The traditional Indian method of learning Sanskrit is through oral transmission, memorizing texts first and then learning the meaning. The western academic approach methodically teaches the alphabet, declensions, grammar, syntax, and vocabulary building. Yogāvatāraṇam, a new Sanskrit textbook, integrates the traditional and academic approaches for a full and practical study experience.

Yogāvatāraṇam approaches language systematically while at the same time allowing students to read important and relevant texts as soon as possible, while emphasizing proper pronunciation through its audio accompaniment (see below). The first section teaches reading and basic grammar. The second covers more extensive grammar. By the third section the student can begin to read and understand even more complex texts such as the Upaniṣads.

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


Reviews and interviews

Nāmarūpa Interview
Grimmly's blog: Krishnamacharya's 'Original' Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga... At Home
Yoga City NYC Interview

Editorial Reviews

“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, author of Sristi, certified by KPJAYI


Alphabet Charts
Sandhi Charts
Verb Charts
Emendations to the book

Audio Files:

Introduction to the Audio Accompaniment: We begin with an invocation to Gaṇeśa, the remover of obstacles, and a chant to the guru to help open our eyes (and our ears)! In Part I, the audio files begin with the Sanskrit alphabet and contain the grammatical conjugations and declensions as well as all the examples and exercises from this section. In Parts II and III, only the examples and exercises are given. The Vedic chants are done with the Vedic pitch accents, as the proper pronunciation and exact cadence is essential. All other chants are done in melodies I have learned from my teachers in India. You may know some of these chants with slightly different tunes, and while pronunciation is still important, the intent is more important than the particular intonation for these chants. Try to listen to the audio as much as possible as you go through the book and recite along with the chants. The bonus tracks at the end of Part III are songs I recorded years ago with Anne H. Pollack when I was studying Hindustani and Carnatic classical music. The first is a chant to Gaṇeśa; the second is a song in Kannada to Lord Śiva, considered the first yogi and god of the yogis, explaining that you must have faith if you want him to respond.

Sanskrit Alphabet
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3, part 1
Chapter 3, part 2
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7, part 1
Chapter 7, part 2
Sandhi Review
Part I Review
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Part II Review
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Part III Review
Bonus Track I
Bonus Track II

Music Credits

For everything except the bonus tracks:
Vocals and Co-Produced by Zoë Slatoff
Co-Produced by Anne H. Pollack
For the bonus tracks:
Magica Axe Music, BMI
Vocals and Vocal Arrangements by Zoë Slatoff
Composition, Instrumental Performance and Production by Anne H. Pollack