The Best Books for Meditation & Yoga
Before we start – I am no ‘guru’ nor a spiritual expert. I just enjoy Meditation and Yoga and wanted to start a blog from my perspective of trying to create a daily routine that allows me a glimpse of the stillness they can bring. I try to link out to as many reputable sources within these posts as I can, some of these external links enable me to earn a commission which helps towards the running of the blog.
Meditation is an age-old practice that has been studied and practiced for many thousands of years across widely different cultures.
Meditation has religious origins in India, ancient Egypt China and Japan; developing from Hinduism, Judaism, Sikhism, Jainism, and Buddhism. Like many cultural traditions, meditation evolved and changed as it moved throughout Asia and transformed according to the different communities embracing it.
We’ve come a long way from the first documentation of meditation by the ancient Vedas of India to our current contemporary world full of podcasts, YouTube tutorials, and meditation apps. Or have we? Ultimately, the ancient practice of meditation is still something you learn by doing, and you can do it anywhere, you don’t need a special app to sit in silence.
However, some of the best meditation books can help a newcomer or a seasoned practitioner to consolidate their understanding of meditation.
With such a plethora of information available and so many different traditions to explore, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. This is why it’s helpful to know which are the best meditation books for fostering the clarity and confidence needed to make meditation an essential part of your life.
Historically, we have learned about meditation from texts and books. Most people, whether they are regulars to meditation or not are probably familiar at least with the name Bhagavad-Gita, an epic poem written around 400 BCE and focusing on the spiritual philosophy of meditation and yoga. Many of us have also likely heard of Siddartha by Herman Hesse wrote in 1922 and the Tibetan Book of the Dead, translated into English in 1927.
Meditation in the 1960s
It wasn’t really until the 1960s that meditation became popular among non-religious westerners. Before then and therefore really for most of history, mediation was unknown to the general population or known only as something practiced by monks, priests, and religious leaders. It was not part of everyday life for the masses.
The 60s saw a surge in interest to practices like yoga and meditation within its holistic health movement. People started to pay attention to the mind-body connection and explore different practices, also helped by celebrity interest from those like The Beatles who went to India in the 70s to study with guru Maharishi.
It was still not until the 1990s that meditation shed its hippie connotations and became something much more widespread and acceptable. This is in large part thanks to various authors who wrote meditation books borne out of their own experiences with different meditation techniques to connect with the everyday readers who were yearning to understand more about meditation practice and its place in our modern world.
The vast benefits of meditation are now becoming widely known, and it’s now very acceptable to be on your own meditation path, whether you pursue a home practice or follow a specific meditation teacher.
Authors Associated with the Best Books on Meditation
There are many who really helped to spread the word and make meditation ‘normal’’ by cementing some of the ideas of meditation in quantum physics and neuroscience.
Deepak Chopra is one such writer, whose spirituality and meditation books such The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success and Ageless Body Timeless Mind as having made their way into diverse homes, and thus Chopra himself became a household name and meditation master for those interested in personal development through meditation practice and spirituality.
Jon Kabat Zinn is the founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts. He is also a prominent author and professor of medicine. His approach to mindfulness meditation has been through integrating the practice with science and findings that suggest meditation practice and different meditation techniques can greatly reduce stress and help with chronic illnesses.
He trained in the Buddhist tradition but frames his own teachings within the structure of science rather than religion. He was really one of the pioneers in helping to present meditation as a secular, science-based way to rewire your brain for happiness and appreciation.
Oftentimes these authors personally experienced a challenging life event that propelled them into the exploration of meditation practice and spirituality.
This was the case with the well-known teacher Eckart Tolle. Tolle has explained that he was deeply depressed for much of his life until he went through a miraculous transformation at the age of 29, which lead him to undergo a complete life haul to become the spiritual influencer he is today.
His best selling book The Power of Now was written 20 years after his epiphany moment and he spent the years between as a counselor and spiritual teacher. Tolle is well known for his teachings around the idea of the transformation of consciousness as the next step in our human evolution and the transcending of ego in order to live a happy life. He focuses a lot on the concept of mindfulness meditation as a way to live each moment.
