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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

Zoë Slatoff-Ponté; Art by Ben Ponté

North Point Press

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ISBN10: 086547754X
ISBN13: 9780865477544

Trade Paperback

528 Pages



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The traditional Indian method of learning Sanskrit is through oral transmission, by first memorizing texts and then learning their meaning. The Western academic approach methodically teaches the alphabet, declensions, grammar, syntax, and vocabulary building. Zoë Slatoff-Ponté's Yogavataranam integrates the traditional and academic approaches for a full and practical experience of Sanskrit study.

Yogavataranam approaches language systematically and at the same time allows students to read important and relevant texts as soon as possible, while emphasizing proper pronunciation through its audio accompaniment. The first section teaches reading and basic grammar, the second covers more extensive grammar, and by the third, students can begin to read and understand even more complex texts, such as the Upanisads.

Yogavataranam includes:

Step-by-step instructions on how to correctly write the alphabet
Exercises throughout, along with review exercises for each chapter
Sidebars on Indian philosophy, culture, etymology, and more
Vocabulary building based on important texts
An extensive glossary of terms
Consideration of translation techniques and challenges
Original translations of passages from central texts, such as the Yogasutra, Bhagavadgita, Hathapradipika, and various Upanisads

In addition, Web-based audio files accompany each chapter to teach proper pronunciation.

Yogavataranam is appropriate for all levels of study, whether a student is brand-new to Sanskrit or already has experience in pronunciation, reading devanagari script, interpreting meaning, or learning grammar-and whether the course is academic or based in yoga. This new approach joins theory and practice to invoke an active experience of the philosophy, the practice, and the culture that together inform the multiplicity of meanings contained within the single and powerful word "yoga."


Praise for Yogavataranam: The Translation of Yoga

“If only I had had Yogavataranam when I began my own study of Sanskrit! Acquiring a new language is a form of yoga; so is translation, and also the writing of a book. Zoë Slatoff-Ponté combines all these yogas to bring ancient wisdom into a modern context, clearly and carefully laying out all the essential but daunting conjugations, declensions, and sandhi rules of that beautifully crafted language. This is a book that can open up broad new vistas for any student of any of India's classical lores.”—Robert Svoboda, Ayurvedacharya

“Many students take up Sanskrit because of an interest in yoga, but until now no primers of the language reflected this. Yogavataranam does more than fill the gap: beautifully presented, perfectly paced, and innovative, most of its many examples are taken from an impressive range of Sanskrit texts on yoga. It is to be recommended both to teachers and to students wishing to learn the language on their own.”—Dr. James Mallinson, Lecturer in Sanskrit and classical Indian studies at SOAS, University of London, and co-author of Roots of Yoga

Yogavataranam is a treasure house of Sanskrit for all level of students. Zoë Slatoff-Ponté brings her years of expertise together in a comprehensive volume that clearly elucidates the basics of grammar for the beginning Sanskrit student, as well as giving deeper levels of instruction for more experienced students. One of the striking aspects of her book is the inclusion of verses from ancient yoga texts. Yogavataranam gives us the necessary level of learning to read these verses in their original language. In this wonderful book, Slatoff-Ponté makes this attainable."—Eddie Stern, director of Ashtanga Yoga New York and co-author of Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Through the Eyes of His Students

“Zoë Slatoff-Ponté and Ben Ponté have created a user-friendly Sanskrit grammar with the yoga student in mind. Unlike prior grammars which focus primarily on epic literature, this work aims to allow students to delve into Indian philosophical thought through immersive exercises that include readings from the Upanisads and the Bhagavad Gita, among other texts. The illustrations help guide the reader into the soundscape of Sanskrit through visual images. The typesetting and design of the book combine beautifully, helping to transform the project of learning Sanskrit into a joy rather than a task.”—Christopher Key Chapple, Doshi Professor of Indic and Comparative Theology and Director, Master of Arts in Yoga Studies, Loyola Marymount University

“Crafted with complete concentration and dedication, Yogavataranam brings into the written realm an alive, lyrical experience to learning the language of Sanskrit. Slatoff-Ponté masterfully interweaves into the lessons Hindu philosophy, mythology as well as etymology with clarity and a rare delicacy making it a must read for all yoga students. Ben Ponté's poetic and layered art work breathes added depth and soulfulness into the knowledge so generously brought forth by Yogavataranam.”—Sharmila Desai, co-author of Yoga Sadhana for Mothers

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Zoë Slatoff-Ponté; Art by Ben Ponté

Zoë Slatoff-Ponté has a master's degree in South Asian language and culture from Columbia University. Her thesis was a translation and exploration of a Sanskrit text on yoga and Ayurveda. She has practiced yoga since the age of fifteen; has traveled to Mysore almost annually to study at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, R. Sharath, and Saraswathi; and has been teaching for more than sixteen years. Her school, Ashtanga Yoga Upper West Side, is located in New York City.

Ben Ponté was born in Australia and now lives and works in New York City. He has an M.F.A. from the College of Fine Arts, Sydney. Ben has been traveling to India and practicing yoga since the late 1990s and is authorized to teach by R. Sharath Jois. His work draws on this experience to explore the perceptual process as a moment of translation, and he is currently focusing on the use and effect of mobile media devices on body/mind relationship in public space.


Ben Ponté

Official Links

Ashtanga Yoga Studio Web Site