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These days, you can find info about yoga from Youtube, podcasts, and other modern outlets. But yoga, at its heart, is about spiritual and philosophical development as much as physical improvement. That’s where yoga books come in.
When you become aware of the rapid pace of life that everyone is living, that’s when it’s time to slow down. Unplug from the digital world. Take some time to meditate. Spend a few hours with some reading material.
Thus, we highly recommend having a collection of essential yoga books. There’s so much to learn about, from the years of history and tradition of the practice, to taking the lessons of yoga and incorporating them into your everyday life.
Whether you’ve just gotten your first taste of yoga or you are an experienced yogi looking to deepen your practice, these eleven essential yoga books cover a wide range of topics, from yoga sutra and yoga therapy to the art of teaching yoga.
Essential Yoga Books for Wisdom and Language
1. The Language of Yoga: A Complete A to Y Guide to Asana Names, Sanskrit Terms, and Chants, by Nicolai Bachman
If you’ve taken even the occasional yoga class, you are aware that the physical practice of yoga is filled with Sanskrit names and terms. In The Language of Yoga, Nicolai Bachman breaks down all of the essential languages you need to know for the poses and traditional meditative chants of yoga.
This is a great place for yoga newcomers to get up to speed on some of the confusing terms they may have been hearing in class. You’ll soon rely on this no-nonsense guide to the ancient language that is imparted so much to the tradition of yoga!
2. The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker’s Guide to Extraordinary Living, by Stephen Cope
Psychotherapist and longtime yoga practitioner Stephen Cope breaks down the classic texts that yoga was founded upon. Cope turns the texts into digestible information for the contemporary yogi. This book uses as its foundation the Yoga Sutras, written by Patanjali as far back as 400 CE.
The original sutras were written in Sanskrit and have been a principal in the foundation of yogic philosophy. Cope’s work provides the modern reader with an accurate English interpretation that is thoroughly readable. It explores the ‘eight limbs of yoga’ as laid down by Patanjali: Ethics, discipline, posture, breathing, turning inward, concentration, meditation, and transcendence. This is your go-to resource for the philosophy and true essence of the yogic traditions.
3. Gita Wisdom: An Introduction to India’s Essential Yoga Text, by Joshua M. Greene
This book explores another ancient yoga text, The Bhagavad Gita, making it accessible to the reader. The Baghavad Gita remains a staple text in the foundation of yoga. Joshua Greene’s book offers a new way to understand the essential wisdom of this powerful text for the modern yogi.
Often referred to as the ‘Gita lite’, this text provides all of the power of the original text in a simpler, easier-to-digest package. The footnotes ensure that you do not miss any necessary information for your personal growth on the yogic path.
Yoga Books for Incorporating Yoga Principles into Daily Life
4. Light on Yoga: The Bible of Modern Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar
Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar was considered one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world until his passing in 2014. Iyengar’s books inevitably land on all must-read yoga book lists.
True yogis don’t just practice yoga for a few hours a week – they incorporate the principles into their daily lives. Iyengar’s first book, Light on Yoga, remains a definitive work. This guide on combining the physical practice and the yoga philosophy ranks as one of the most essential yoga books on our list.
5. The Yoga Mind: 52 Essential Principles of Yoga Philosophy to Deepen Your Practice by Rina Jakubowicz
Rina Jakubowicz’s The Yoga Mind is a great introduction to essential yoga principles. This includes guided meditations and mental exercises designed to sharpen your focus. “Bring yoga off the mat and into your life” is the tagline, and that’s what the book does.
Topics discussed in detail include truthfulness, purity, contentment, and self-discipline. There are also 24 pages worth of writings about chakras, so it’s a great choice if you’re seeking to learn about the chakra system in addition to traditional yoga principles.
6. The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice, by T.K.V. Desikachar
We recommend T.K.V. Desikachar’s book to help you deepen your personal yoga practice outside of the classroom. The book provides excellent context, rooted in historical traditions, for contemporary practitioners of yoga.
The Heart of Yoga offers a balanced and refreshing approach to incorporating a complete yoga practice into your life outside of the yoga studio.
7. Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life, by Judith Hanson Lasater
A continuation of the journey of yogic practice, Living Your Yoga provides practical guidance and wisdom for adding the more esoteric, spiritual components of yogic tradition into your everyday life.
Judith Hanson Lasater does away with any pretense that to truly practice yoga you must have a worry-free life in pristine, rural conditions. You can be a busy city dweller and still be a true yogi. This book will help you to take your yoga practice with you when you step off the mat.
8. An Offering of Leaves, by Ruth Lauer-Manenti
This beautifully-written, quick read provides a condensed version of yoga teachings as applied to the life of the author and, by extension, to everyone.
The book from Ruth Lauer-Maneti contains short, accessible stories. They will inspire you to apply the teachings of ancient yoga texts, such as The Sutras of Panjali and The Baghavad Gita mentioned above, to your own life.
Books About the Physical Practice of Yoga
9. The Yoga Bible by Christina Brown
If your knowledge of yoga poses is limited, check out The Yoga Bible. This one first hit stores in 2003, and it remains essential. It details more than 150 different postures, with illustrated steps for each. Never again will you be stumped with an unfamiliar pose during class!
There’s a reason this one still reigns as a best-seller. You’ll also find tips on breathing, meditation, and other related topics. But this one is mainly about the poses.
10. Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews
Now you’ve grounded yourself in the ancient philosophy behind yoga and have acquired a better understanding of its unique language. Next, it’s time to delve into the physical benefits of the practice. Yoga Anatomy is a comprehensive go-to guide of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and organs that benefit from an asana practice.
This book, now released in an updated second edition, provides important background that will enable you to take your physical practice further and to do so without injury.
11. Kundalini Yoga: The Flow of Eternal Power: A Simple Guide to the Yoga of Awareness as Taught by Yogi Bhajan
This book provides a comprehensive introduction to and exploration of Kundalini yoga. Kundalini is a form of the practice that strives to tap into, awaken, and unleash the female life force of the individual, whether male or female.
Kundalini is known for being a form of the practice that is especially suited to marrying the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga. Taking a deep dive into this style of yoga will help to further your practice of the healing art.
12. Art of Attention: A Yoga Practice Workbook for Movement as Meditation by Elena Brower and Erica Jago
Art of Attention is technically not a book, but a workbook, written by yoga powerhouse Elena Brower with Erica Jago. It provides a guiding light to incorporating all of the knowledge gleaned from the other books listed here into a phenomenal yoga practice and accompanying lifestyle shift.
With gentle nudges and beautiful insight, this workbook will help deepen your physical practice and your appreciation of its effects. It provides actionable steps to taking this work off of the mat for a powerful impact.