Reading meditation books is still one of the best ways to really understand how and why to meditate.
It is, after all, a practice that comes from 5000 years of tradition and evolution, there’s no shortcut to understanding and mastering it. A firm understanding of the philosophies and ideas it represents is so helpful in putting into practice and making it a lasting part of your life, not just a passing craze. If you’re serious about improving your meditation practice, a little reading can go a long way, some books have really been written as a guide to meditation or explain mindfulness techniques, and some are more of a meditation journey giving you a deeper understanding of the concept.
Best books to enhance your meditation practice
Here are our suggestions for some of the best meditation books to get started with:
Wherever You Go There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book is appropriate for advanced meditators or those coming to the practice for the first time who may be looking for signs of progress in meditation. The essential techniques he explores here focus on incorporating mindfulness meditation into your daily life. It’s about appreciating the present moment in all moments of life and does not get bogged down in any religion or spiritual jargon. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s meditation guidance is pure gold.
This is a pure and simple guide to becoming mindful and rewiring your thoughts to become first aware of the present moment, and from that awareness being able to let negative, distracting thoughts come and go without fixating on them.
Wherever You Go There you Are is a wonderful handbook and instruction manual for those wanting to learn daily ways through mindfulness practice to be more present and to accept and allow for every emotion, feeling, and thought to just exist without forcing it to change. It’s also targeted to those with physical or emotional health issues, and aids in letting go of past grievances and bodily conditions in order to surrender to what is in the moment and visualize a happier state of mind. This book will illuminate all the benefits of meditation in such a way that you’ll be inspired to take your practice of meditation further.
Zen Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki
One of the seminal American meditation books on Zen Buddhism for beginners by this well known and influential Zen master, Shunryu Suzuki.
This book was first published in 1970 and has stood the test of time. It works well to demystify Buddhism as a religion and philosophy and paints a clear and simple picture of clearing the mind for Zen meditation and how to be fully absorbed in every action you are doing be it cooking, walking, washing, working etc.
It includes some amazingly coherent passages about not struggling and striving in the typical goal-oriented Western way and lays out an alternative, which is to realize that which you desire is already within you.
This book explains how practicing coming back to a state of peace means realizing that you do not need to achieve, and in fact, when you take action in your daily life without needing or thinking about achievements, you already have everything within you. It’s about returning to the wise inner self that already exists; it’s not about attaining something or striving. It is about doing – the Zen meditation way.
Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramhansa Yogananda
A modern spiritual classic, this acclaimed book follows the life of one of the greatest spiritual figures of our time – Paramhansa Yogananda, a well-known yogi-swami and meditation master.
It chronicles his life from childhood to his various life-changing encounters with spiritual masters and documents the miracles and wisdom he witnessed. This book is recommended to those wishing to understand Eastern mysticism and its connection with all religions. It works on many levels, particularly as a clear guide to meditation.
Paramhansa Yogananda brought Kriya yoga to the USA, and it’s in this book that he lays down the teachings of it as a practical approach to spirituality. If you wish to have a mind-enhancing experience, read this book as many say it has transformed their thinking and approach to meditation and spirituality.
10% Happier, by Dan Harris
When Dan Harris had a nationally televised panic attack on Good Morning America, he had the wake up call he needed to change his life.
This book is the result of his journey to self-discovery – an adventure that sees the author exploring everything from Buddhism to self-help gurus to mindfulness practices and neuroscience where he finally settled on meditation as the cure for his negative mind chatter.
A compelling read for those who are attracted to a modern writing voice who questions everything on the journey to self-realization and refuses to swallow anything without scientific backup. The skills Dan Harris had developed as an investigative news anchor are apparent as he questions the validity and effectiveness of the spiritual practices he encounters. A fun and illuminating read for anyone wanting to dip their own toes into meditation in the modern world.
