The Path to the Yoga Sutras: A Practical Guide to the Core of Yoga by Nicolai Bachman
Many serious yoga practitioners pore over Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and any reputable yoga teacher training will require this foundational text for its students. But just as many people find the mysterious aphorisms, Sanskrit, and multitude of commentaries intimidating. Nicolai Bachman, a Santa Fe-based Sanskritist and yoga teacher, has compiled The Path of the Yoga Sutras to address this issue.
Rather than going through the sutras verse by verse as most commentaries do, Bachman spotlights the text’s core concepts (51 by his count), following a similar structure to the Yoga Sutras home study course he released last year. Bachman groups the foundational concepts first, including purusha (highest consciousness) and viveka (discernment), and then elucidates yoga’s ethical principles, the various forms of suffering, and the eight limbs of yoga that lead to enlightenment.
Pulling the sutras apart and putting them back together in this way creates a context that may feel more orderly for many a Western mind, and short chapters make for easy, bite-size encounters with profound principles. Chapters end with a few brief nudges in the form of “Thoughts” and “Exercises” that help readers reflect further on how Patanjali’s teachings are practical and applicable today.
Bachman’s fluid approach has its issues: concepts like “heart-mind,” which are central to the book, don’t get the precise definition they need, and the actual sutras never appear, at times making the book feel adrift from its original source. Essential information ends up tucked away in the book’s front matter and epilogue, where it’s easily missed. Overall, however, this is a practical—and in places, poetic—project that will give seekers a fresh way into Patanjali’s brilliant treatise.
Published in Yoga International, Winter 2011-2012, Issue 116in Books, Yoga and Yoga International.