Classes

Sanskrit, chanting and philosophy classes taught By Zoe Slatoff-Ponte author of Yogavataranam: The Translation of Yoga at Ashtanga Yoga Upper West Side. Classes include: Mysore Style Sanskrit, The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, The Bhagavad Gita, Asana names.

Current/Upcoming Classes

Please email to register or for more information or for private Sanskrit or chanting/philosophy lessons.
Take our survey about what classes you are interested in and what times you would prefer.
 

Weekly Chanting/Meditation

Fridays, 11:30-12
By donation. All donations go to the ACLU.
 

Intro to Sanskrit for Yogis

A Three Part Series: Sundays, Sept. 17th, Oct. 15th and Nov. 12th, 12 - 2pm
$100 for the series

An understanding of Sanskrit can help to connect us to the rich fabric of philosophy from which the yoga tradition emerged and thus deepen our practice. Sanskrit study can be a meditation in itself and helps to cultivate concentration. It is also fun!

In this three part series, we will learn to read and write the Sanskrit alphabet, emphasizing proper pronunciation through chanting. Each class will build upon the previous one, as we begin to read and write familiar words, chants and yoga-related verses. Homework will be given, to be done during the month between sessions, which I will review.

This course is ideal for both beginners and those with some experience who would like to reinvigorate their studies.
 

Yoga Studies Weekend

Saturday, 10/21, 10-12:30am: Āsana Names and Ashtanga Mantras
Saturday, 10/21, 2-5pm: Practice and Philosophy
Sunday, 10/22, 2-5pm:  Yoga Sūtra Chanting and Philosophy

$120/full workshop; $45/ single session
All levels welcome.

Saturday, 10/21, 10-12:30am: Āsana Names and Ashtanga Mantras

This workshop is for all levels. We will begin with the opening mantra of ashtanga yoga, learning the proper pronunciation and discussing its meaning and importance in relation to the ashtanga practice. I will give a brief introduction to the Sanskrit alphabet and basic Sanskrit pronunciation. We will then go through the āsana (posture) names in primary and intermediate series and break down and discuss their meaning and the stories they invoke. We will also discuss the vinyāsa counting system and how it runs through the practice. We will end by chanting and discussing the closing śānti (peace) mantra. An understanding of the ashtanga mantras and āsana names will add a new depth of meaning to your daily practice.

Saturday, 10/21, 2-5pm: Practice and Philosophy

In this workshop I will give an overview of yoga philosophy from Vedic times to the present, situating the practice within its historical context. We will look at the ideas of Sāṃkhya and Vedānta, out of which the yoga tradition has emerged, as well as later influences, such as Tantra. I will highlight specific verses from yogic texts, such as the Upaniṣads, Bhagavad Gītā, Yoga Sūtra, and Haṭha Pradīpikā. We will discuss how the yoga philosophy is embedded within our daily yoga practice and how we can draw on and deepen those connections.

Sunday, 10/22, 2-5pm:  Yoga Sūtra Chanting and Philosophy

In this workshop we will explore the Yoga Sūtra, highlighting key verses from all four chapters. Through chanting and discussion, we will investigate the meaning of yoga, as laid out in this text, and how how the sūtras can help us to cultivate clarity, compassion, strength and joy in our practice and in our lives.

 

Mysore-Style Sanskrit

Sundays, Aug. 27th, Sept. 10th, 24th 12-1:30PM
$25 each or $60 / 3 classes

Whether you are brand new to studying Sanskrit or have some experience - interested in learning proper pronunciation, reading the devanāgarī script, delving into meaning and grammar, or in just deepening your yoga practice - this class is appropriate for all levels. We will begin and end by chanting together and follow a common theme, using yogic texts and philosophy as the vehicle of study. During the class, students will be broken into groups depending on ability and given individual instruction and assignments. We will be learning from my new Sanskrit textbook, Yogāvatāraṇam: The Translation of Yoga, which began as notes for teaching this course. The study of Sanskrit at any level will deepen your yoga practice both on and off the mat - opening your heart, mind and soul to greater levels of subtle awareness, concentration and understanding.

