Yoga Book Shelf

A few of you have asked me to recommend yoga books, so here are a selection of books I've read and enjoyed, with a little overview. Some of them I've read cover to cover; others I've dipped in and out of and used more as a reference book. This list is by absolutely no means exhaustive!

Ashtanga Yoga

These books are specifically about ashtanga and can be used as a practice guide, with information on each pose, as well as general theory and philosophy.

Kino McGregor - The Power of Ashtanga Yoga

A great place to start and one of the books I refer to most. I love the chapters at the start about the different elements of ashtanga yoga, and find that it covers so much information, but at the same time is very readable and easy to digest. Each pose is explained in detail, both on a physical and spiritual level (although there isn't always much guidance for what to do if you are unable to do the full pose). There are useful appendices at the back with the full Primary Series in pictures and the sanskrit vinyasa count. I love the way Kino introduces each section of the practice, so you really get a feel for the essence of what each section is about before she goes into the poses.

David Swenson - The Practice Manual

I've actually only recently bought this book and I love it. It's supposed to be a manual for practice, and the fact it is a ring binder book means you can have it open next to your mat. David has such a simple but profound tone, and whilst I haven't yet met him, I really feel I can get a sense of his friendly and lighthearted manner in this book. His posture instructions are clear and concise and really just guide you into the pose. He always has modified options for each pose, and the manual covers both The Primary and Intermediate Series. He also includes 'short form' practices at the back of the book for when you don't have time for a full practice.

Gregor Maehle - Practice and Philosophy

An extremely comprehensive book covering so much information on asana, history and philosophy. I find it quite heavy reading but it is really brilliant if you are looking for more depth. Gregor explains each posture of The Primary Series precisely and thoroughly, for all levels of practitioner, and he includes lots of tips and anatomy diagrams relevant to the postures. I love the mythological backgrounds he adds for some poses too. The book also includes all of the Yoga Sutras with a full commentary written by Gregor.

General Yoga

These books are more general and are not specific to ashtanga.

Sri Swami Satchidananda - The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

There are many translations of The Yoga Sutras, which is an ancient text, consisting of nearly 200 nuggets of wisdom about yoga philosophy - I like to think of it as the holy book of yoga. Patanjali is often considered the father of modern yoga, and these 'sutras' are 'threads' of knowledge that have been translated and then explained so that you can apply them in your life. In this particular translation, the commentary is clear and simple, and the examples given for the different sutras are often like stories, making it feel like you are learning the sutras from short fables. I love the fact you can pick this up and just read one sutra at a time, or re-read a sutra you've bookmarked when you need reminding of it. It's like a book full of little life lessons, which you can refer to as and when you need them.

Erich Schiffman - The Art and Practice of Moving into Stillness

My favourite book from my teacher training reading list. It is written simply and beautifully, and is the perfect reminder of how much more there is to yoga than asanas (or postures). It's written with so much passion and wisdom and places importance on the feeling of yoga and finding peace within yourself. It also includes lots of breathing, mindfulness and meditation exercises, which again are scripted magically. There is a huge section on asanas too, which includes step by step instructions and almost poetic descriptions. I haven't read the full asana section, but would still wholeheartedly recommend this book just for the other chapters.

B.K.S. Iyengar - Light on Life

My second favourite book from my teacher training reading list. Another beautiful book written by a yoga legend, bringing you back to the true essence of yoga. I love the many anecdotes from Iyengar's life, the questions he asks you to consider, and the humble tone throughout. It's really enjoyable to read and covers a huge range of fairly complex yoga concepts, applying them to everyday life.

Eddie Stern - One Simple Thing

A brilliant book, explaining why yoga works. I'm not much of a science person but this book is basically the science of why different elements of yoga improve our physical and mental health - so if you're more into facts and science, this is the book for you. It's extremely informative and somewhat reassuring actually to know that there is scientific reason behind the practice of yoga. I found I had to keep re-reading many sections of this, but maybe that's because I was only reading a handful of pages at a time, or maybe it's because I'm just not as naturally interested in the science behind it all! Also worth noting that Eddie Stern is an ashtanga practitioner and teacher.

Let me know what you think of these and any other books you'd add to the shelf!

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