The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle
This well-known masterpiece is a must for anyone exploring meditation books. It’s one of the most popular and well-loved and one of the best meditation books focusing on the importance of being aware of the present moment, which is an essential component of mindfulness meditation.
Eckhart Tolle is an interesting figure, whose own personal foray into depression sparked his life to turn around completely and propelled him to dedicate his time to spreading the word about living in the now. Tolle says that we are not our thoughts, and an awareness of them can help us live not with the regrets and worries of the past and future but with the perfect moment of the present.
The book puts forward spiritual philosophy from different religions and combines them for a clear understanding of his main point – the power of living in the now and not wasting thoughts on the uncontrollable. It will help readers to find a balance in life, moving past pain, stress, and anxiety.
A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle
Tolles’s second book is a great follow up to those who enjoyed The Power Of Now. In A New Earth, he takes Eastern philosophy and presents it in simpler terms, showing us how complicated notions of enlightenment are actually incredibly straightforward.
It’s the kind of book that connects with the masses because Tolle has a gift in explaining ideas in such a way that resonates in his meditation books. He writes about non-attachment and the importance of doing things for the pleasure of doing them, and not for great ego-based gain. It’s the same idea that many spiritual leaders and authors refer to, the concept of letting go of results and instead focusing on the process. When you focus on the reasons you want certain things and come at them from an empowered, connected state you have the power to manifest them.
How to Meditate, by Pema Chodron
Chodron is an American born Tibetan nun, whose insight into meditation in this book, provides gentle, in-depth guidance to incorporating meditation into your daily life, including a look at how long you should ideally meditate for.
This is one of the best meditation books for beginners or those wishing to deepen their understanding of mediation as Chodron approaches the basics of cultivating a practice in a clear and compassionate way. In this book, you will learn methods to work through the wild ‘monkey mind’ that comes so often and easily to us, especially when first starting out in the practice.
There are clear chapters devoted to specific aspects of meditation such as working with thoughts, emotions, and sense perception. Pema Chodron’s message is that meditation can teach us to be open to each and every unique moment of our life without judgment.
The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari, by Robin Sharma
Described as a fable about fulfilling your dreams and reaching your destiny, this book is the story of a Western lawyer forced to deal with a spiritual crisis. In this merging of fiction with spiritual teachings, the character travels to an ancient culture to discover how to live a life of meaning.
Sharma has written a compelling tale to incorporate lessons on living in the moment, the practice of meditation, living a joyful life and happiness.
The story is simple but effective in its presentation of spiritual philosophy. It consolidates and clarifies larger ideas into easily digested daily approaches to living a more meaningful existence.
These meditation books are a great way to increase your knowledge and understanding of all kinds of meditation practice.
Best Yoga Books
It is claimed that the ancient tradition of yoga has been practiced since the beginning of civilization. Its roots can be traced to the Himalayan Mountains in the Indus Valley (today the area of Northern India and Pakistan).
All those thousands of years ago it seems yoga was a very solitary way of life, with yogis back then focusing very much on sharpening their minds to find spirituality through hardship. In this post, we’re going to explore the best yoga books that pass on some of these teachings.
Yoga began as an oral tradition, with teachings being passed between student and teacher. These oral teachings were then collected and written up in the ancient religious texts, the Vedas. These formed the basis of Hinduism and happened between 3,500 and 2,500 years ago. The Bhagavad Gita is what is left as the oldest known yoga Sanskrit scripture, it was likely written sometime between the fifth and second century BCE.
The Yoga Sutras are a 2000-year-old collection of yogic philosophy, attributed to the Indian sage Patanjali. The literature and technique of yoga are documented in these ancient texts, which basically form a spiritual and philosophical guidebook for life as a human and its accompanying challenges. The ancient text teaches ways to gain mastery over our emotions and mind and provides guidance on how to progress through spiritual evolution. This text is actually the foundation from which all yoga practices today stem from. It outlines the eight limbs of yoga: the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), Dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation), and samadhi (absorption).
