This is his story:
It is said that once Lord Vishnu lying on his serpent couch was watching the powerfully dynamic dance of Lord Shiva. His responsive body twitched to the rhythm of Lord’s Shiva dance. A deeply affect Shesh Nag, overwhelmed by the sinuous movement of the dancing Sbiva, pleaded with Lord Vishnu to allow him human birth, so he can learn the yoga of such movements. That is how Ananta (another name for Adishesh) fell down from the heavens. Just at that moment an old woman Gonika, who was praying for a son held up her palms in the anjali mudra (gesture of prayer). The serpent god fell into her palms. That is how he got the name Patanjali. This explains also his representation in with half-human, half-snake body. (this snippet from some website, cannot recall which one tho:(
But like a true yogi, I doubt he wanted his name to become famous. Rather, he had a message.
The Yoga Sutras are, in my mind, the most powerful self-study, psychoanalysis text in the whole world. It is the most practical mind-control tool too.
It is mind-watching at its most intimate and the best..
And really, u watch that slippery thing most when u do asanas and pranayama.
Some egotistic `certified'-in-Patanjali-yoga-types call me up. Apparently since they have difficulty with asana practice they want me to teach them asanas, but they also want me to give them lectures on Patanjali. They actually want an asana class combined with a lec on Patanjali... Lazy lazy!! If I talk about him, they will understand? These people who lack the discipline for practice? Mmm. I dislike such calls, and nowadays, cut them short, because I believe, they have no clue at all what he is saying. Some exploit his name to mean that he was not into hatha (as in physical yoga). That is a silly assumption. I believe, and it is clear when u do serious yoga, that he was talking to a set of people whose asana and pranayama practice was solid. Those who understand the disorientation we feel when we are physically fearful also meet the mind then.. that is when u understand the mind is aloof from the body. They have their own tracks and often their paths don't meet. Plus, they stymie each other. Emotions are separate from thoughts. There is a rational mind and an animal mind, all erupting in a static when u try a tough pose. It is here, suddenly all those different parts of you show up.. not in your wrist curls but in a crow pose or a headstand and also in strong pranayama... Here u meet up with those things inside of u that Patanjali is going to talk to you about. If u don't understand all this, u simply don't qualify for studying Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. His language will make no sense to u since he is the king of the cryptic verses. You may nod your head, but vainly:)
Tip for studying Yoga Sutras
I believe u must keep going back to the Sutras. It is a very exciting place for the serious yoga practitioner. I myself have several interpretations and translations. But I feel, even shorn of interpretations, if u just sit back and think about each verse, the excitement about what yoga is actually about, it all falls in place. The coin drops!