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Cultivating your yoga practice is like building a garden: you must maintain it through every season and always hope for new growth. The practice itself is the best way to do this, but there are also plenty of yoga books out there to guide you along your journey. Books that are guides, or memoirs of personal stories about the practice can lead you to blossom through your spiritual life or just through your best yoga sessions. If the Buddhist practice is not your aim and you’re merely in it for the peace of mind that comes after a workout, there are guides for that too. No matter what your goal is from practicing yoga, there are some yogic books here for you. Here, we have a selection of the history of yoga; what it means to practice yoga in a western society; personal stories of growth and empowerment; and practical guides to the core poses you should accomplish. Dive into these and emerge a better person by the end, someone who can grow a garden that blooms all year round.
1. LIGHT ON YOGA by B. K. S. IYENGAR
The most definitive book about yoga of all time, still hailed as a modern classic, all budding yoga enthusiasts should take a look at this one. It has three parts: the first consisting of a technical introduction to yoga in which hatha yoga is explained, followed by descriptions of 200 asanas including pictures. The next two parts are about bandhas and kriyas and then a last section about breathing techniques. An overall illustrated guide to yoga that was published in 1966 and which is attributed to bringing yoga to the rest of the world, this book has remained useful as an instructional tool and as a guide.
2. THE WISDOM OF INSECURITY: A MESSAGE FOR AN AGE OF ANXIETY by ALAN WATTS
“Drawing from Eastern philosophy and religion, Alan Watts shows that it is only by acknowledging what we do not — and cannot — know that we can learn anything truly worth knowing.” This remarkable book about accepting the present and focusing on the here and now will help you cope with your anxiety. Turning the pages of this book leads one to believe that there are other ways of going about things and this can influence your yoga practice. Clearing your headspace is a vital sign of a well-adjusted life and here, Watts teaches us to let go of what we know and to embrace how much more there is to learn about life and the world. Pick this one up if you’re feeling anxious or just need a good philosophical read to accompany your practice. Either way, you will benefit.
3.THE LIVING GITA by SRI SWAMI SATCHIDANANDA
The foundational book to the practice of yoga brought to the western world in a very readable edition, The Living Gita serves as a tool for all people practicing yoga. It tells us what yoga is at a fundamental level and serves as a guide to the physical component of yoga as well as the spiritual and psychological practice. Probably the most essential book anyone should read if they are set on understanding the history of yoga and to improve their own practice. If you are a budding enthusiast or looking for a deeper understanding of yoga, this is the right book for you.
4. YOGA ANATOMY by LESLIE KAMINOFF
In this visual guide to the poses, Kaminoff takes readers on a journey that explains the theory and history of yoga as well as gives instructions to the breathing. She discusses how specific movements interact with specific muscles and how they react, which can be useful to those who are seeking strength in certain areas or for those with an injury. She explains how all the poses are linked within the spine, breathing, and body position and how you can seek more or less through each pose. An in-depth guide to the body, Yoga Anatomy is a great choice for those seeking to improve their practice.
5. AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI by PARAMAHANSA YOGANADA
Voted one of the best spiritual books of the 20th century, Autobiography of a Yogi is a humor driven tale of a man’s direct descent into his own spiritual life and yoga. Told from the beginning of his childhood to his years spent crossing India in search of a teacher to the ten years he spent in training, Yoganada is eloquent in his descriptions and funny with candor about the realizations he’s had in his life. The central message of his book is about the laws surrounding the ordinary events in comparison to the extraordinary, or more commonly known as miracles. If you’re interested in a first hand experience, this is the right yoga book for you.
6. LIVING YOUR YOGA by JUDITH HANSON LASATER
Using the guiding wisdom of The Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutra, Lasater has produced a beautiful, handy second edition yoga book that steers you toward off the mat practice in the aim of nurturing your spiritual relationship with yourself, family, friends, and the world around you. She focuses on the events of everyday life being tools in maintaining and bettering your practice. Why let an ordinary day get away when you could use it as a lesson? This second edition includes three new chapters: Empathy, Relaxation, and Worship. Pick up this book if you’re in need of some guidance involving your practice and want to get the most out of the everyday.
7. THE KEY MUSCLES OF YOGA: SCIENTIFIC KEYS by RAY LONG
A non-traditional approach to hatha yoga, Ray Long looks at the practice through the lens of science. He wants to know which muscles are worked best and when and his research has paid off. For those inclined to use yoga as their best workout or as a warm up for other exercises, this is a great tool to use. Specific anatomical and physiological highlight the agonist, antagonist, and synergist muscles that are used during hatha yoga in each specific pose. Long has written an excellent guide for those seeking to work on certain muscle groups with precise knowledge in how to do so with yoga.
8. MEDITATIONS FROM THE MAT by ROLF GATES and KATRINA KENISON
A guided day to day planner of meditations to get you through your practice, this book is a handy tool for utilizing the power of your mind. Rolf Gates has written 365 meditations for those who are new to yoga or practiced yogis. Pick up these meditations to center your focus as you begin your day.