What we didn’t know about yoga

“The first single, reliable collection of primary material from the source traditions of yoga” – now that’s a statement to make about a new book. And it doesn’t just come from anyone, it comes from renowned publisher Penguin.

And then this: “Imagine you’re a guppy in a fishbowl” […], says Yoga Journal, but “lately, the waves have picked up. Your water is sloshing and swirling”. Uh oh.

Now this got me curious. A new book, about yoga, that is going to be able to reveal the “Roots of Yoga“? (Yes, that’s the title of the book by Oxford Sanskritist Jim Mallinson and Mark Singleton).


Says Penguin: “This book brings together, for the first time, the core teachings of yoga in the words of their authors, rather than in the secondary versions of modern interpreters.”

What are some of these surprising things we didn’t know about yoga history*?:

  • Far from everyone agrees on the content of the “Yoga Sutras”
  • There are no pre-modern depictions of women practising yoga
  • Buddhists (Indian and Tibetan), Jains, atheists and Muslims historically practised yoga techniques
  • Ancient yogis knew that practising yoga could potentially make you sick
  • Vinyāsa (referring to linked sequences) is not found with this meaning in pre-modern texts on yoga
  • Medieval yogis were obsessed with being slim
  • Chakras are “parts of a visualized installation on the body” – it’s not even clear how many there should be. Four, five, six, or twelve? Hard to tell.

The book just got out and I feel that I definitely need to get my hands on it. Has anyone had the chance to read it yet? I would love your feedback!


You can order the book here and read the *review (referred to above) published by Yoga Journal here.

Image credit: PenguinRandomHouse


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