Untangling Traditions

Untangling Traditions

Yoga, ayurveda and alchemy have historically been considered different disciplinary fields. However, evidence also demonstrates complex interactions and areas of significant overlap. The AyurYog project’s goal has been to reveal the historical entanglements of these fields of knowledge and practice, and to trace the trajectories of their evolution as components of today's global healthcare and personal development industries.

Drawing upon the primary historical sources of each respective discipline as well as on fieldwork data, we have explored their shared terminology, practical applications and discourses. Our research reveals how past encounters and cross-fertilizations have informed and shaped these bodies of knowledge over time.

These presentations introduce some of the project results and outputs and showcase our collaborations with other research projects, scholars and practitioners. We reflect on our research processes and critically explore methodologies. Finally, we offer important emerging directions for future research.


This video, a conversation between Dagmar Wujastyk (Principal Investigator AyurYog) and Jacqueline Hargreaves (The Luminescent) gives a general introduction to the project; who has been involved; what we have been researching; what some of our results are; and where we go from here:




Next up in the programme is an interview with Dr Suzanne Newcombe, Post-doctoral Research Fellow on the AyurYog project. Dr Newcombe discusses the institutionalisation of Yoga as medicine in modern India.



Here is an interview with Dr Dagmar Wujastyk and Andrew Mason about their collaboration on recreating alchemical procedures. See also the accompanying blogpost here: http://ayuryog.org/blog/philology-and-experimentation-reconstructing-alc...



The next interview is with Dr. Christèle Barois, Post-doctoral Research Fellow on the AyurYog project. Dr. Barois discusses the Yoga and medicine in the Dharmaputrikā, the "Little Daughter of Dharma." The Dharmaputrikā is an early Yoga manual that includes elaborate descriptions of methods for overcoming obstacles to success in Yoga as well as methods for curing diseases.



Next up in the programme, Dr Jason Birch of the Hatha Yoga Project discusses his research on the topic of Yoga and Ayurveda (Indian medicine), which aims to determine their shared theory and terminology; compare the Indian medical body with the 'yogic' metaphysical body; and provide examples of historical Yogins who claimed to be doctors and healers.





The Alchemy Reader will provide a broad introduction to Indian alchemy, tracing and explaining alchemical thought as it developed on the Indian subcontinent. Drawing on a selection of the most important Sanskrit alchemical works from the tenth to eighteenth centuries, it will offer the reader deep insight into the motivations and goals of Indian alchemists and will illuminate the theories and methods they developed over time.

This will be the first book to bring together texts from the entire range of Indian alchemical thought, each piece serving to expand our understanding of what it meant to practice alchemy on the Indian subcontinent. Many of the Sanskrit alchemical works have never been translated into English before. The volume’s translations will provide a unique window into this important literature and the Indian alchemical idiom. With its broad selection of examined themes, it will also offer the most detailed and comprehensive English-language investigation of Indian alchemy and the beliefs and practices of its practitioners to date.

Catch a first glance of the Alchemy Reader in these videos in which the contributors to the volume talk about their chapters and the alchemical themes explored in them:



Prof. Dagmar Wujastyk, the Principal Investigator of the AyurYog Project, speaks about her research in the area of Indian alchemy and the creation of a field of study through the publication of an Alchemy Reader. Prof. Wujastyk's contributions to the Alchemy Reader will include the introduction to the volume, a chapter on the Rasahṛdayatantra, a chapter on the Rasaprakāśasudhākara, and a co-written chapter with Dr Priyanka Chorge on the Rasaratnasamuccaya.




Dr Patricia Sauthoff, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Alberta, talks about her contributions to the Alchemy Reader, which include three chapters:

I. The alchemical laboratory: The Rasendracūḍāmaṇi ( 12th-13th century), Chapter Three

II. Potency, virility, sexual pleasure: The Rasamañjarī (15th century), Chapter Nine

III. Alchemical instruments: The Rasakāmadhenu (16th /17th century), Section One, Chapter One




Keith Cantú, PhD Candidate at the University of California, Santa Barbara, will be contributing a chapter of the Rasaratnākara’s Rasāyanakhaṇḍa towards the Alchemy Reader. The Rasaratnākara is one of the longest and most complex of the Sanskrit alchemical treatises. Its chapter on pilgrimage at Srisailam describes what actions an adept (sādhaka) should take in order to benefit from the alchemical wonders of Srisailam. The topic of alchemical pilgrimage is unusual for Sanskrit alchemical literature, but nevertheless significant, since it informs pilgrims’ ritual activities in the region even today.




Dr Priyanka Chorge, who is an ayurvedic doctor in Hamburg studying for an MA in South Asian studies, is contributing a chapter to the Alchemy Reader on “Medicine and Alchemy in the Rasaratnasamuccaya,” a 15th or 16th century Sanskrit work. The Rasaratnasamuccaya became the classic work of Indian alchemy and was widely copied. It dedicates more than half of its contents to medicine and shows an advanced stage of iatrochemical thought. Its prescriptions follow ayurvedic guidelines, but most of its medicines are mineral-based formulations. Chapter 19 is dedicated to the ayurvedic category of abdominal diseases (Sanskrit: udararoga) and their treatment.




Prof. Dominik Wujastyk, a Sanskritist, who is a specialist in Indian medicine (Ayurveda), alchemy (rasaśastra), and the history of linguistics (vyākaraṇa) talks about his research for the Alchemy Reader. Prof. Wujastyk’s contribution to the Alchemy Reader is a chapter that introduces the Rasendramaṅgala, whose fourth chapter describes an exposition of the most famous of the Indian alchemists, Nāgārjuna, on the arts of aurifaction and making elixirs of immortality.




Dr James Mallinson is a Professor at SOAS and the Principal Investigator of the Hatha Yoga Project. Dr Mallinson describes his work on the Amṛtasiddhi, an eleventh-century work on yoga and explains how this work uses alchemical metaphors for yogic processes. Dr Mallinson's chapter for the Alchemy Reader will be: Alchemical metaphor in Yoga: The Amṛtasiddhi (11th century). The Amṛtasiddhi is the earliest substantial text on what became haṭha yoga. Written in both Sanskrit and Tibetan, the text has a number of Buddhist features. It widely uses alchemical imagery to describe yogic processes such as breathing exercises and their effects on the body and the mind. This imagery then found its way into many of the later haṭha yoga texts.







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