yoga books

Recommended yoga books

Adam is often asked for his recommended yoga books. The list below will help to give you a broader perspective of yoga, including the Ashtanga classics.

CLASSICAL YOGA TEXTS

 

Yoga Sutras, Edwin Bryant

One of the most well-respected transactions of the Yoga Sutras, Bryant’s commentary is also invaluable, bringing together the essential classical commentaries, often within a modern-day application.

The Bhagavad Gita, translated by Stanley Lombardo

I can’t emphasise strongly enough how this particular translation brought the Bhagavad Gita to life for me. It’s modern, easy to read and often funny—essential for anyone interested in the text.

ASHTANGA YOGA PRACTICE

Ashtanga Yoga, Lino Miele

A fundamental companion for anyone seriously interested in the traditional practice of Ashtanga yoga. This book provides all the technical information for both the Primary and Intermediate series regarding vinyasa count and drishtis.

Ashtanga Yoga, Practice and Philosophy, Gregor Maehle

Gregor has written two compendiums, both on the Primary and Intermediate series. Unrivalled to this day, they provide step-by-step instructions on the actual mechanics involved in each posture, along with anatomical correlations.

Ashtanga Yoga As It Is, Mathew Sweeney

A unique pictorial synthesis of Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A and B series of Ashtanga yoga. As far as I know, the only one of its kind, Mathew’s alignment and ability, is unrivalled here.

The Practice Manual, David Swenson

The book’s first how-to manual on Ashtanga yoga is spiral-bound, allowing the practitioner to have it open beside them as they practice. David’s explanations and instructions are accessible, clear and informative.

Yoga Mala, Pattabhi Jois

The authoritative book on the Ashtanga yoga tradition is most notable for its discussion of the other aspects and parameters around practice, such as the principle of Brahmacharya and diet. Asana instruction is terse here, so it benefits from close and repeated readings.

YOGA ASANA

The Heart of Yoga, TKV Desikachar

This book showcases the later teaching of Krishnamacharya through his son Desikachar. The emphasis being on teaching yoga to the individual as therapy, this book provides a wealth of fantastic instruction-particularly on the function of breath.

Light on Yoga, BKS Iyengar

One of the first of its kind, this book is undoubtedly without parallels in its scope in terms of the number of asanas documented along with accompanying instructions. An asana reference book that every student should possess.

Awakening The Spine, Vanda Scaravelli

An inspiring read on the more esoteric implications of asana practice.

Yoga, Mind, Body and Spirit, Donna Farhi

Another seminal book on the overall holistic aspect of yoga practice by one of the most well-respected teachers in the business.

The Language of Yoga, Nicholai Bachman

This book is most interesting as a glossary of many of the yoga terms we most regularly come across. A most helpful CD accompanies the reader on pronunciation.

Moving Into Stillness, Erich Schiffman

Another modern elaboration of the esoteric and holistic approach to yoga lies behind the physical postures. Erich, from an Iyengar background, is incredibly knowledgeable in the field.

Hatha Yoga, Theos Bernard

Writing earlier on at the turn of the twentieth century, the book, along with his others, provides a fascinating look into the more subtle application of hatha yoga. From personal experience, Bernards’ discussion and instruction on the Kriyas stands out.

MODERN ACADEMIA ON YOGA

A History of Modern Yoga, Elizabeth De Michalis

This book paved the way for a critical analysis of the modern yoga tradition- what Elizabeth first qualified as ‘modern postural yoga’ (MYP)

The Path of Modern Yoga, Elliot Goldberg

A detailed and highly entertaining look at the lives and teaching of certain seminal, yet less popularly known, figures in the evolution of modern yoga, such as Yogendra, Sundaram, Pant and Iyer.

Is this Yoga, Anya Foxen, Krista Kuberry

A highly thought-provoking discussion of Modern Postural Yoga, particularly the already existing Western movement culture -namely ‘harmonialism’ within which context yoga has been understood.

The Yoga Body, Mark Singleton

A controversial book, it brought to the widespread awareness that yoga, as we know it today, had more of diverse background and evolution than could be directly traced back to classical scriptures.

The Truth of Yoga, Daniel Simpson

One of the most straightforward and accessible books on the fundamentals of yoga philosophy. It clears up confusion around so many questions that often get glossed over.

Roots of Yoga, James Mallinson and Mark Singleton.

The book provides a compendium of references on various subjects within the yoga tradition ranging from a wide range of classical texts. The book is unique in its scope and content, although it is slanted more towards an academic interest.

One Simple Thing, Eddie Stern

Eddie’s book brilliantly dissects the modern Ashtanga yoga tradition and what practice really means for us. It also makes important links with modern science related to the use of yoga to regulate the endocrine system.

Immortality and Freedom, Mircea Eliade

One of the first books of its kind to discuss the various aims of yoga and attempt to contextualise a largely and often widely divergent body of classical texts explanations.

The Alchemical Body, David Gordon White

One of a number of highly entertaining and informative works by the author – who was also principal research assistant to Eliade. Often controversial and provocative, in this book David discusses the use of medicinal substances in the yoga tradition

The Yoga Tradition, Georg Feuerstein

Another prolific author, this is one book amongst many worth consideration. Always accessible, yet firmly ensconced in academic understanding, the book provides a wide overview of the basic tenets.

YOGA LIFESTYLE
Yoga Sadhana for Mothers, Sharmilla Desai and Anna Wise.

An essential read for anyone considering or having become a mother (as well as their partners). This book answers all the questions around practice, safety, variations and modifications that generally arise through this journey.

The Only Way Out is In, Anthony ‘Prem’ Carlisi

A one of a kind, honest and most candid discussion on a life lived on the path of yoga. Highly entertaining as well as offering much useful information on a practical level about the challenges and obstacles that arise along the way.

