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Pantajali's Yoga Sutras

The Yoga Sutras: An Essential Guide to the Heart of Yoga Philosophy by Nicolai Bachman ( Sounds True) Open your yoga practice with an in-depth course on the Sutras of Patanjali. We know there's more to the yogic path than asana, or physical postures, but how do we access the deeper wisdom of yoga philosophy? More than 2,000 years ago, the legendary master Patanjali answered this question in 195 pearls of insight known as the Yoga Sutras. Now Sanskrit and Ayurveda teacher Nicolai Bachman offers The Yoga Sutras, a complete course with a fresh new approach to working with Patanjali's seminal text for guidance and inspiration on your own journey toward clarity and happiness.

Why do we react the way we do in certain situations? How can suffering be an opportunity for growth? Why are nonviolence and truth important to a student? Patanjali's sutras offer an illuminating perspective on these questions and more. To help integrate this wisdom into our modern life, Bachman offers a unique approach. Instead of reading each sutra sequentially from beginning to end, he focuses on and discusses 51 key concepts. By exploring these principles with him and learning to chant the sutras in Sanskrit, the essence of yoga philosophy is revealed—helping us open to its heart and soul. The Yoga Sutras invites you to discover a variety of practical tools and heartfelt insights for transforming your practice, including:

  • A 336-page color-illustrated workbook with a concise history of yoga and the sutras, in-depth explanation of key themes, translation of all 195 sutras, and a complete glossary of Sanskrit terms for quick reference
  • Six sessions full of insights to further your learning about yoga's essential principles
  • A guided reading on CD of the complete sutras with pronunciation instructions for following along
  • Fifty-one study cards to encourage reflection of each concept and inspire action

When you immerse yourself in Patanjali's sutras, the heart of yoga—and what yoga means for you personally—will unveil itself in new and profound ways. Whether you're a seasoned teacher or a student looking to go deeper with your practice, this essential course offers a treasury of teachings to help realize the"outer joy and inner happiness" of yoga.

 NICOLAI BACHMAN has beer studying and teaching Sanskrit, Ayurveda, chanting, and yoga-related topics for 15 years throughout the United States and abroad. He holds a master's degree in Eastern philosophy and has written several books including The Language of Yoga, The Language of Ayurveda, and more.

The Yoga Sutras is an ancient text that, more than any other, defines what yoga is and how it can be practiced. Written in Sanskrit, the mother
tongue and sacred language of India, the Yoga Sutra-s consists of 195 concise aphorisms called sutra-s that function as seeds of knowledge, each a plethora of information condensed into a tiny space. The author, Patanjali, made sure his presentation was not limited to geography, culture, religion, or even time period. Universal principles such as nonviolence and truthfulness, along with a focus on self-development and clarification of the heart-mind, make the application and pursuit of yoga good for all people and for society as a whole.

I came to study this text from a background in yoga asana, meditation, and Sanskrit. At first it felt daunting to me: almost two hundred tiny sutra-s written in such a way as to require at least one commentary to comprehend what each one is trying to convey. If no guidance is available, studying this text can be an exercise in "the blind leading the blind." After reading several different translations and still not feeling comfortable with my understanding, I sought out qualified teachers who had themselves studied the Yoga Sutras over many years with their teachers and had applied the principles and practices to their lives. For me this was the key that unlocked the door. There is no substitute for having a good teacher.

Each time I revisited the sutras, over the course of many years of study and life experience, additional subtleties and applications revealed themselves. Each time I came upon a different translation of a sutra, my understanding expanded and deepened. Integrating yoga philosophy into my life was also absolutely necessary. Yoga is meant to be experiential, not just intellectual.

Yet it was asking questions of my primary teachers that caused the proverbial lightbulbs to brighten my understanding.

I personally appreciate the Yoga Sutra-s as much for its masterful design as for its universality and emphasis on personal growth. Each individual sutra is a wonderful gem of wisdom, while the entire collection offers unique and powerful tools for inner development and outer poise. Learning the concepts and implementing the practices of yoga is a lifelong pursuit that is bound to create outer joy and inner happiness.

The ability to catch myself before acting unconsciously based on past habitual patterning, then deciding to change course and act in a beneficial and positive way, makes me appreciate the usefulness and profundity of the Yoga Sutras. Every time I am able to listen to all sides of an argument, or see another person as a manifestation of the radiant light of awareness that we all share, I am reminded of how powerful and transformative Patanjali's practices are.


The Yoga Sutra-s of Patanjali has been translated and commented upon for thousands of years. In the past twenty years numerous English interpretations have been written, each giving a slightly different perspective, from the very orthodox, with precise translation from the original Sanskrit and strict Vedic interpretation, to quite New Age, with much more liberal translation. The vast majority of translations present the text in its original order and take you through the sutra-s from beginning to end.

This interpretation differs in several ways. First, it is focused on learning in depth certain key concepts embedded in the sutra-s and building a working vocabulary of the Sanskrit terms for each concept. Each of the fifty-one cards focuses on a core principle or practice of yoga, providing thoughts and empowerments that can be meditated upon and applied to everyday life. Second, the sounds of the sutra-s are emphasized, as they contain their life-force (prana). Traditionally, a student learns to chant the sutra-s before being taught their meaning and significance. Here, each concept has an associated sutra that is chanted prior to being translated and discussed. Another CD allows you to hear the entire text chanted through, and you can follow along using the sutra-s marked for chanting in part 4 of the workbook. Third, color illustrations are provided in the appendices showing many card concepts in flowchart and table form.

