Sir James Mallinson, 5th Baronet of Walthamstow (born 22 April 1970) is a British Indologist, writer and translator. He is recognised as one of the world’s leading experts on the history of medieval Hatha Yoga.
Mallinson became interested in India by reading Rudyard Kipling’s novel Kim as a teenager; the book describes an English boy travelling India with a holy man. Mallinson is described as “perhaps the only baronet to wear dreadlocks. He let his hair grow out from 1988 on his first visit to India during his gap year.
He is the co-author with Mark Singleton of Roots of Yoga. Penguin Classics. (A commented collection of translations of yoga practice texts from the Sanskrit traditions).
Currently Dr Mallinson is Senior Lecturer in Sanskrit and Classical and Indian Studies at SOAS, University of London. His interest in yoga grew out of a fascination for India and Indian asceticism. He spent several years living with Indian ascetics and yogis, in particular Rāmānandī Tyāgīs.
He took his BA in Sanskrit and Old Iranian at the University of Oxford, followed by an MA in Area Studies (South Asia), with Ethnography as his main subject, at SOAS. His doctoral thesis, submitted to the University of Oxford, was a critical edition and annotated translation of the Khecarīvidyā, an early text of haṭhayoga.
Dr Mallinson has published eight books. All of which are editions and translations of Sanskrit yoga texts, epic tales and poetry. His recent work has used philological study of Sanskrit texts, ethnography and art history to explore the history of yoga and yogis.
Between September 2015-2020, Mallinson was the Principle Investigator of The Haṭha Yoga Project (HYP), a five-year research project funded by the European Research Council and based at SOAS, University of London which aims to chart the history of physical yoga practice by means of philology, i.e. the study of texts on yoga, and ethnography, i.e. fieldwork among practitioners of yoga.
From January 2021, Mallison has been the lead on three year project entitled “Light on Hatha Yoga: A critical edition and translation of the Haṭhapradīpikā, the most important premodern text on physical yoga” funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the German Research Foundation Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).