograph on which he is currently working, Yoga and Yogis: The Texts, Techniques and Practitioners of Early Haṭhayoga. Many of the conclusions that can be drawn from the corpus and the other sources he uses (from Mughal miniatures to his fieldwork amongst traditional yogis) overturn what was previously thought about yoga’s formative period. Although he has decided to present the bulk of the findings in a single monograph (because its parts are all so interdependent), in the course of working on it he has written various spin-off articles and reviews on specific aspects of haṭhayoga.
In September 2015, Mallinson became the Principle Investigator of The Haṭha Yoga Project (HYP), a five-year research project funded by the European Research Council and based at SOAS, University of London which aims to chart the history of physical yoga practice by means of philology, i.e. the study of texts on yoga, and ethnography, i.e. fieldwork among practitioners of yoga. The project team consists of four researchers based at SOAS, one at the École française d’Extrême Orient, Pondicherry and one at the Maharaja Man Singh Pustak Prakash, Jodhpur. More information can be found on the project’s website.
Suzanne Newcombe researches yoga and ayurveda from a sociological and social historical perspective. She is a Lecturer in Religious Studies at the Open University and a Research Fellow at Inform, based at the London School of Economics. Her current research is on the overlaps between yoga, ayurveda and rasaśāstra in the modern period as part of the European Research Council funded AYURYOG project (www.ayuryog.org). She has previously researched the popularization of yoga and ayurveda in Britain and has a forthcoming book on the history of yoga in Britain under contract with Equinox. She has published journal articles and chapters in several edited books on this subject, as well as articles in the Journal of Contemporary Religion, Religion Compass and Asian Medicine; she has made several appearances on BBC radio and television discussing aspects of contemporary yoga practice and other minority religious beliefs and practices.
Seth Powell is a scholar of Indian religions, Sanskrit, and yoga traditions, and currently a PhD Candidate in South Asian Religions at Harvard University. He specializes in the history, theory, and practice of medieval and early modern Sanskrit yoga texts and traditions, as well as their intersections with the culture and practice of modern transnational yoga. Seth also holds degrees in the study of religion from the University of Washington (MA) and Humboldt State University (BA). He has taught and lectured for numerous university courses at Harvard and elsewhere on the religions and literature of India, Hinduism, Buddhism, and yoga traditions, and presents his research regularly at international conferences.
Seth’s doctoral dissertation at Harvard focuses on the relationship between Śaiva ritual, bhakti, and yoga traditions in medieval south India, and will include a critical edition and annotated translation of a lesser-known Sanskrit yoga text, the Śivayogapradīpikā, or “Lamp on Śiva’s Yoga” (c. 15th century). His work finds itself at the intersections of the disciplines of Indology, religious studies, and art history. In a forthcoming article, “Yogīs Etched in Stone,” soon to be published in the inaugural issue of the Journal of Yoga Studies, Seth re-assesses the history of yogic postures in precolonial India, bringing to light new visual and material evidence from the early sixteenth century of complex non-seated yogic āsanas, sculpted onto the temple pillars at Hampi, the capital of the great Vijayanagara Empire.
Seth is also a longtime practitioner of yoga, and is the founder of Yogic Studies, dedicated to bridging the scholarly and practitioner yoga communities. He conducts workshops and lectures regularly on the history and philosophy of yoga at studios, teacher trainings, and universities around the United States.
Mark Singleton gained his Ph.D in Divinity from the University of Cambridge. He has published extensively on the history of yoga, including the books Yoga in the Modern World, Contemporary Perspectives (ed., 2008); Yoga Body, the Origins of Modern Posture Practice (2010); and Gurus of Modern Yoga (ed., 2014), as well as many book chapters and articles. Most recent is the book Roots of Yoga (2017, with James Mallinson), a unique compendium of yoga practice texts translated from Sanskrit and several other languages. He taught for six years at St John’s College (Santa Fe, New Mexico), and was a Senior Long-Term Research Scholar at the American Institute of Indian Studies, based in Jodhpur (Rajasthan, India). He was a consultant and catalogue author for the Smithsonian exhibition ‘Yoga the Art of Transformation’ in 2013. He is currently Senior Research Fellow at SOAS, University of London, where he works on the European Research Council-funded Hatha Yoga Project (hyp.soas.ac.uk), which seeks to map the history of haṭha yoga from its origins to modern times. He is also a practitioner of yoga and holds several teaching qualifications.
Ruth Westoby is a doctoral researcher in yoga and is authorised level two in the Ashtanga lineage.
Ruth is fascinated by yoga both in academia and practice. She began exploring yoga practices over twenty years ago and has taught posture-based classes for over ten. She has been teaching history and philosophy workshops and teacher training modules for the last five years.
She was awarded an MA in Indian Religions from SOAS in 2010 with Distinction. Since then she has been studying Sanskrit and caring for her young family. In 2015 she was authorized by Sharat Jois to teach the Aṣṭāṅga method, level 2. Ruth’s main teachers are Hamish Hendry whom she assists, Richard Freeman, Sharat Jois, and the late Śrī K Pattabhis Jois.
Ruth collaborated in 2016 and 2017 with SOAS’s Haṭha Yoga Project interpreting postures from the Sanskrit text the Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati shortly to be released as an educational documentary. She is currently working on doctoral research into gendered constructions in Sanskrit texts on yoga at SOAS under the supervision of James Mallinson. She is engaged as moderator on Yogacampus’s online course A History of Yoga: The Latest Research. Ruth also helps run the Sanskrit Reading Room at SOAS. Her website www.enigmatic.yoga hosts some of her writings and film.
David Gordon White
David Gordon White received his Ph.D. (with Honors) from the Divinity School at the University of Chicago in 1988. He also studied Hinduism at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris, France, between 1977-1980 and 1985-1986. A specialist of South Asian religions, he is the J. F. Rowny Professor of Comparative Religions at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he has been teaching since 1996. Prior to coming to Santa Barbara, he taught at the University of Virginia between 1986 and 1996. There, he founded the University of Virginia Study Abroad Program in Jodhpur, India in 1994. White is the sole foreign scholar to have ever been admitted to the Centre d’Études de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud in Paris, France, where he has been an active Research Fellow since 1992.
He is the author of five monographs, four published by the University of Chicago Press: Myths of the Dog-Man (1991); The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India (1996); Kiss of the Yoginī: “Tantric Sex” in its South Asian Contexts (2003) and Sinister Yogis (2009). He also edited Tantra in Practice (Princeton University Press, 2000): his introduction to that volume is considered to be the most comprehensive definition of the multi-faceted tradition known as Tantra published to date. Myths of the Dog-Man was listed as one of the “Books of the Year” in the 1991 Times Literary Supplement’s end-of-year edition; Kiss of the Yoginī was on the cover of the same journal’s May 20, 2004 edition. Sinister Yogis received an honorable mention at the 2009 PROSE awards and was listed as a book of note by CHOICE in 2011. A Japanese edition of Myths of the Dog-Man was brought out by Kousakusha in 2001; Italian (Edizioni Mediteranee) and Indian (Munshiram Manoharlal) editions of The Alchemical Body appeared in 2004. His two most recent books are published with Princeton University Press: Yoga in Practice (November 2011) and The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali: A Biography (2013).