With You I Breathe, A Yoga Column

No. 2: Who the hell is Patañjali?

A few weeks ago, I was reading The Heart of Yoga at the bar. At this particular bar, the bartender and I took a liking to one another, so that meant I got free rounds and my notes in my book became a bit more liberal. When I look at my book, I can see where the second beer started to hit me because there are notes everywhere in the margins. It takes me one beer for me to feel a little silly and two beers to just be drunk.

SinceI’m a lightweight, I had to stop going to my neighborhood bar because the bartender gave me too many free drinks (free rounds and then hourly shots of something sweet for everyone) and my friends would come find me and the people at the bar sent free drinks to us and then I just left drunkity drunk–when my intention was to just study yoga at the bar and leave a little bit more knowledgeable and to be entirely honest, I dislike the feeling of being intoxicated.

I think it was the first time I missed the bar in Echo Park where the bartenders did their best to look very cool and ignored me. In fact, I think they forgot I was reading in the corner.

In any case, on the top of the first page of Chapter 12: The World Exists to Set Us Free, I wrote in black ink, “Honestly: who the f is Patañjali?” I suppose the book kept referencing Patañjali, and I had forgotten who he was, or maybe never knew in the first place, but from what I gathered, he seemed pretty important.

Also, I think I remembered that whenever I went to my sutra classes, we started off by chanting something that had his name in it. Clearly, the guy was important. Did I mention I wasn’t an expert when it came to yoga?

So I gathered my yoga books and did a little research.

Well, I was disappointed and maybe relieved to read in The Heart of Yoga that “There is uncertainty as to who Patañjali was.”

So there you go:

Who the f. is Patañjali?

No one knows.

So, why do we care?

Oh, he just happens to be the guy who wrote the Yoga Sutras. Well, then. No wonder every book seems to refer to him like the reader should, of course, know who he is.  The Yoga Sutras are the foundation of yoga. In yoga, everything goes back to the Sutras. I may explain more about the Sutras, in other post, in this column.

I study the Yoga Sutras in a monthly class with Robert Birnberg in Silver Lake. If you’re interested in the classes, there is now a facebook event for them.

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