Yoga and the Quest for the True Self, Stephen Cope

A former psychotherapist, Stephen has now been the yoga teacher in residence at The Kripalu institute in North America for many years. One of a number of fantastic books by the author, Stephen is renowned for drawing parallels between Eastern thought and modern Western understanding of the individual.

My Search for Yoga, David Williams

Utterly riveting from start to finish, David describes travelling overland to India in 1972 , his meeting and early practice with PJ as well as his subsequent teaching and life in Hawaii. Funny, informative and highly original.

Chants of a Lifetime, Krishna Das

A unflinchingly honest look at one man’s spiritual journey, his relationship with a true Indian ‘guru’ and his path to success as a well-known musician on the yoga-scene. Authentic and very thought-provoking.

Be Here Now, Ram Dass

Really the first of its kind to present a Western take on Eastern spirituality. Ram Dass was the primary Western student of the major Indian Guru Neem Karoli Baba. His influence has been seminal in bringing the deeper path of yoga to the West from the 1960’s.

YOGA RELATED
Living with The Himalayan Masters, Swami Rama

Swami Rama founder of the Himalayan tradition is well worth a read. Not least for his rather mystical descriptions regarding the powers or ‘siddhis’ exhibited by various hidden yogis.

Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda

An utter classic, this book is a highly entertaining and colourful description of the tradition of ‘kriya yoga’ to which Yogananda belonged. Highly recommended for those seeking renewed inspiration in practice, George Harrison (of The Beetles) apparently gave a copy to everyone he met.

Start Where You Are, Pema Chodrun

A most down to earth approach to traditional Buddhist teaching. The book starts from the premiss that we are basically ok. So, instead of being ashamed of our ‘stuff’, it is the vital material in fact for the spiritual work.

Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, Chogyam Trumpa

Absolutely essential reading from the formative Tibetan Lama and ‘crazy wisdom’ teacher. In short, this book cuts through all the bullshit around spirituality highlighting the perils of simply developing a ‘spiritual ego’.

Anatomy Trains, Thomas Myers

Fundamental reading for anyone wanting to understand the body on a deeper level. Myers re-frames anatomical alignment and precision in terms of making connections, chains or ‘trains’ within one holistic system.

Thoughts and Aphorisms, Shri Aurobindo

One of the most prolific writers on yoga and classical Indian philosophy, Aurobindo formulated his own ‘intergral yoga’, whereby he posited a kind of ‘super-mind’ that the yogi could tap into, mediating the material and spiritual worlds.

The Spiritual Teachings of Ramana Maharishi, Ramana Maharishi

The teachings from the most well-known Advaita master. His only practice, that of asking of the question ‘who am I’?’, the book cuts to the heart of the spiritual dilemma. Here we bypass complicated practices and philosophy by the simple fact of seeing through the ego to realise our inherent ‘oneness’ with everything.

Thou Art That, Shri Nisargadatta

The other well-known modern master of Advaita-Vedanta, Nisargadatta was a humble shopkeeper before his spiritual awakening. He therefore conducts his discussions on a practical and accessible level to try and initiate a breakthrough in the listeners understanding that there is, in fact, nothing to do and nowhere to go.

The Gospels in Brief, Tolstoy

A wonderful explanation of the traditional biblical texts. This book immediately reminds one of similar teaching from the East. Well worth a read in terms of a comparative elaboration on similar teachings at the heart of Western religions.

OTHER
The Body Keeps the Score, Besel Van Der Kolk

This book was a forerunner on the more recent awareness around trauma and trauma release as it pertains to systems of movement. Including a discussion on yoga in this, I would suggest this as essential reading for anyone wanting to better understand the general purpose and application of our modern take on yoga asana.

Open to Desire, Mark Epstein

Epstein has authored numerous books in and around the subject of Buddhism and specifically Buddhist psychology. A remarkable author, this book always sticks out to me through its suggestion that, rather than denying our desire, we should actually be widening the scope of it.

Siddhartha, Herman Hesse

A wonderful story about the path of yoga and the practical understanding of classical yoga ideas in daily life. Probably everyone should read this, notable for its conclusions of empathy and a realism about our material selves in the world.

Memories, Dreams and Reflections, Carl Jung

Jung’s autobiography is a good place to start with his work. In it, we find a discussion of his ideas on ‘individuation’ as well as his personal journey with a spiritual practice and interest in yoga – basically, he says, to keep his sanity.

Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

Perhaps, the seminal stoic text, this book provides short aphorisms that really help provide courage and guidance in life on a practical, day to day level. I used to carry this book around with me in my pocket.

Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, Shunryu Suzuki

Suzuki Roshi was Instrumental in bringing of the teachings of Zen to the West. His influence ranges far and wide including the highly popular “Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” I always remember the story of the over-flowing cup here.

In My Own Way, Alan Watts

Alan really was unorthodox to the extreme. Trained as an ecumenical-priest (multi-faith), he quit the vocation to pursue Buddhist thought and teaching amongst other spiritual practices. His teaching is practical, accessible and often irreverent. An excellent place to start for anyone wanting to go deeper.

FOOD AND COOKING
  • Healing with Wholefoods, Paul Pitchford
  • A modern Way to Cook, Anna Jones
  • Lord Krishna’s Cuisine, Yamuna Devi
  • Spoon Fed, Tim Spector
  • At Home in The Wholefood Kitchen, Amy Chaplin
  • Macrobiotics: An Invitation to Health and Happiness, George Oshawa
  • In Defence of Food, Michael Pollen
  • Consider the Fork, Bee Wilson
  • History of Food, M. Toussant-Samat