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Book Yogavataranam: The Translation of Yoga: A New Approach to Sanskrit, Integrating Traditional and Academic Methods and Based on Classic Yoga Texts, for University Courses, Yoga Programs, and Self Study – August 4, 2015

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Yogavataranam: The Translation of Yoga: A New Approach to Sanskrit, Integrating Traditional and Academic Methods and Based on Classic Yoga Texts, for University Courses, Yoga Programs, and Self Study – August 4, 2015

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  • north point press (august 4, 2015) (1605)
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  • By Jill Krebs on May 27, 2017

    I very much appreciate Zoe Slatoff's approach to studying Sanskrit. She combines 1) the way in which very young children, thrown into the verbal sea of meaningful communication, acquire language; 2) the structural props that more mature minds can use in order to accelerate learning; and 3) the compelling stories and philosophies of the world of yoga. The result is an inspiring and accessible introduction to a language worthy of love.

  • By DR. JOHN G VIRAG on October 9, 2017

    This is my third attempt at Sanskrit over a multi-year period...This one has made it fun for me! Easy to distinguish type and the advancement is on a pace i can handle......and more information than I will ever need.

  • By M Kirkendoll on May 13, 2017

    As a yoga student & teacher, Zoe's book continues to inspire and guide my personal search & understanding of the great yogic teachings. Although I am just beginning my Sanskrit journey and am slowly moving through Yogavataranam, I highly recommend it to any yoga practitioner. Learning Sanskrit has deepened my yoga practice unlike any other study and I am so grateful to Zoe for her efforts in making this precious resource available to us.

  • By Trevor Tangye on October 6, 2015

    Zoe's effort, comprehensive vision and dedication in producing a work like this is awe inspiring and I am sure many students will benefit from her efforts.

  • By Homer S. White on October 14, 2015

    The author of the Yogavatarnam is esteemed among practitioners of Ashtanga Yoga as a dedicated Sanskritist and as a teacher of Ashtanga, so I had been looking forward to its publication for quite some time and was very pleased to receive it in the mail back in early August. I made a late-summer project of going over the entire text carefully.The book exceeded all of my expectations.I’m no professional Sanskritist, but I am a pretty serious long-standing amateur student of the language, and in my thirteen years of study I have consulted a fair number of the standard primers and grammars. I think that the Yogavataranam not only holds its own with the best current primers and first-year university-style texts; it also takes a distinctive approach to the subject that will likely make it the preferred choice for people coming to Sanskrit out of an interest in Yoga or in classical Indian religion generally.The Yogavataranam covers essentially all of the grammar that is standard in first-year university-style Sanskrit courses. In comparison to some other texts the author appears to make an effort to get to all the classes of verbs early and to cover Sanskrit compounds as soon as possible. This makes sense, in that her goal is to get the student to read short passages from original texts as soon as possible—from the very first chapter in fact. In contrast to most other texts, there is very little in the way of made-up Sanskrit sentences for translation: after the third chapter nearly every example is from a classical source. Each classical passage comes with it own miniature glossary, and there is a general glossary at the end of the book. Most elementary language texts will set you some vocabulary in each chapter to learn, and will hold you accountable for it in the lessons of the chapter. The approach to vocabulary in the Avataranam is somewhat looser: the student can choose for herself how much vocabulary to memorize outright, basing her choice presumably on her perception of how frequently a given word is showing up in the classical-source examples presented to her. In the long run this is how we all extend our vocabulary anyway, so there is some merit to early development of judgment in vocabulary-acquisition.I was really quite impressed by the choice of classical passages, especially in the early chapters where it is so important that each passage illustrate just the right set of recently-introduced grammatical principles. Several major texts such Bhagavad Gita, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and several Upanishads are represented throughout the text with numerous selections, and these lend continuity to the Avataranam and give the student the sense of a gradually-deepening experience. Students of Yoga will also be interested in the numerous lesser-known yoga texts represented here.The source texts are often difficult: if you are studying on your own, be prepared for certain passages—especially in some of the difficult Upanishadic texts that dominate the final chapters—to remain a mystery to you even after you have consulted the author’s translation in the back of the book. Simply mark any mysterious passage and return to it from time to time. Most difficulties should clarify themselves after a few years study.Numerous sidebars offer information about the texts, their authors and/or the philosophical tradition that they represent: these are an especially valuable resource for those engaging in self-study.The author has made the deliberate choice to focus on original texts, and Yoga-related texts at that. If a student aims to pursue other sorts of text later or if she wants a more prescriptive approach to vocabulary or more copious “practice” sentences, then she should consider supplementing the Avataranam with texts that adopt very different approaches to the subject. Madhav Desphande’s primer Samskritasubodhini may be a good choice: it is short on explanations, but rich in practice sentences (including sentences to translate from English into Sanskrit) and the extensive vocabulary is geared toward an eventual encounter with Sanskrit epics such as the Ramayana or Mahabharata. It also contains full paradigms for a large number of exceptional and irregular (but commonly-encountered) nouns and verbs. Arthur MacDonnell’s Sanskrit Grammar for Students appears to be out of print but can be bought used. I have always valued its attempts to systematize morphology in a way that is accessible to students. Beyond the first year, you might look at Peter Sharf’s edition of the Ramopakhyana, the abbreviated tale of Rama in the Mahabharata: it’s a great transition to independent reading in epic Sanskrit and a good way to review grammar as well.The book was carefully prepared, with remarkably few typographical errors given that it is in its first edition. It also appears to be physically durable. The author’s husband, an artist and an accomplished Ashtangi as well, has adorned the book with numerous fascinating illustrations, and has provided a thoughtful introductory note on these images that also gives the reader an “image” of the author herself. The young couple make no attempt to hide their high regard for one another behind a false veneer of professionalism, and this unashamed display of love lends a refreshingly warm and personal dimension to the book.The Yogavataranam is a scholarly and personal triumph, and a generous gift to the contemporary Yoga community, and it arrives at an auspicious moment, when many serious students of Yoga are longing to move more deeply into its classical literary and philosophical contexts. I think therefore that the Yogavataranam has the potential to deepen and enrich the practice of Yoga in the English-speaking world.Homer WhiteGeorgetown, KY