 

 

 


Past/Future Classes
 

Introduction to Sanskrit for Yoga Students

Sunday, March 5, 12:30-2PM
$25

An understanding of Sanskrit can help to connect us to the richer fabric of philosophy from which the yoga tradition emerged and thus deepen our practice. Sanskrit study can be a meditation in itself and helps to cultivate concentration. It is also fun! Learning the alphabet allows you to feel like a child again, opening the doors to a whole new world. In this workshop I will give an introduction to the Sanskrit language. We will learn to read and write the Sanskrit alphabet, emphasizing proper pronunciation through chanting the fundamental sounds. We will then begin to read familiar words and chants. The resonant quality of the Sanskrit language and the ujjayi breath we do as we practice yoga are directly related. Our speech/breath is the link that joins our bodies and minds. This workshop will help to strengthen that connection.

Patañjali's Yoga Sūtra: Philosophy and Chanting, Chapter 2

Sunday, February 12th & 19th, 12:30-2PM
$45 for both classes; $25 single class

In this workshop we will concentrate on the second chapter of the Yoga Sūtra, the Sādhana Pāda, the chapter on practice. This chapter is perhaps the most relevant and interesting to modern yoga students, as it provides guidance for how we should practice, both on and off the mat. Patañjali discusses the afflictions of our minds and how to remove them and avoid suffering - through the eight-limbed path of aṣṭāṅga yoga. He then elaborates on the first five limbs, beginning with a moral and ethical code for living in the world. Through chanting and discussion, this workshop will provide insight into how the sūtras can help us to cultivate clarity,  compassion, strength and joy in our practice and in our lives.

Patañjali's Yoga Sūtra: Philosophy and Chanting, Chapter 3

Sunday, May 14, 12-1:30PM; $25

This workshop will concentrate on the third chapter of the Yogasūtra, the Vibhūti Pāda, the chapter on extraordinary powers. It explores the last three limbs of ashtanga yoga, which when joined together create a powerful form of concentration, saṃyama, that can produce various mystical capabilities. Although we may not all start flying, the concentration developed through yoga practice can be used in ways we may never have dreamed possible. We will chant the sūtras together and discuss both the positive aspects as well as the dangers of spiritual practice, which are embedded in this chapter. All are welcome.

Āsana Names and Ashtanga Mantras

This workshop is for all levels. We will begin with the opening mantra of ashtanga yoga, learning the proper pronunciation and discussing its meaning and importance in relation to the ashtanga practice. I will give a brief introduction to the Sanskrit alphabet and basic Sanskrit pronunciation. We will then go through the āsana (posture) names in primary series and part of intermediate series and break down and discuss their meaning and the stories they invoke. We will also discuss the vinyāsa counting system and how it runs through the practice. We will end by chanting and discussing the closing śānti (peace) mantra. An understanding of the ashtanga mantras and āsana names will add a new depth of meaning to your daily practice.

 

Patañjali's Yoga Sūtra: Philosophy and Chanting, Chapter 1

This course will concentrate on the first chapter of the Yogasūtra, the Samādhi Pāda, the chapter on profound meditation and unified consciousness. This chapter is the foundation of all yoga practice, providing a fundamental understanding of why we practice. We will begin each class by chanting the first chapter in the traditional method of śruti-paramparā, and move on to a discussion of the sūtras. We will investigate the meaning of yoga, as laid out in this text, and how it translates into our modern lives.


Bhagavad Gītā: Chanting and Philosophy

The Bhagavadgītā, or "Song of the Beloved Lord," is a dialogue between Arjuna, one of the five Pāṇḍava brothers, and the god Kṛṣṇa. Through Arjuna's external conflict of whether to fight his cousins, the Kauravas, in battle, the internal struggle in his Soul is revealed. Kṛṣṇa responds by teaching him yoga, both as a means to journey inward toward its ultimate stage of union with the Divine, and as a way of learning to act and fulfill one's dharma in the world. Through chanting and discussion, we will explore this dialogue and the events on this epic battlefield, which represent the age-old struggle between good and bad, right and wrong, truth and untruth and the Soul's search for meaning.

