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The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker's Guide to Extraordinary Living

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  1,205 Ratings  ·  92 Reviews
For modern spiritual seekers and yoga students alike, here is an irreverent yet profound guide to the most sophisticated teachings of the yoga wisdom tradition–now brought to contemporary life by a celebrated author, psychotherapist, and leading American yoga instructor.

While many Westerners still think of yoga as an invigorating series of postures and breathing exercises,
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published June 27th 2006 by Bantam (first published 2006)
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Sep 23, 2011 rated it liked it
This is the 1st book i've read about yoga and its deeper purpose. As an atheist, I am intrinsically weary of self-help and spiritual books but I am also deeply in love with yoga so I thought I'd give this book a go since I've heard great things about it. There was a lot of amazing insight in it for me, and I really like how he talks about the fact that scientists have studied what happens in our brains when we meditate and practice yogic physical and mental movements. That part of it speaks to m ...more
Phillip Moffitt
Stephen Cope is a psychotherapist and a longtime Kripalu Yoga teacher. In this book he integrates the Buddha’s insight of suffering into the daily lives of a series of friends who are fellow yoga practitioners. He provides a thorough teaching on the overlap of Patanjali’s yoga sutras with Theravada Buddhism, while respecting both traditions. The book provides a feel for how you might start to incorporate mindfulness in your own daily life.
Clif Brittain
Jan 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Clif by: Yoga Journal
There was a lot of meat on this bone. I have been practicing yoga for about eight months, and as I become more familiar with the physical aspects of yoga, I find myself more interested in the mental side as well. So there is a pull factor involved in exploring the wisdom of yoga. There is also a push factor, in that I am increasingly uneasy about my relationship with my church. There have been a lot of changes within the Catholic Church - new pope, new archbishop, new pastor - none of which reso ...more
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book. Patanjali's Yoga Sutras can be very hard to read as they are written in short and sometimes cryptic messages of wisdom. However, this book will take you through the lives of people and their struggles and apply the sutras (and more) to their life trials and tribulations. It's a great read for anyone whether you're in to practicing yoga or not.
Mar 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Yoga teachers and students, spiritual seekers
Recommended to Colleen by: Jamie Reckers
I read this book for my Yoga Book Club here in Portland. As a yoga teacher, I really enjoyed how author Stephen Cope wove the Yoga Sutras throughout the book, making them less esoteric and more accessible than I've experienced in the past. He touches on psychology, neurology, and Buddhist philosophy as well as dozens of years of yoga scholarship to describe the yogic path to wisdom.
Apr 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book helps explain the yoga-sutra to a layperson such as myself. By using personal stories of people he's known the author shows how the concepts or sutras are manifested and/or can be put into practice. Part Five of the book (the last part) was the only part I found too existentialist, but perhaps I'm just not ready for that yet. I liked how he provided a comparative of raja-yoga and Buddhism- having read some works of lama surya das i was thinking I was seeing similarities...but wasn't su ...more
Oct 19, 2015 rated it liked it
I felt this book made a lot of wisdom clear and accessible. Unfortunately, the author quotes Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh/Osho a couple times toward the end and that put a damper on things for me. No matter how insightful BSR/Osho's pull quotes seem, he was a deeply corrupt person who deeply corrupted his followers and did great harm. His ideas and words do not deserve the esteem they are given.
Devon Blakely
Dec 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Beautiful work!!! Cope has brought Patanjali's yoga sutras to life for me more than anything else i have read to date! Although he occasionally lost my interest with his foray into theoretical psychology, by framing the book around personal experience he has created a very modern day identification and the opportunity for personal application of this ancient wisdom.
Nancy B
Mar 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is the first yoga book that I have read and found it very interesting and inspirational. I want to read Stephen's other book the practice of yoga and want to continue reading more about the philosophy and practical applications.
Jul 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own-it
Love this book so much! 10 outta 5!
Nov 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I like the combining aspects of Western Psychology with the inner mind working of yoga practice and meditation. Very inspiring to deepening my own practice.
Apr 16, 2016 marked it as to-read
Very enjoyable and informative book about the yoga sutras.
Nov 23, 2017 rated it liked it
I studied with Stephen Cope twice at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health and found him to be a very engaging and intelligent person. I spent a lot of time reading this book, as it's one to sip rather than guzzle. Stephen relates Patanjali's Yoga Sutras to his experience as a yoga seeker. As a yoga teacher, I'm hoping to use some of this in my teaching. The book is much more theoretical than I anticipated and quite dense.
Jordan Yee
Jul 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Required reading for yoga teacher training
Stephanie Spence
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-yoga-library
One of my favorites that I refer to often.
Jun 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished-reading
Interesting case studies and how the experiences of individuals evolve in response to their introspective and meditation practices.
Mar 18, 2017 rated it liked it
As an on and off practitioner of yoga, I can relate to the first half of the book. The second half, as others have mentioned in their reviews, relates to higher concepts on yoga that seem only attainable by those who are able to intensely study for months or even years at a time. It is unlikely that I'll ever be able to attain this level of understanding but it was well described. It just wasn't anything that I could relate to or really see myself using.
Lucy Ambs
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Okay so i only give 5 stars if the books changed my life.THIS BOOK CHANGED MY LIFE! 1. I have been mistaken my entire life on the most fundamental factors of being human. 2. I am now convinced Jesus was a Yogi. 3. Erratidating Duhka from my life will be but a byproduct of the life upon which i am embracing as of today. 4. WOW!
Nov 30, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: spirituality, yoga
I found Cope's approach to this book pretty fascinating. He began writing the book with the intention of writing a traditional commentary on Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, and he completed exhaustive research into yoga philosophy and Sanskrit with this in mind; however, the focus of the project morphed and shifted as he wrote. The final book includes three intertwining components: commentary and explanation of the yoga sutras, explication of the sutras from a modern psychological perspective based on ...more
Robin Ripley
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: meditation
For someone interested in the philosophical foundations of yoga (It's not just exercise!), this is an excellent book. Cope weaves the stories of five people on the path toward understanding with the philosophy and theory behind yoga. In the process, he manages to make some very high-concept ideas understandable.

