Ashtanga, Patanjali Yoga Sutras, Yoga

The Legend of Sage Patanjali

Repost from the Official Website of B.K.S. Iyengar:

“It is said that Lord Vishnu was once seated on his couch, Lord Adisesa (the Lord of Serpents) watching the enchanting dance (tandava nrtya)  of Lord Shiva. Lord Vishnu was so absorbed in the dance movements that His body began to vibrate to the rhythm of Lord Shiva. This vibration made him heavier and heavier causing a lot of discomfort to Lord Adisesa who was on the point of collapsing, gasping for breath. As soon as the dance came to end, Lord Vishnu’s body became light again.

Lord Adisesa was amazed with this sudden transformation and asked his master about the cause of these stupendous changes. The Lord explained that grace, beauty, majesty and grandeur of Lord Shiva had created a corresponding graceful vibration in His own body. Amazed at this, Adisesa professed a desire to learn dancing to inspire his Lord.

Lord Vishnu predicted that soon Lord Shiva would grace Lord Adisesa to write a commentary on grammar and at that time he would also be able to devote himself to perfection in the art of dance (nrtya). Lord Adisesa was overjoyed by these words and looked forward to the grace of Lord Shiva. He then began to meditate to find out who would be his intended mother. While meditating, he had the vision of a female Yoga adept and an ascetic (ayogini and tapasvini), Gonika who was praying for a worthy son to whom she could impart her knowledge and wisdom. He realized that she would be a worthy mother for him and waited for an auspicious moment to become her son.

Gonika, thinking that her earthly life was approaching its end, had searched for a worthy son to whom she could transmit her knowledge. But she had found no one. When her penance (tapas)  had come to an end, she looked to the Sun God and prayed to Him to fulfill her desire. She took a handful of water, as a final oblation to Him, closed her eyes and meditated on the Sun. She opened her eyes and looked at her palms as she was about to offer the water. To her surprise, she saw a tiny snake moving in her palms who soon took on a human form. This tiny male human prostrated to yogini Gonika and asked her to accept him as her son. Hence, she named him Patanjali. ( Pata means fallen or falling and Anjali means palms folded in prayer).

This is how Sage Patanjali is said to have come into this mortal world.”

~ Source :

Ashtanga, Chanting, Patanjali Yoga Sutras, Sanskrit, Yoga

Yoga Sutra of Patanjali

Patanjali Yoga Sutra

The 8 Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga (Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi) can be traced to their philosophical roots in the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. In the Yoga Sutra each limb is precisely outlined and described as a method for cutting through avidya, ignorance, and developing vivikah khyateh, discerning vision, that enables one to perceive the true nature of the mind/soul, the ultimate reality of being.

This text is said to have been composed by the Indian sage and scholar Patanjali, sometime between the 5th Century BCE and the 4th Century CE. It is a written compilation of yogic knowledge that was already current in the oral tradition. Reportedly, the text nearly disappeared by the 16th Century until it reappeared with Swami Vivekananda in the 19th Century.

I like to listen and repeat along to the Yoga Sutra Chanting Tutorial by Srivatsa Ramaswami (see videos below of each of the 4 chapters).

There are many translations available. For starters, an accessible version is the translation by Sri Swami Satchidananda. For a little more detailed analysis, my favorite online resource so far is at Also, here is a free download of the entire text translated from Sanskrit by Chip Hartranft, who gives it a Buddhist perspective.

Now, who is Patanjali?

Patanjali is said to be swayambhu, a self-born incarnation of Adi Shesha, the infinite serpent upon whom Lord Vishnu rests. I have heard and read that the word Patanjali can be understood as a combination of two Sanskrit words pata ~ fallen or falling & anjali ~ palms folded in prayer. 

Follow this link or the next blog post to read one of the legends about Sage Patanjali.

samadhi pada ~ chapter 1


sadhana pada ~ chapter 2


vibhuti pada ~ chapter 3


kavailya pada ~ chapter 4


Ashtanga, Chanting, Classes & Workshops, Patanjali Yoga Sutras, Sanskrit, Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga Talk and Workshop @ NYU Hindu Center


“All learning is good if it can ever guide man Godward” ~ Sri Ramakrishna

Delighted to return to my alma mater, New York University, to give a talk and workshop at the NYU Hindu Center about the 8 Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga as described in the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali.

The 8 limbs of yoga are a map to liberation in everyday living, a blueprint that you can apply to strengthen the foundation of any spiritual practice.

Saturday, October 21st : 3pm – 5pm at 238 Thompson Street (between Washington Sq. South & W. 3rd St. 4th floor, room 475) 

Come join us! If possible, wear comfortable clothes to move and breathe in. All are welcome to attend.

Note: Please bring photo ID

You will have to log in at the front desk. Have a photo ID ready, and tell the guards you’re here for the Hindu Center.

Tickets: Free!