Physical Practice

“When the breath is unsteady, the mind is unsteady. When the breath is steady, the mind is steady, and the yogi becomes steady. Therefore one should restrain the breath.”

Haṭha Pradīpikā 2.2 (trans. Akers, 2002)

Despite the popularity of postures in modern forms of yoga, the main physical technique in traditional texts is control of the breath (prāṇāyāma). Originally, that meant holding it for as long as possible, but over the centuries new methods emerged.

This 90-minute talk with Q&A by Daniel Simpson explores the evolution of breath-based practices – from Vedic-era chanting, via ascetic attempts at renouncing the world to the dynamic approaches of haṭha yoga.

It was originally presented in November 2021 at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of Los Angeles – see below for an introductory video. Access to materials is unlimited, so you can watch at a pace that suits you and return as you wish.


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About the Speaker

Daniel Simpson is the author of The Truth of Yoga: A Comprehensive Guide to Yoga's History, Texts, Philosophy, and Practices, which was published in 2021 by North Point Press (an imprint of Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

He teaches courses on yoga history and philosophy at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and SOAS, University of London. He also contributes to yoga teacher trainings, and offers online talks and international workshops.

Daniel is a graduate of Cambridge University and earned his M.A. in Traditions of Yoga and Meditation from SOAS. In a previous career, he was a foreign correspondent, working for Reuters and the New York Times

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