  • By Guest on November 28, 2015

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  • By Lisa C. Morphopoulos on February 11, 2018

    Anyone who is lucky enough to work with Zoë Slatoff knows she is both supremely intelligent and at the same time, one of the most down-to-earth, approachable, patient, playful, supportive teachers you'll find. She is that great combination of strict and forgiving that can foster the most significant growth. All of her extraordinary qualities are generously offered to you in this comprehensive tome. Zoë's profound love and appreciation for Sanskrit is apparent and infectious; she will change you.I highly recommend Yogavataranam as a wonderful tool to help you learn Sanskrit. This book is well-organized, with a thoughtful answer key to questions and helpful glossaries, that serve as a lessons in themselves. As you go through the chapters, previous lessons are cleverly integrated into the new sections to reinforce what you have already learned. Like the Ashtanga yoga practice that follows a sequence wherein new postures incorporate previous ones, the structure of the book also moves recursively between preparation for and fortification of new experiences and deeper understanding. You are also introduced to manageable bits of yoga philosophy and the meaning of common yoga terms as you proceed. Like her teacher, Patabhi Jois, Zoë brings Sanskrit to life and makes it graspable. Having a background studying phonetics myself, as well as experience chanting with both Patabhi Jois and Manju Jois, I find that that the articulation of the language in the audio aid is true to traditional form. To boot, her vocal quality is beautifully warm and quite soothing.Learning Sanskrit awakens something ancient and gratifying in me. Something about focusing on the sounds and the letters and the logic of the grammar is very grounding. Sometimes while practicing yoga I see how the shape of my body in the asana emulates the letters of the alphabet. In a mysterious way Sanskrit has deepened my practice and enhanced the peace that I gain from yoga. The gorgeous David Whyte poem at the beginning of the book, “The Opening of Eyes,” sets the overall intention and perspective of Yogavataranam, that is, to further enlightenment.


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