Oxford Weekend School: The Yoga Sūtra 4–5 May 2019


The Yoga Sūtra is often described as the foundation of yoga practice. This weekend of interactive discussions with scholars and practitioners explores the Yoga Sūtra’s relevance to 21st century yogis.

How does it relate to modern yoga?

What does it really say about postures?

What goals does it define?

Patanjali's Yogasutra


Saturday 4 May: Corpus Christi College Oxford
Sunday 5 May Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies


Timings (each day)
Morning: 10.00am–1.00pm (includes tea break)
Lunch Break: 1.00–2.45pm
Afternoon: 2.45–5.30pm (includes tea break)


Enrolment fee of £345
includes teas and coffees,
lunch on Sunday,
and the course book The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali by Dr Nick Sutton


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Saturday Morning

Chapter 1: Refined Awareness

Patañjali dives in at the deep end, starting with the ultimate objective of meditative absorption. Yoga is defined as samādhi, a series of increasingly subtle states. At first, there are objects of concentration. Eventually, consciousness has no object but itself.

Tutor: Daniel Simpson
The Sūtras and their Commentaries
Combined, all 195 sūtras are barely as long as a newspaper feature. Their bullet-point style makes them easy to memorise and hard to interpret. Commentaries add information and context – the sūtras are traditionally not read without them.

Tutor: Daniel Simpson
Connections with the Bhagavad Gītā
Although Patañjali’s yoga is based on non-theistic Sāṃkhya philosophy, it also includes devotion to a deity. This is part of a “yoga of action”, which has parallels to karma-yoga in the Gītā. The Gītā and the Yoga Sūtras teach a similar approach, combining effort with detachment.

Tutor: Dr Nick Sutton

Saturday Afternoon

Chapter 2: Practical Methods

Yoga Texts

By far the best known of Patañjali’s teachings is aṣṭāṅga-yoga, a practical framework of “eight parts”. However, there are other methods that help reduce suffering by dissolving mental obstacles, and some of them lead to absorption in samādhi.

Tutor: Daniel Simpson
First Do No Harm: Yogic Ethics

OCHS Online Sanskrit 3

Patañjali teaches ethics as a foundational step towards steadying the mind. And while yama and niyama have worldly dimensions, they are largely aimed at renunciates. What ethical lessons does Patañjali have for the rest of us?

Tutor: Daniel Simpson
Old Text – New Insights

Sapta Chakra - Philosophy of Yoga an Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies online course

We look at two current debates on the Yoga Sūtra. (1) Was the first commentary on the Yoga Sūtra – Vyāsa’s Yogasūtrabhāṣya – actually written by Patañjali himself. And if so, why does it matter? (2) How does the Yoga Sūtra and this first commentary relate to Buddhism?

Tutor: Dr Karen O'Brien Kop

Sunday Morning

Chapter 3: Mystic Powers

History of Yoga: An ochsonline.org course

More than three-dozen sūtras – a fifth of the text – list superhuman capabilities. These “accomplishments”, or siddhis, have always been part of the yoga tradition. Are they markers of progress or are they obstructions? How do we interpret their meaning today?

Tutor: Daniel Simpson
Chanting the Yoga Sūtras

Introduction to Hinduism: History, Text, Philosophy and Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies online course

Sanskrit is made for chanting. In this session we are led through key parts of the text and learn how they are meant to be heard.

Tutor: Gabriella Burnel
Contentment as the Ultimate Superpower

Philosophy of Yoga - an Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies online course

Yogic powers are often portrayed as the result of asceticism. However, asceticism ≠ self-torture. Some of the earliest techniques use self-control as a path to happiness, even bliss!

Tutor: Valters Negribs

Sunday Afternoon

Chapter 4: Splendid Isolation

Liberation in the Yoga Sūtra sounds extreme: a total separation of spirit and matter. A yogi in this state of kaivalya is completely detached from material existence. Is it the end of active life, or are there ways to be worldly once enlightened?

Tutor: Daniel Simpson

The Yoga Sūtra is often interpreted via the prism of Vedanta and other philosophies, in which liberation can often mean union. Indian texts describe a wide range of ways of transcending the world, some of which sound more appealing than others.

Tutor: Dr Jessica Frazier
Yoga Sūtra Now!

Although frequently quoted by teachers, the Yoga Sūtra has little to say about postural yoga, and other parts of the system are less often taught. In this session we learn how āsana links with meditation and provides inward focus.

Tutor: Daniel Simpson


Daniel Simpson
Daniel Simpson

Daniel is one of our key tutors. He teaches the Philosophy of Yoga and the Veda and Upanishads courses. A Visiting Scholar to the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies in 2019, Daniel has a Master’s degree in Traditions of Yoga and Meditation from SOAS, University of London. He’s a devoted practitioner of asana, pranayama, and meditation. Daniel’s experience as a foreign correspondent helps him make complex subjects accessible.

Dr Jessica Frazier
Dr Jessica Frazier

An OCHS alumna, Jessica has degrees in Sanskrit, Religious Studies, and Philosophy of Religion from Oxford and Cambridge. She appears frequently on BBC radio and television talking on Hinduism. Jessica edits the Journal of Hindu Studies and teaches at Oxford University.

Dr Karen O’Brien Kop

Karen teaches in the Department of Religions and Philosophies at SOAS, University of London and is a Visiting Lecturer in Indian Philosophy and Religion at the University of Roehampton, UK. She is a co-founder of the Sanskrit Reading Room and a committee member of the SOAS Centre of Yoga Studies. A former OCHS Online student, Karen has authored and is tutoring our History of Yoga course. She has published in the journal Religions of South Asia (2017) and is co-editing The Routledge Handbook of Yoga and Meditation Studies.

Dr Nick Sutton
Dr Nick Sutton

Nick is the Director – and the heart and soul – of the OCHS Continuing Education Department. He is a dedicated teacher with decades of experience in making sometimes-confusing traditions relevant. He has created ten online courses and is working on many more. He has written translations and commentary on Bhagavad Gītā and the Yoga Sūtra.

Gabriella Burnel

Gabriella began studying Sanskrit at age five and philosophy at eight. She continued her Sanskrit studies at Oxford and has continued her studies in India and the UK ever since and has been working privately as a Sanskrit tutor for many years in London. Gabriella writes musical theatre and teaches the Alexander Technique. She aims to complete a PhD on Voice and the study of speech in Sanskrit.

Valters Negribs

Valters is an OCHS student and a doctoral candidate in Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford. He is researching the history of yoga and ascetic practices in ancient India. Valters has a masters degree in Traditions of Yoga and Meditation from SOAS, University of London. 


Corpus Christi Oxford

Day One is at Corpus Christi College. Founded in 1517, it is one of Oxford’s finest.

Day Two is at the less elegant, but equally fascinating, Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies.

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OCHS Summer School 2019

On Sunday, a simple and tasty vegetarian (with vegan options) meal fit for the discerning yogi will be served at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies.


Enrolment fee £345
includes teas and coffees,
lunch on Sunday,
and the course book The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali by Dr Nick Sutton



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Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies

13-15 Magdalen St
Oxford OX1 3AE

Regd Charity No. 1074458

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