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The Yoga Sutras: A Short Review on My Faves

The Yoga Sutras: A Short Review on My Faves

I highly suggest every serious yogi have access to at least two different translations of The Yoga Sutras. You can find them at the local library, online or at a bookstore.

Have you ever studied a subject in a book (yoga, perhaps?), then maybe with a few different teachers and finally a new teacher comes along who puts it in a slightly different way and suddenly you have an aha! moment? That's happened to me a lot in my life. It's happened to me a lot in my studies of yoga. That's why I suggest having access to more than one translation.

I've read well over 20 different translations of the book and some can hardly be recognized as the same document. It seems some people just make up their own version of it and end up (by my understanding) way off the mark. On the other hand, no matter which translation you choose to begin with, someone somewhere will have an argument about this or that point and the way it is translated. Therefore, its good when referencing a point in one, to cross-reference it in another, to make sure you're interpreting it correctly, to see another "take" on it and maybe get a richer understanding.

I think the first version I ever read might have been "The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali" By Swami Satchidananda. It's been a long time since I've even owned a copy of that one but I remember it being pretty amazing. It's become a classic because it is accessible and inspiring. It's written from a decidedly eastern point of view which on the one hand, lends a certain authenticity and on the other, might end up feeling more culturally foreign than it needs to. Yoga is, after all, beyond culture, time and place.

I read a variety of other translations before I came across "How To Know God, The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali", translated with a commentary by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood. Besides its completely portable compact size, I also enjoyed the perspective of the authors: one eastern, the other western/Christian. After reading through several more esoteric versions I really resonated with this one. I grew up Christian in a Christian community and this translation put things into a context that made sense to me at the time in a way some of the more 'direct' translations couldn't.

Next up, a little blue and white book aptly titled: "The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali". Translated and introduced by Alistair Shearer, when I found this book I said "Who is this guy?!?". It soon became my new favorite translation. Alistair Shearer has a way of simplifying some of the ideas without watering them down. Again, the size is really sweet. The book is hardcover so it can take a beating (being one of my most packed items).

I haven't shopped for a new translation since finding Mark Hartranft's version "The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali". Some of his explanations parted the seas of vagueness and blew my mind to new levels of understanding and passion for Truth. That said, I'm not sure how it might be for a beginner to start with. If you haven't read any other translations and you start with this one, let me know how it is. Chip blends the traditions of yoga and Buddhist meditation. Undoubtedly, some purists will have a problem with that but from my vantage point, its beautiful. This book is a standard 6x9" format softcover and I've been through two copies already - dog-eared, scuffed, highlighted and marked up but well-loved.

And while we're on the subject of really great yoga books, Stephen Mitchell's translation of The Bhagavad Gita is a joy to read, to own, to highlight and scribble in, or simply to put on your coffee table or under your pillow before falling asleep!

Are you familiar with The Yoga Sutras? Do you have any comments or reviews to share?

 

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