I hung with him all the way until near the very end when it became pretty difficult for me--the discussion of the mystical, transcendent experience of meditation. It seemed very inaccess
Aug 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Wisdom of Yoga is a unique book that examines yogic philosophy through the lens of Western psychology. The premise is a writer working on a book about yogic philosophy who grows closer to the students in his yoga classes. They all have problems, to which they apply yogic principles. This results in interesting, real-life scenarios in which the abstract ideas of yoga (nonattachment, nonreactivity, restraint, etc.) are applied in a concrete way. The reason I am not giving it five stars is the ...more
Aug 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is the first book I've read on yoga, and I think Stephen Cope did a great job of intertwining the stories of real people and yoga philosophy (both strict and commentary).
'Wisdom' was a great introduction to the terminology, history and bigger picture of a yogi's journey through postures and practice. I especially loved the inclusion of his experiences in meditation. The different perspectives offered by his students really added a reliable and interesting element to the book! Might have be
Sarah Wheeler
Dec 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Some beautiful engagement with Patanjali's sutras. Many of the stories of his friends that he used to illustrate the concepts, however, felt entirely too precious or silly. Rather than deepening and enhancing his message, for me those narratives distracted and sometimes irritated. Perhaps Cope is just better at nonfiction than narrative story telling--or maybe it's better to say this book is really about intellectual engagement with the sutras. Worth reading for that stuff and I will certainly r ...more
Sep 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book and it definitely increased my interest in meditation. Cope has a very enjoyable and accessible writing style, but this is not a quick read (lots to ponder along the way). It got a bit too mystical for me about 2/3 of the way through, but I was completely riveted before that point. I currently have a borrowed copy, but I think this may be one that I want to own. I can see myself wanting to re-read many sections.
Mar 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this more than Light on Yoga. Cope's descriptions are easy to understand and follow. He can be repetitive at times but it’s all in an effort to emphasize the point. The lessons learned through the experiences of his friends, I found to be the most helpful. It gives context to the things he is talking about. I had a lot of trouble keeping the Sanskrit words straight but that has more to do with me than the book. Great introduction into a deeper study of yoga.
Rachel Burton
May 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008, yoga, non-fiction
Stephen Cope is a psychologist turned yoga teacher and looks at yoga through the viewpoint of the shrink's couch. It's not the way I look at yoga but gives me a wonderful insight into another of the many threads of the yoga journey.

