Yoga is today known as a vaguely spiritual form of gymnastics performed in lycra and aimed at lissomness, but its traditional practice in India is quite different. Jim Mallinson has spent several years living with yogis in India and most of the rest of the time reading about yoga in Sanskrit manuscripts. In this illustrated talk he will explain how the aim of traditional yoga is in fact to do as little as possible. In its classical definition yoga is the “cessation of the fluctuations of the mind” and its most revered practitioners in India are famed for their ability to do nothing for days or weeks on end. Jim will recount meetings with these characters and explain what it really takes to be an advanced yogi.
Jim Mallinson is Senior Lecturer in Sanskrit and Classical Indian Studies at SOAS, University of London. He is currently leading a five-year, six-person research project on the history of yoga whose main methods are the study of Sanskrit texts and fieldwork among yogis in India. Jim has already spent several years living with yogis in India and in 2013 was given the title of “mahant” at the Kumbh Mela festival, an honour documented in the acclaimed film “West meets East”. Most recent among his many publications is Roots of Yoga, an anthology of translations from over 160 texts on yoga co-written with Mark Singleton and published in 2017 by Penguin Classics.