I collect two things in life: books and music. And according to my bank account, I apparently go a little overboard with my obsession for both. I am unrepentant.
I am without question a book fanatic/literarazzi/reader-of-all-the-things. I don’t know about you, but any location that houses books in a happy place: libraries, used bookstores, Barnes and Noble, that random pop up store down the street, etc etc etc. I’m not kidding when I say I read at least a book or two a week. I will happily turn down social engagements to snuggle up with a my fat cat and a book. HEAVEN IS A PLACE ON EARTH—called my sofaaaaaaaa.
Anyway, now that we all know the real reason I’m sometimes a terrible friend (those books aren’t gonna read themselves, people), I wanted to share with you several that I’ve found really beneficial to my yoga practice. Inspirational and philosophical books are pretty easy to come across, but books with a technical focus are often difficult to find. I’ve curated several gems along the way, and they’ve made a huge difference in my practice. While it might seem counter intuitive to read how to do an asana, weirdly, it absolutely locks the “how to” in place during your practice.
2100 Asanas by Daniel Lacerada
This massive reference book is a yoga dream come true. Pros: It’s the most complete collection of yoga asanas, and literally shows you every variation of each pose. The gorgeous, minimal photography only makes the book that much better.
The book is organized into eight major types of poses-standing, seated, core, quadruped, backbends, inversions, prone, and supine-and further broken down by families of poses that progress from easiest to more challenging. Every pose is accompanied by the name of the pose in English and Sanskrit, a description of the modification, the Drishti point (eye gaze), the chakras affected and its benefits.
Cons: this book won’t teach you how to get in and out of poses, but the simple solution is to look up the asana of your choice on youtube. I use this as my reference book, or my “yoga thesaurus.”
Pros: this book is an excellent reference for all yoga styles. Hear something confusing in class, like “pranayama” and think WTF? Well, now you can look it up.
Cons: it’s a little bit of everything, so don’t expect to dive deep or get thorough explanations of anything.
This book by my own teacher Kino MacGregor is without a doubt one of the best books on learning yoga that I’ve come across. The wealth of advice, clear explanations, and practical tips from Kino is almost like sitting down and chatting with her about the process of learning ashtanga.
Pros: this book contains a detailed, organized explanations for each pose in the primary series, accompanied by a picture to show you the asana. It was easy to translate the written explanation to my physical practice. Best of all, Kino makes her accompanying YouTube instructional videos readily accessible (and free), so it’s a built in supplement to the book and visa versa. Kino also explains the yoga philosophy in such an amazing, accessible manner.
Cons: Kino is one of the most advanced Ashtangis in the world. She makes it look easy, and she lets you know up front that it’s not. Moves that appear simple can be deceptively challenging. The book also only explores the Ashtanga practice, so you’ll learn the primary sequence. This is the core foundation for almost all styles of yoga though, so I still HIGHLY recommend it.
Same points as above, only this book focuses on the secondary series. It’s good for intermediate to advanced yoga practitioners of the vinyassa, power, and Ashtanga practice. The book contains a range of inversions and backbends, so it’s a great book for those power yogis and inversion lovers out there. Definitely check out accompanying asana instructions of Kino’s YouTube channel.
Pros: Her tips are spot on and beneficial, especially for people who learn best by seeing something in print verses hearing it from an instructor. I also like that there’s an option for spiral bound book. As with all complicated yoga moves, I suggest taking a work shop, private lessons, or stalking YouTube. Kino has the best videos I’ve ever come across, although I also like SarahBeth’s yoga channel and Celest Pereira’s channel to learn specific asanas.
Cons: Sorry, the only way to nail inversions is to do strength drills. Reading this book or any other just won’t get you there. However, you can be as strong as an ox, but if you don’t know how to align your body, you’ll be stuck on the ground.
Pros: Dharma Mittra is one of the most amazing living gurus of all time. His life, philosophy, and beautiful approach to compassion is nothing short of inspiring. I’ve attended several of his workshops in DC, and he swept everyone away with his incredible spirit. Having said that, this book is an amazing resource for Hatha yoga. Setting up a camera in his New York City studio, Dharma Mittra photographed himself in 908 yoga postures, sometimes snapping the picture by holding the trigger between his teeth. As such, the pictures aren’t the most amazing quality but elegant nonetheless.
Cons: it does feel a little bit vintage. Also, Dharma Mittra is wearing the traditional yogi-loincloth, which some people find awkward to see 608 times in 608 poses.
(Also see B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga: the Path to Holistic Health below)
Pros: A practical yoga course, with step-by-step photographic guidance, written by one of the leading exponents of the Iyengar method of yoga. The book also includes a section on postures helpful for common problems, such as headaches, stiffness, pain in the shoulders and backache.
Cons: It’s difficult to conceptualize the unique flow of Iyengar through a book alone, so hunt down some teachers on YouTube, or get a DVD.
B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga: the Path to Holistic Health by B.K.S. Iyengar
Pros: B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health covers the complete teachings of BKS Iyengar for mind, body, and health, and is suitable for every level of yoga ability, age, and physical condition. It’s fully illustrated throughout with unique 360-degree views of classic Iyengar asanas, and includes a 20-week course introducing beginners to the most widely practiced form of yoga in the world, specially developed sequences to help alleviate more than 80 common ailments, and all classic asanas illustrated and supervised by B.K.S. Iyengar himself. You can also readily find examples on youtube, which makes it even easier to learn.
Cons: if you’re an vinyassa or power yogini like myself, the slow and precise style of Iyengar yoga will drive you bonkers. BUT it’s probably exactly what you need to prevent energy and build a better meditative practice. It’s a beautiful balance to the fire of power yoga, and frankly, way more therapeutic for your body.
THE INSPIRING MEMOIRS:
Yoga Girl by Rachel Brathen is an enjoyable read that’s part philosophy, memoir, and yoga advice. Rachel writes with an approachable, enjoyable voice.
Perfectly Imperfect by Baron Baptiste and his original book Journey into Power are two staples of the power yoga movement. I mean, the cover is cheesy AF, but the content is good stuff. I just feel like if I open Journey into Power, and 80’s rock ballade is gonna leap out and grab me.
Sacred Fire: My Journey into the Ashtanga Practice by Kino MacGregor is not stop inspo for the truly dedicated yogini who is not just “doing yoga,” but training and diving in deep.
THE PHILOSOPHICAL CLASSICS
Not familiar with some of the classics, but want to dig in deeper? Here are a few that are staples of the practice:
- The Heart of Yoga by Desikachar
- Yoga Sutras of Patanjali with translation and commentary by Swami Satchitananda
- Bhagavad Gita; the original Sanskrit text with English translation by Christopher Isherwood (2002) Side Note: I’m in the category of yoga practitioners who just really aren’t really into this book. It’s a classic, and usually a required read for every teaching course. It’s worth trying if you like philosophy, but it just wasn’t a book that resonated with me personally. The spiritual take aways certainly do, but I like my yoga without a side of too many confusing gods.
- Yamas and Niyamas by Deborah Adele
- Yoga Mala: the Original Teachings of Ashtanga by Patabi Jois
Books—lovely, wonderful books! Although I think the intellectual and philosophical side of yoga is an essential part of the practice, when it comes to all areas in life, the way we learn is by doing. Inimitable guru Pattabi Jois is remembered for saying, “Practice, and all is coming.”
The best teacher is experience, and nothing teaches us peace, fortitude, compassion and grace quite like yoga.
Any other yoga books you enjoy? Feel free to let me know! Much love!