The 7 Best Yoga Books to Help Enhance Your Practice
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.
It 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 practicing. 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 centered 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 a 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 practicing 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.