Through exploring these eight limbs of yoga, we learn to amend and improve our behavior in life and eventually reach a state of enlightenment.
The word yoga itself is Sanskrit and has various translations and interpretations. Essentially it describes a form of union or joining together, a concentration or discipline. That has, of course, come to be the core intention of the practice of yoga – a union of body and mind with the true nature of yourself. Yoga is not religious and anyone can practice it, whatever spiritual or religious inclination they may have. Buddhism and Hinduism are occasionally woven into yogic philosophy, but again it is not a religious practice.
When you cultivate your own yoga practice, having the accompanying knowledge gained from reading both ancient and contemporary literature is fundamental to a deeper, more profound understanding of the tradition. Many yogis can say that reading a certain book helped shift their perspective immensely, both towards their practice and life in general.
Yoga as a spiritual philosophy and practice has been evolving over the centuries as it has been accepted, embraced and practiced in different cultures all over the world. What makes yoga a unique practice is that it encourages a certain lifestyle. It’s not just an exercise class, even though yoga is sometimes referred to as a sport. When you practice regular yoga, you are really transforming your life off the mat as well as on the mat. Yoga teaches us to be mindful and present, compassionate and loving towards others and ourselves. It really is a way of life, and that becomes more apparent, the more diligently you return to the mat or yoga towel for those who prefer a non-slip surface to practice on.
Yoga also helps us to find balance and peace as meditation and mindful breath is so intrinsically linked to moving through the poses. That’s why reading and understanding the ancient philosophy behind yoga is so integral to an authentic practice. You may find that the more you practice, the more you want to learn, building a philosophical and spiritual foundation to your physical journey, and gaining a greater, more profound awareness.
You could begin your investigation into yoga practice and philosophy with one of the various translations of these ancient Sanskrit texts, the Yoga Sutras or the Bhagavad Gita, and compliment them with some of the more contemporary books available. Another excellent way for beginners to learn yoga is through the use of a DVD.
Best Yoga Books for Beginners & Teachers
Below we have selected seven of the best books on yoga, whether you are a beginner, more advanced or even a teacher yourself. Books about yoga can be an excellent way to supplement your home practice, whether you want to actually learn how to physically master a pose, or dig deeper into the more intangible theories of the mind-body connection. If you are embarking on a yoga teaching career, you might want to check out some of the best yoga books for teachers, so that you always have that handy reference guide to refer back to.
Light on Yoga
A true classic, this is one of the best yoga books available, a definitive guide to the philosophy and practice of Yoga that stands the test of time, still relevant and important for a modern audience. Written by B. K. S. Iyenga, the founder of Iyenga yoga and considered one of the most well-known, foremost yoga teachers in the world.
This book is a classic for anyone interested in beginning yoga or furthering their practice and knowledge. The book examines all the poses and describes and illustrates details of how to achieve them, from beginner to advanced, in that order. Poses are accompanied by photographs and step by step instructions to perfect postures and breathing work. With an entire section dedicated to pranayama, this book also goes a long way to teaching the reader about the ancient roots of yoga while still providing a practical basis for the everyday yogi.
The Yoga Bible
By Christine Brown, this is one of the best yoga books for beginners and professionals in the practice. The book is extremely comprehensive as a guide to all the asanas (physical poses), with in-depth explanations for the novice or expert. The poses are arranged to flow from body positions, sitting to standing, which gives the book nice coherence in reading and practising. It means you could follow the guidelines and achieve a form of flow, just by the order in which the poses are presented.
A plus point if you are using it to actually practice from in the moment, instead of a video (or in addition to, for more pointers on posture). The book is thorough, with a chapter on how yoga can aid in certain medical or physical conditions, it also explores yoga as a philosophy and way of life – helping you determine your individual needs and goals from your practice.