 

Yoga Philosophy and Practice

 

In this workshop I will give an overview of yoga philosophy from Vedic times to the present, situating the practice within its historical context. We will look at the ideas of Samkhya and Vedanta, out of which the yoga tradition has emerged, as well as later influences, such as Tantra. I will highlight specific verses from yogic texts, such as the Upaniṣads, Bhagavad Gītā, Yoga Sūtra, and Haṭha Pradīpikā. We will discuss how the yoga philosophy is embedded within our daily yoga practice and how we can draw on and deepen those connections.

Patañjali's Yoga Sūtra: Philosophy and Chanting, Chapter 3

This course will concentrate on the third chapter of the Yogasūtra, the Vibhūti Pāda, the chapter on extraordinary powers. It explores the last three limbs of ashtanga yoga, which when joined together create a powerful form of concentration, saṃyama, that can produce various mystical capabilities. Although we may not all start flying, the concentration developed through yoga practice can be used in ways we may never have dreamed possible. We will chant the sūtras together and discuss both the positive aspects as well as the dangers of spiritual practice, which are embedded in this chapter.

 

Patañjali's Yoga Sūtra: Philosophy and Chanting, Chapter 4

This course will focus on the fourth chapter of the Yogasūtra, the Kaivalya Pāda, the chapter on oneness. The oneness which Patañjali presents seems to be a way of seeing the world through a non-dualistic lens, implying wholeness and emphasizing individuality in all of its complexity. When we practice yoga in this spirit, we can do so by accepting and honoring the many facets of who we are, not by attempting to banish them or force them into a unity, but by allowing them to flourish. We will chant the sūtras together and explore how this oneness and multiplicity manifests in our lives.

 

Ādityahṛdayam

The Ādityahṛdayam, “the heart of the Sun,” is a chant to the Sun God, from the Yuddha Kāṇḍa (6th book) of the Rāmāyaṇa. Rāma, the hero, has gone to rescue his beloved wife, Sītā, who has been kidnapped by Rāvaṇa, but in the pivotal moment, he becomes paralyzed on the battlefield. The sage Agastya arrives and tells him to pray to the Sun God for the strength and courage to face his obstacles and fears. This chant is said to convey all of the same benefits as sūryanamaskāra, sun salutations. Guruji used to say that it should be chanted before (or during) practice in order to gather the energy and vitality of the sun. In this workshop we will chant this auspicious mantra, discuss its meaning and invoke the courage to face our own obstacles and fears.


 आदित्यहृदयं पुण्यं सर्वशत्रुविनाशनम् ।
जयावहं जपेन्नित्यमक्षय्यं परमं शिवम् ॥ ४ ॥

āditya-hṛdayaṃ puṇyaṃ sarva-śatru-vināśanam |
jayāvahaṃ japennityam akṣayyaṃ paramaṃ śivam || 4 ||

 

One should always recite the Ādityahṛdayam
It is holy, the destroyer of all enemies,
Bringer of victory, eternal,
The most auspicious.


 सर्वमङ्गलमाङ्गल्यं सर्वपापप्रणाशनम् ।
चिन्ताशोकप्रशमनमायुर्वर्धनमुत्तमम् ॥ ५ ॥

sarva-maṅgalam āṅgalyaṃ sarva-pāpa-praṇāśanam |
cintā-śoka-praśamanam āyurvardhanam uttamam || 5 ||

The highest blessing among all blessings,
Destroying all evil,
Pacifying anxiety and sorrow,
The best at increasing longevity.


अभ्यासात्कादिवर्णानां यथा शास्त्राणि बोधयेत् ।
तथा योगं समासाद्य तत्त्वज्ञानं च लभ्यते ॥

abhyāsāt kādi-varṇānāṃ yathā śāstrāṇi bodhayet |
tathā yogaṃ samāsādya tattva-jñānaṃ ca labhyate ||

Just as from the repeated study of the alphabet,
One may come to understand teachings of wisdom.
So, too, by means of Yoga,
One may attain knowledge of the real truth.

- Gheraṇḍasaṃhitā 1.5