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

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  1,519 ratings  ·  116 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.
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.
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
4/5 Stars
Library Loan

For some reason, as of lately, I have been struggling with reading spiritually awakening books, yoga books, self-help books, etc. It might have to be because of the low scoring on the last two reads. Who knows. What I do know is that something happened when I read this book. All the other books were factual and gave me clarity on yoga, meditation, and finding your own path. The Wisdom of Yoga, however, touched a part of me and opened it up.

I had been struggling in my yoga p
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
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.
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!
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.
Fern Daddy
Apr 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
At first, I was intimidated by this book. I almost took it right back to the library to find a fluffy little novel that I could rip through. However, I felt drawn to finish it and knew I could learn something from its pages. After reading it, I am grateful I chose to stick it out. It is a book that you will be thinking about weeks after you’ve put the jacket back on, and you may even find yourself returning to it in the future.

Cope’s stories of his friends at the yoga center help keep the book
Dan Bimrose
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent book and enjoyable to read. It goes deep into meditation and provides some insight into what the possible actually is. It takes time for most of us to realize that “self” is a great deal more than what we see in the mirror. In a world full of meds to relieve depression and anxiety,any would be well served to take charge of their own healing and one does that by trying to figure out what’s going on in our head. I love speculating that many of the people that bought this book ...more
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stephen Cope gives the perspective of a psychotherapist (and Kripalu Yoga teacher) on Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. The presentation through individual stories is helpful. The appendices contain a translation of the sutras, as well as some distinction from Buddhism.
This book was not at all about asanas and physiology though, and more about states of conciousness and breathing -- as in Buddism.
I picked it up to learn more about the physical practice, but in the end still got a lot out of reading it.
Aug 13, 2020 rated it liked it
I really love the premise and structure of this book - a balanced blend of narrative, Western psychology, and yogic philosophy. This was probably my own personal taste but I found the narrative explorations much more compelling than Cope’s analysis or interpretations of the Yoga Sutras. I found this writing slightly too technical still, or just too far-reaching to really drive home specific teachings of the Sutras. The irony in this is that through the book Cope admits his own struggle with bein ...more
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.
Scott Myers
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: yoga, physical
After having read Alistair Shearer's translation of "The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali" (an excellent translation, in my opinion; very accessible), this book expounded on the Sutras & brought them to life nicely. This book was also a nice story/journey with the characters that are followed in the book. Makes me want to head to Kripalu ... (a venture that has been on my mind for many years before this book came along!) and LIVE there. ...more
Kimmy Gaul
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An easy, relatable read that doesn’t skimp on depth. Diving into the yoga sutra and the ordinary struggles of life, readers gain a well rounded understanding of questions and experiences that humans have had for thousands of years. This is going up on the list of one my top books. Transformative in nature, especially for those who practice yoga and meditation wanting to sink deeper. Recommended!!
Nirupa Umapathy
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A deep, profound book that I did not give into reading even though I had bought the book in 2013. I did not feel ready. I could not relate. I savored this book over almost 6 months this year, reflecting deeply on my new life, and putting it to work in my daily and constantly evolving yoga practice.
While I don't seek as much as I walk everyday, this book is unforgettable. I will always return.
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
One of the most helpful things about this book is how the author clearly articulates the similarities between Buddhism and the yogic tradition (along with a few of the differences). It's a little dense, but helpful for anyone looking to understand the philosophy behind those stretchy poses.
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was part of my yoga teacher training recommended reading list..... Goodreads just (re)recommended it to me. I often return to the journey my inner world took during this book.... ‘transformative’ is accurate. Stephen Cope walks his talk and is a very good role model.
Oct 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-reads
This was a fantastic read! Personally, I would have preferred more of the “technical stuff” and less stories, but that’s just me. There’s a ton of information here and I really enjoyed each chapter. If you are AT ALL interested in the philosophy of yoga, I think you’ll enjoy this book too.
Angela Morgan
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
More of a guided psychological book of how to live your life based on yogic and buddhist principals, its a really good book to live your life by, I found lots of ways to incorporate actions into my daily life, and new ways of looking at old situations.
Apr 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was the perfect book to read at this moment in time... I savored every page, especially the last chapter. I forced myself to read it slowly and went right back to the beginning when I read the last page. This is a book that I will keep close and return to again and again.

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.
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.
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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…