Meditations from the Mat
This book is an inspiring collection of instructive and encouraging daily meditations, one for each day of the year. The meditations act as daily prompts, all centred on the practice and philosophy of yoga. The authors, Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison combine ancient teachings with spiritual inspiration from leaders of various faiths and belief systems to create a wonderful supplement for anyone wishing to explore the principles of yoga beyond the mat. It’s a positive way to begin the day, something to reflect on before morning practice, or just simply going into your day.
It is both informative about yoga asanas and also highlights the fact that yoga is a life-long practice. A dedication to a way of living that is far beyond the physical movement. This book makes a great gift for someone just starting out in their practice, revealing yoga inspiration in a very digestible and attractive format. Importantly the book also looks at how often you should be practicing yoga.
Leslie Kaminoff has written an easy to follow yoga book with a focus on anatomy. The book contains images that show in illustrative detail, the muscles and ligaments activated during each pose. If you are wondering which are the best yoga books for teachers, this one should make your list. The anatomical understanding is vital for accurately grasping all the poses and movements in yoga. If you have ever wondered about the impact and effect of certain poses on your body, this book has all the answers. Whether it’s a sitting pose for breathing or a more complicated balance or inversion, the guide is perfect for making those crucial connections between the purpose and practice of yoga, a great resource for teacher training.
Ideal for yoga teachers, this book is all about planning and sequencing yoga classes in an inspiring and transformative way. The book provides you with the essential principles and methods for planning your classes, covering everything from all yoga levels, yoga for kids, for seniors, for women across all ages and even yoga targeted for depression and anxiety.
The book also features sequences for each of the chakras and the different ayurvedic body types. It describes a wealth of practical techniques in detail alongside insights into the theory behind them. The author Mark Stephens conducts yoga teacher training programs worldwide, and his insights into how to design your own sequences are highly thought of in the yoga community.
If you are in training yourself, this book is an invaluable guide for building confidence and clarity both in your own practice and in your intuition and skills as a teacher.
Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy
Sadhguru is a yogi and mystic, lauded as a luminous spiritual guide. He is also the founder of Isha, an organization devoted to humanitarian causes. The book is an incredible study of how his own life was transformed by the experiences and insights he encountered along his life’s journey. His message is one of peace, he states that the only solution to humanity’s ills is self-transformation.
This book acts as a guide for humanity to live out the best version of itself. It is a wonderful study in itself for anyone interested in spirituality, philosophy or living a better life. As an accompaniment to yoga, it is, of course, a wonderful tool to help you deepen your understanding of the practice alongside living and breathing the philosophy behind it, exploring the differences between yoga and meditation. If you are drawn to the idea of living at the highest level of self, this is the perfect yoga book for you.
If you’re looking for a little dose of daily wisdom for the practising yogi, on and off the mat, choose this book. It has a years worth of daily readings to inspire and prepare you for yoga as a positive force in your life. You could reach for it before a session or read it to relax at night, or as motivation in the morning.
It is the kind of book you can always refer to, knowing it will lift your mood with the right words for the moment. If you are a yoga teacher, this is one of the best books on yoga to head to for a little inspiration and motivation to share at the beginning or end of a class. If you are a busy person on the go and sometimes don’t have time for a class, a little glance at this book will restore balance and calm to your mind when you can’t make the mat. It makes a really thoughtful gift for anyone who loves yoga and wants to incorporate some wisdom and drive into the day.
Every Body Yoga
As the title suggests, this book is inclusive for beginners and more advanced yogis alike. It is a wonderful addition to your bookshelf, with an approach that addresses different body types, race, class and other identities that are not usually talked about in the regular, western yoga world. If you have ever found yoga to be exclusive or complicated, you will love the grounded, honest and down to earth approach by author Jessamy Stanely.
In her book, Jessamy writes about her own struggles and difficult life lessons all within the context of providing clear explanations of various yoga poses. She writes with a witty, relatable voice that blows a breath of fresh air into a yoga culture that can be somewhat inaccessible. A real advocate for positive change, no matter your past, your weight or your fears, this book is a fabulous choice for anyone who has been struggling with confidence in their practice.