Reading and inquiry in the yoga tradition is considered part of the practice of svadhyaya, or “self-study”, as described in the Yoga Sutra of Patañjali, and is a core aspect of the practice of Jñana Yoga, one of the primary aspects of practice described in the Bhagavad Gita. Studying together we engage with the deepest themes of spiritual life: the methods and results of practice, the nature of the self and existence, and how we can move in a complex world in ways that support our own and the whole world’s deep well-being.
These classes are for dedicated yoga and Dharma practitioners who want to go deeper in practice by learning from (and arguing with) some of the most useful and beautiful texts in our traditions. We often begin with yoga to open the body and energy, then read a classic text aloud and discuss. It’s a wonderful way to study, integrating physical and mental aspects of practice, and supports yogis to engage with source texts in a compelling and accessible way.
I do 7 core Sweat+Study workshops, reading texts from over 2000 years of yoga history and practice, along with occasional one-day special classes. Full descriptions below. Join me and a growing community of dedicated practitioners for these journeys into the heart of our tradition.
Contents of each course may vary due to length — in many classes we look at excerpts from the texts. For a few, which will say “full text intensive” on the schedule, we read the whole thing.
The Upanishads are the earliest teachings in the yoga tradition, dating from before the time of the Buddha, 2500-3000 years ago. They are the record of the first yoga sages, praising the Divine and instructing the seeker on the Path to realization of their True Self (Atman). We’ll read excerpts from three of the most important Upanishads, texts that offer in radiant ancient poetry the teachings that are the roots of yoga, meditation, and devotion in both the Hindu and Buddhist lineages.
Chandogya Upanishad: the first description of the mantra OM, foundational teachings on the body, self, and divinity, and many meditation and devotional practices.
Brihandaranyaka Upanishad: beautiful wisdom teachings on the Self (atman), meditation, and contemplation. The source of the asato ma mantra we often sing in class, and many other well-known yoga teachings.
Katha Upanishad: one of the clearest sources of yogic and Buddhist meditation and inquiry. The Katha tells the story of the seeker Nachiketas in conversation with Death (Yama), and the boons he receives in his quest for liberation. One of the most powerful and useful Upanishads for contemporary yogis.
The Buddhist tradition is a rich branch of the great tree of yoga, with teachings that cover the full range of practice, from ethics and guidelines for wise daily life and relationships, to instructions for meditation and inner cultivation, all the way to descriptions of the deepest truths of reality. We study a selection of core Buddhist texts from both early (Pali Canon) and later (Mahayana) schools.
Turning the Wheel of the Dharma (Dhamma-cakka-pavattana Sutta): the Buddha’s first discourse, given immediately after his enlightenment, and describing the Eightfold Path of practice he will teach. We’ll compare the Buddha’s “8 Limbs” to Patañjali’s, discussing similarities and differences.
Mindfulness of Breathing (Anapanasati Sutta): an important text describing the practice of breath meditation in subtle detail. In this class we’ll discuss samatha/samadhi (concentration practices), in detail, again comparing the instructions with Patañjali’s very similar path.
The Heart Sutra (Prajña-paramita-hridaya Sutra): the gorgeous and iconic Perfection of Wisdom text that opens the Buddha’s basic instructions into a space of radical non-duality. We’ll learn the powerful mantra to Prajña-Paramita, the Mother of All the Buddhas.
Texts given as handouts, but optional texts for deeper study:
Bhikkhu Bodhi, In the Buddha’s Words: An anthology of discourses from the Pali Canon
Red Pine, The Heart Sutra
The Satipatthana Sutta is the most important early Buddhist meditation text, and majestically lays out the full Buddhist path of mindfulness and embodied inquiry, guiding the practitioner through profound inquiry into direct experience. The sutta (or sutra) is the cornerstone of Buddhist meditation practice, and central to the development of Hindu yogas including Raja, Sankhya, and Jñana Yoga. It provides in depth instructions in meditation and mindfulness, guiding practitioners in bringing transformative awareness to all their activities, in formal sitting meditation, yoga asana, and throughout daily life.
Text given as a handout, but optional text for deeper study:
Analayo, Satipatthana: The Direct Path to Realization.
The Yoga Sutra of Patañjali is one of the most important root texts of yoga, and the source of the “8 Limb”, or ashtanga, outline of practice. Along with the Bhagavad Gita and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika it is one of the most valued source texts for modern yoga. This ancient meditation manual beautifully orients our practice on and off the yoga mat, guiding practitioners toward a profound stabilization of mind and heart, and the liberation that comes as we investigate deeply the nature of awareness. We will practice several meditation techniques and focus on how to integrate Patañjali’s method into our yoga practice. We read the Yoga Sutra in Chip Hartranft’s elegant and practical translation.
The Bhagavad Gita is one of the core texts of the yoga tradition, and one of humanity’s most beloved and beautiful spiritual books. It contains practical instructions for yoga practice and daily life, meditations on the nature of God, and a deep exploration of the question of how to live a good life, framed as a conversation on the battlefield on the brink of a terrible war. We will read the Gita in Stephen Mitchell’s accessible and poetic translation, discussing the “four yogas”: Karma, Jñana, Raja, and Bhakti, and wrestle with the challenging and powerful teaching on renunciation of the fruits of action.
Heart of Recognition
The Pratyabhijña-hrdayam (The Heart of Recognition) is an accessible root text in the Śaiva Tantra yoga tradition, written by the sage Ksemaraja. It describes in radiant verses the nature of consciousness and the journey of the self from bondage and the illusion of separateness to full liberation and realization of our true nature.
We’ll read the Pratyabhijña-hrdayam in Harish Wallis’s authoritative new translation, laying out a tantric path of practice in detail, with teachings on the subtle body, breath, awareness, meditation, and energetic cultivation. Tantric texts and the practices (sadhana) they teach are traditionally considered initiatory teachings, to be transmitted only from a qualified guru to appropriately-prepared students. Our reading of this text will not constitute formal initiation, but will give us a strong grounding in the philosophies and orientation of this beautiful tradition, and we’ll learn basic tantric practices that anyone can do to great benefit.
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, written by the sage Svatmarama in the fifteenth century, is the foundational instruction text for the Hatha Yoga tradition, and the lineages that led directly to our modern physical practice. It describes the practices of asana (postures), shatkarma (physical purifications), pranayama (breathwork), mudra and bandha (inner gestures), and samadhi (concentration and integration).
The Pradipika reveals the Tantric roots of Hatha Yoga, and we will discuss the relationship between modern Hatha Yoga and the Tantric tradition, exploring teachings on the energetic body (chakra, nadi, and granthi) and the Pradipika’s recommendations for a course of practice that leads to the goal of Liberation in this life, or jivanmukti.
We read Muktibodhananda’s version of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika from the Bihar school of yoga.