6 Yoga Books Worth Reading
If this photo makes you want to hunker down with a big mug of tea and a good book, this one's for you...
One thing I get asked all the time is for recommendations for continued education in Yoga. I love when my students ask me this because it means they are interested, curious, and upholding one of the fundamental recommendations for yoga practice in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, which is svadhyaya or self-study. Svadhyaya refers both to your internal inquiry into the true nature of the Self, as well as regular study of relevant material to guide and deepen your understanding. I find that keeping up with my Yoga reading helps keep me fresh and inspired in my own practice, so I don't fall so easily into habitual ruts and plateaus.
There are SO MANY books about Yoga that I love, but here are six that I've been reading recently that I definitely recommend, in no particular order:
1) The Eight Limbs of Yoga by Stuart Ray Sarbacker and Kevin Kimple
This straightforward, quick read (only 83 pages!) is an overview of the Eight Limbs of Yoga as outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. If you've been focused on your Yoga asana, this will remind you how all the limbs fit together in a cohesive whole, giving you the inspiration to brush up on any areas you may have been neglecting, whether that's breath work, meditation, or non-violence in your everyday life.
2) From the Vedas to Vinyasa by Amy Vaughan
I love this book for its easy-to-read, entertaining language. Tackling the historical and philosophical progression of Yoga from the Vedas (its earliest form) up to present-day Vinyasa is no small task. But Vaughan brings it together seamlessly and makes it fun to read at the same time. It's like the most enjoyable textbook ever, and it turns Yoga history into a fascinating tale of evolution, growth, and cultural context. Also, if you're interested in reading more of the classic texts of Yoga, this will put them all in their place - super helpful for interpreting texts beyond a superficial level.
3) Bringing Yoga to Life by Donna Farhi
This is a gem of a book. Despite Farhi's sometimes dry, serious tone, she offers a ton of inspirational passages. As the title suggests, the book addresses many of the pitfalls of the modern practitioner. She gives lots of personal and anecdotal examples of how the practice fits with a modern lifestyle, and how it can improve that lifestyle immensely. She reminds us that Yoga can give us the satisfaction that material goods and external approval never will.
4) Prana Pranayama Prana Vidya by Swami N. Saraswati
I learned so much about the anatomy of respiration, as well as the yogic understanding of prana or life-force by reading this book. Did you know that exhaling is the body's main method of disposing of toxins? This is both a scientific and philosophical deep-dive into breath work which ends with clear explanations of specific pranayama practices. So if you've been neglecting your breath work (see #1) this would be a good one to add to your reading list!
5) The Radiance Sutras translated by
Buckle up, Rumi lovers, and prepare for a whole new dimension. This is a recent translation of a Tantric text: the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra. Steeped in the Tantric philosophy of seeing the Divine in the mundane world around us, the first half of the text is full of such delicious insights (and great savasana readings) as this one:
Attend to the skin
As a subtle boundary
Enter that pulsing immensity.
Discover that you are not separate
From anything there.
There is no inside,
There is no outside,
There is no other-
No object to meditate upon that is not you.
- Sutra 25
As if that weren't enough, the second half of the text is an exploration of Sanskrit words that represent key yogic concepts, but don't exactly translate to the English, since Sanskrit is a multi-faceted language with layers of meaning. Each word has suggestions for practice so you can experience the concept firsthand. You could easily spend a year just on this one book alone.
6) The Healing Path of Yoga by Nischala Joy Devi
Last, but certainly not least, this is a book that I've had for several years and I return to it again and again. Nischala is an experienced instructor, focused on using the Yoga practice in a gentle way to alleviate stress and promote overall wellbeing. Her sweet nature and the depth of her wisdom shine through her writing, and I always feel like I'm getting a big hug from a caring Yoga mom when I pick up this book! It contains practices for guided imagery, meditation, breath work, as well as some helpful suggestions for gentle practices that are appropriate for students with less mobility or recovering from injury or illness.
I've got so many more beloved books to suggest, but I think that's enough to start. Hopefully you find something to inspire you here. And I'm always looking for new books, so leave your favorites in a comment below!