I really love to read, and I get asked a lot for my recommendations. This list is particularly for those who are seriously interested in developing a solid yoga practice and an understanding of yoga philosophy. These are some of my absolute favorite must-have books that I keep returning to to indulge in their teaching and wisdom about all aspects of yoga.
Books on the Physical Yoga Practice
1. The Yoga ‘Bible’
Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha by Swami Satyananda Saraswati
Please don’t take my chosen title too serious, it’s not a Bible and it’s not religious : ) I just like to call it that way because it’s one of the most popular foundational books on physical yoga practice. It has detailed descriptions of poses including preparatory exercises and contraindications, Pranayama (breathing techniques), cleansing practices, Mudras, Bandhas and yogic anatomy (Nadis, Chakras).
Please note that this is not a modern book, it was first released in 1969 in India. It contains the direct teachings and instructions of Swami Satyananda Saraswati during the nine-month Yoga Teachers' Training Course held at the Bihar School of Yoga, Munger, that year. Since then it has been updated a couple of times, but it won’t show you fancy pose variations or flow sequences and it works with Sanskrit names. I would recommend this book to (future) yoga teachers (in training) or those really interested in traditional practices that want a solid reference book.
2. What Happens In The Body When We Practice
Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff
This is a very informative book for all the ones interested in diving a little deeper into the anatomy (I think every yoga teacher should). It contains anatomical illustrations of the main poses that highlight the muscles in action. It provides a deeper understanding of our physical constitution and the structures and principles underlying each movement.
It’s a great in-depth educational book for teachers and those who want to practice postures at home in a safe and efficient way.
3. Safe and Exciting Yoga Flows
Yoga Sequencing: Designing Transformative Yoga Classes by Mark Stephens
This is a great book explaining the art of creating smart, healthy and efficient yoga sequences. It includes numerous sequences of yoga poses covering a broad range of levels and topics, including beginning, intermediate, and advanced students; focusing on different areas of the body, different energy centers as well as yoga for kids, teens, women across the life cycle, and seniors. I like the theoretical part a lot that elaborates how and why to sequence in a specific way, so you can create your own sequences rather than just copying the ones from the book.
Wonderful as an educational and inspirational book for yoga teachers and for interested yogis who want to establish their own practice at home.
Books on Yoga Philosophy
4. Yoga As A Way Of Life
Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by BKS Iyengar
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is one of the most significant ancient texts on yoga. Most yoga schools and styles see it as their foundation. It describes in 196 extremely concise sutras (guidelines/aphorisms) the philosophy and deeper concepts of yoga. This is so much more than what we practice on our mat today! It is a whole way of life including moral guidelines and different practices that ultimately aim for the mastery of the mind and with it a gradual approach to the ultimate truth. It describes the path that leads to salvation and freedom, to true peace and thus to true happiness.
The original texts are said to have been were compiled sometime between 500 BCE and 400 CE in the ancient Indian language Sanskrit. When you look for it today, you will always find it in combination with a translation and a commentary. The brevity of the original text leads to a variety of interpretations that are not always conforming. I enjoyed the one from Iyengar, but there are many different ones from many great teachers.
5. A Modern & Scientific Approach To Ancient Practices
One Simple Thing: A New Look at the Science of Yoga and How It Can Transform Your Life by Eddie Stern
This shortly published book (2019) is dedicated to questions on why yoga is so good for us and why it seems to not only improve our physical and mental wellbeing but influences all areas of our life: our productivity at work, our relationships, our social behavior, our emotions and our spiritual experience. It looks at ancient practices from a contemporary perspective using the authors long lasting experience and the results of different neuroscientific studies.
It is called one simple thing, because yoga is that one thing, that seems to work for everybody, no matter what is their condition or their previous experience or perspective on yoga. Highly recommend to anyone interested in the purposes and benefits of yoga!