I had a chat about yoga books with a friend yesterday and this old post of mine came to mind. As nothing has changed since I first published this text, here you go again, for those who did not see this the first time around.
Yoga books are nothing new. The first systematic presentation of yoga in a written form, the Yoga Sutras by Patjanhali is said to dated circa 400 CE (I am aware there is debate around this date but I am not going to dwell any deeper into it), whilst another renowned yogic scripture, the Bhagavad Gita dates an estimated 500 BCE.
There is a ton of yoga books around and it can be hard to pick just one or two. Here’s a list of some of my favourites. Some of these I read almost every day, some less so but they have all served a purpose of some sort in my yoga studies. If the list looks familiar it is because each one of the books is on the Amazon’s ”Top 15 or so Yoga books” list and many are teacher trainer reading staples. Hence expect nothing crazy original but if you are newer to yoga literature this might be helpful.
A lot of people approach yoga through the physical practise. I would however encourage any student of yoga to have a look at what lies in the roots on the asana practise. A good place to start is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. These are the basic teachings of yoga are described in short verses called sutras, which are organised in four padas, or chapters. As reading a direct Sanskrit translation might seem a daunting task, there are luckily many textbooks offering an approachable commentary and interpretation of the sutras in a easy-to-digest form. The textbook I have is authored by Reverend Jaganath Carrera and it is called ”Inside The Yoga Sutras.”
Several books combine philosophy, breathing technique and asana practise in one. A classic is B.S.K Iyengar’s ”Light on Yoga – The Definitive Guide to Yoga Practise.” The books have fantastic black and white photo illustration and the descriptions on how to get into each pose are very detailed. On a completely superficial level, the 2015 edition I have is also beautiful to look at. The only minus comes from it being a very heavy for a paperback so it is not the best travel read.
Donna Farhi’s ”Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit – A Return to Wholeness” is another very complete book. In all honestly I found this one a bit hard going BUT it offers very wide margins for your own notes as you go along. The illustrations and photos are very clear and I like that the use of props, such as chairs, blankets and blocks, is incorporated to offer different types of modifications.
My favourite book on this list is probably T.K.V. Desikachar’s ”The Heart of Yoga – Developing a Personal Practise.” Written in a conversational manner (in fact, part of the book is in an interview Q & A format) the book is a practical approach to various elements of yoga: Asanas, breathing and meditation. It also has a chapter on the Yoga Sutra’s with Desikachar’s own translations and comments.
There are of course plenty of books focusing solely on the anatomy side of yoga. Leslie Kaminoff & Amy Matthews’ ”Yoga Anatomy” (I have the second revised edition) is the one of the most recommended ones. In every page it offers a clear illustration of inside the asana (see the photo to get an idea), a classification, actions for joints and muscles, a word about the respiratory mechanism applicable to that pose and additional notes. A perfect go-to book when you want to check how your body works in a given asana, I use this book several times a week.
I also have two books of Dr. Ray Long, ”The Key Muscles of Yoga” and ”The Key Poses of Yoga.” I must admit that I first got excited by these books due to the big illustrations that take up most of the pages. Anatomy can be difficult and the pictures make it more approachable! I find these books (unlike the ones listed before) are also usable during actual practise due to simple layout.
What are the yoga related books you have read and would recommend?