This course will allow you to truly understand yoga philosophy by focusing on core principles and acquiring a working conversational vocabulary wherein you can refer to real Sanskrit words instead of their diluted and inevitably inaccurate English correlates.

Yoga is primarily concerned with the transformation of our field of consciousness, which consists of our heart-mind complex. I have chosen to refer to this field, called citta in Sanskrit, as the "heart-mind" throughout this program to most accurately represent it. Yoga practice involves shifting our attention from outer/external/superficial interests to inner/internal/deeper parts of ourselves. The diagrams in the appendices emphasize this inner-oriented direction.


The cards, workbook, and CDs have been designed to focus on fifty-one key concepts from the Yoga Sutras. This approach not only cultivates an understanding of core principles, but it builds a working vocabulary of important Sanskrit terms that have no direct equivalents in English or other languages. Rather than gleaning pieces of each concept by moving through the text in a linear way, we can instead focus on the idea and see its various aspects across the entire text.

The cards provide a way to contemplate the deep and practical significance of each concept. They serve as a quiet place to begin the study of a specific and important idea, something to meditate upon. On the front, a Sanskrit term and its basic meaning are displayed. The back of the card sheds a bit more light on the idea, progressing from a statement to a desire to an action, providing empowering and inspirational ideas related to the term.

The workbook supports each card by expanding on its Sanskrit term. A single sutra that either defines or represnts the term appears at the top. Then the concept is explained in detail, with references to all related sutras. This is where you can dive into the idea, find its esoteric aspects, understand its practical applications, and dissect the Sanskrit word all the way down to its root.

Each Sanskrit concept has a card, its own CD track, and a commentary in the workbook. These terms, when first mentioned in each card commentary, appear in bold/italic to make them stand out. If a word appears in italics only, it is being emphasized in the sentence. Because the original Sanskrit script has no capital letters, Sanskrit terms are presented in lowercase. To conform to English standards, if the Sanskrit term is a proper name, it is capitalized.

The introduction provides background information including history, and discusses key overriding concepts that apply to the study of yoga as a whole. Part 3 shows a full translation of the entire text, to be referenced when desired. Part 4 goes with CD session 7, allowing us to chant through the entire text sequentially. There are appendices with color illustrations and tables that are referenced from within each card-concept explanation. In addition, other versions of the Yoga Sutra-s' text are provided for finding a sutra or seeing an overview/outline of all sutras.

The audio CDs enhance the workbook material, adding more information about each concept in a format that is like being in the room with a real live teacher. The first session covers the material discussed in the introductory section of the book. Sessions 2 through 6 go through each and every card concept, each with its own track and representative sutra chanted and explained. Session 7 is designed for you to learn how to chant through the Yoga Sutra-s from beginning to end, one chapter per track. There are four chapters and eight chanting tracks. Four tracks are normal speed, and four tracks are slower speed.

YOGA: Discipline of Freedom, The Yoga Sutra Attributed to Patanjali, translated from the Sanskrit, with Commentary, Introduction, and Glossary of Keywords by Barbara Stoler Miller ($17.95, hardcover, 114 pages, notes, University of California Press, 0-520-20190-6)

Barbara Stoler Miller’s translations are consummate examples of the translator’s art. Her renditions of the Bhataka poets brought their deep devotion and ardor within the read of readers of English. It is a shame that one of her best translations happens to be her last before her untimely death. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra has often been rendered into English but Miller’s offers a literary and philosophical penetration into the economy of language offers a provocative insight into the genius of the original sutras, often obscured by commentaries, traditional and modern. This text that is really essential to anyone’s understanding of Indian philosophy or the practice of yoga. Barbara Stoler Miller’s translation is her masterpiece.

Yoga is at the heart of all meditative practice as developed in Asian religions, yet until now there been no first-rate English version of this primary classic text. Barbara Stoler Miller’s translation admirably fills that gap-her clear, strong style and sensitive phrasing convey every nuance of Patanjali’s terse Sanskrit words, and her economical commentary offers invaluable guidance to anyone seeking to grasp the gist of yoga.

The Yoga Sutra, dating from about the third century C.E., distills the essentials of a complex system of physical and spiritual experience and discipline into 195 brief aphorisms. As a method of achieving insight, the discipline of yoga is far from mystical ecstasy or ritual trance. Its goal is a contemplative intensity that can unbind the constraints of everyday, sense-bound, experience, and that goal helps explain Americans’ growing interest in yoga in recent years.

Barbara Stoler Miller, until her death in 1993, was Samuel R. Milbank Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures at Barnard College. Among her many publications is her much-praised translation of the Bhagavad Gita.

Pt. 1. Cessation of Thought and Contemplative Calm
Pt. 2. The Practice of Yoga
Pt. 3. Perfect Discipline and Extraordinary Powers
Pt. 4. Absolute Freedom
A Note on Transliteration
Keywords in the Yoga Sutra
Sanskrit Keywords

Special Contents

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