Yogeśvara, Yogīśvara | Sabbi Lall, SOAS Post-Graduate Student Conference

ma sabbi lall soas yoga studies yogic studies Jul 20, 2022

Today we celebrate Yogic Studies Teaching Assistant, Dr. Sabbi Lall, who recently presented her Master's thesis project to members of the Yoga Studies community at the SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies

Her project explored the use of yogeśvara in a range of Sanskrit texts. She explains:

"I examined the term yogeśvara, which can be translated as Lord of Yoga, in pre-modern Sanskrit texts. This term appears in many Sanskrit texts, including the Epics, Tantras, Purāṇas, and Haṭhayoga corpus. For example, Viṣṇu is called yogeśvara in the Bhagavadgītā. But practitioners can be yogeśvara-s too: I discussed an episode in the Skandapurāṇa which refers to specific brahmin brothers as yogeśvaras. These brahmins practice yoga and are in their last re-birth before liberation when they announce to their father that they are yogeśvaras. This episode suggests that a yogeśvara has reached the highest level of yogic accomplishment possible in this world. Turning to the Haṭhayoga texts, the Haṭhapradīpikā (15th century CE) may refer to practitioners as yogīśvara. This observation is consistent with an increasing sense of sovereignty around specific yogins during this time period. Overall, this analysis of yogeśvara indicates historical shifts in the relationship between yogins, power, and liberation."

Sabbi completed her MA in Traditions in Yoga and Meditation at SOAS University of London in 2021. Her project on yogeśvara analyzed texts from the 11th-18th centuries CE, excavating appearances of the Sanskrit term from a broad range of textual sources. 

Reflecting on her experience at SOAS, Sabbi recalls a vibrant and fertile learning environment among expert scholars and passionate students. Her training gave her a firm grounding in the history and reception of yoga and yogic traditions, with a significant portion of the curriculum exploring Buddhist traditions as well. She feels this broadened perspective allowed for a more nuanced engagement with the history and spread of meditation traditions into the modern diaspora.

SOAS, she says, was a wonderful place to learn:

"It was amazing to learn from leaders in the field but it was also great to learn from discussion with the cohort of fellow students from around the world."

Sabbi continues to serve as Yogic Studies Teaching Assistant, where she provides academic and moderating support to YS students and faculty members. 

Please find the recording of the 2022 SOAS Post-Graduate Student Conference below. Sabbi's presentation begins around the 17:00 mark.