This time Cope takes the inscrutible Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as his basis and shows how the wisdom of the ancients helps us with modern day problems.

Tough going in places but beautifully written and worth the effort.
Jun 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: yoga
I really enjoyed reading this book, even though it took me forever and a day to get through it. It is written in the style of a novel which makes it a fairly easy read for those who are not 100% familiar with yoga philosophy. There are a few sections that are a bit too technical at times, but it balances out with the rest of the book. Anyone interested in more than just the physical side of yoga may enjoy this...I definitely reccommend it.
May 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book really spoke to me. More than the Power of Now and more than Conversations With God.
It has liberated me. It's a totally subjective thing, so I expect others may not agree.
Although I experienced light bulb moments, it was pretty much in the final pages that I had a massive realisation. Whether people think it's a great book or not, for me it was definitely a case of Timing. I was meant to read this book, to receive certain knowledge, at this very time.
Thank you, Universe.
Aug 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
An accessible approach to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and easy to read given the complexity of the material. I really enjoyed the way Stephen Cope showed how the Sutras can be applied to modern lives and also enjoyed the parallels he drew to the American Transcendetalists and other writers and philosophers. A thought-provoking read and a fruitful exploration of the Yoga Sutras and definitely a book to revisit.
Nov 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read this book as recommended reading for the yoga teacher training at Kripalu. I found Cope's concepts and use of psychology unique; Cope is a psychoanalyst, a contemporary of Freud. Cope does use psychoanalysis in unique applications, unlike Freud, who sits on his couch supposedly listening to his patients, Cope applies hands on techniques so his patients are in complete control of their therapeutic healing.
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Can a Christian find truth in the wisdom of Yoga? 2 18 Dec 18, 2009 09:46AM  
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Stephen Cope is the director of the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living, the largest yoga research institute in the Western world—with a team of scientists affiliated with major medical schools on the East coast, primarily Harvard Medical School. He has been for many years the senior scholar in residence at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Massachusetts, and is the author of fou ...more
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“Quoting from Thomas Merton
Dialogues With Silence
The true contemplative is not one who prepares his mind for a particular message that he wants or expects to hear, but is one who remains empty because he knows that he can never expect to anticipate the words that will transform his darkness into light. He does not even anticipate a special kind of transformation. He does not demand light instead of darkness. He waits on the Word of God in silence, and, when he is answered it is not so much by a word that bursts into his silence. It is by his silence itself, suddenly, inexplicably revealing itself to him as a word of great power, full of the voice of God. (17)”
“Quoting from Phillip Moffitt
Will Yoga and Meditation Really Change My Life?
The most profound change I’m aware of just now is a growing realization that life is not personal. This may seem a surprising or even strange view to those unfamiliar with Eastern spirituality, but it has powerful implications. It’s very freeing to see that events in my life are arising because of circumstances in which I am not involved, but that I’m not at the center of them in any particular way. They’re impersonal. They’re arising because of causes and conditions. They are not “me.” There is a profound freedom in this. It makes life much more peaceful and harmonious because I’m not in reaction to events all the time. (134)”
More quotes…