Whether you’re a yoga teacher, completely new to yoga, a human being who wants to walk the path of life with philosophical and spiritual roots, these 3 yoga books are very worth reading.
Whether or not you’re into yoga, the “path” of yoga affirms that each of us is our own “guru” in our lives — even beyond the physical practice of modern day yoga in the West.
Yoga is far more about the manners in which we live than it is about flexibility or exercise.
These three books that I have selected were integral components of my yoga teacher training this year, and I personally consider them to be some of the more fundamental resources that can help a beginner yogi shape his or her understanding of their personal yoga practice–on the mat, certainly, but especially off of the mat and in the course of our everyday lives.
Take a look, and have a read!
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Translated by Eknath Easwaran
The Bhagavad Gita is an epic tale, part of ancient Hindu texts that form a cornerstone to the Indian spiritual philosophy.
Finding a resurgence in popularity over recent years (as yoga grows in popularity in the West), the Bhagavad Gita or the “Song of the Lord” is a story set upon the field of battle as our hero, Arjuna, contemplates the meaning of life, the quality of his soul and the mission before him on the eve of an epic war.
Though the war in the storyline has been a point of debate for centuries, it’s clear to many that this tale is not about the merits of war and killing but a vast, epic allegory for the battle we each wage in our own “everyday” lives.
This is the battle of choosing our good over cowardice; the battle to live a life of purpose and meaning in this, the one opportunity that we have; the battle to give nobly and serve deeply on behalf of others, in spite of our egoic wantings, worries and selfish desires.
“Arjuna is every man,” says translator Eknath Easwaran.
As Arjuna seeks counsel from his wise charioteer Sri Krishna, we begin to hear ourselves asking these same questions in our own heads, relating the feeling of doubt and uncertainty to the battles we wage in our own everyday lives. Arjuna is bound by questions that we have likely asked ourselves time and time again in our heads–and perhaps even with a bit of shame, anxiety, and fear.
“Am I doing the right thing with my life? How do I know? How do I know if I’m on the right path? What’s the point of the work, struggle, and investment I’m making–in the grand scheme of things?”
The Bhagavad Gita resonated with me strongly. It’s a powerful tale that anyone with a passion for living a meaningful life can relate to, and presents firm advice for living a meaningful life through a dual path of self-realization and service to others.
I read the Gita for the first time thanks to my yoga teacher training, about half-way through our exploration.
However, if you share my outlook in wanting a deeper philosophical foundation for understanding the path of yoga “off the mat” and what the dual-path of self-realization and service feels like, I recommend reading the Gita early and often. It is its own bible, of sorts: full of reminders and rallying cries to stand tall and fight for yourself.
Translated by Sri Swami Satchidananda
The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali is the earliest known documentation of an actual process to the ancient philosophy behind the practice of yoga.
Patanjali is the one credited as the first to write down the oral tradition. We don’t know if Patanjali lived from 3,000 BCE to 400 CE, but recent dating suggests the latter. We don’t know if Patanjali was even a real person: the name could have been used by several writers of the code of yoga who wrote, edited, modified and passed down the code for generations.
Whatever the true history, The Yoga Sutras stands as an incredibly important text of 196 sayings or truths for one to practice the eight-limbed path of yoga.
Each short, dense sutra is meant to be unpacked by a teacher, guru or instructor. That’s why the terse, somewhat confusing passages are written as they are–and why you’ll find many copies of The Yoga Sutras translated with commentary by various yoga practitioners and gurus. Under the tutelage of a master or guru, the yoga student is meant to learn yoga by putting the philosophy into practice in his or her life.
Today, The Yoga Sutras remains a fundamental building block for any yogi to learn the underlying goals of yoga on and off the mat.
A non-yogi who is devout in living a meaningful life and incorporates personal practices like detachment from ego will find a great amount of value in this book.
This translation gives a deep and comprehensive look into the eight-limbed path of yoga in more of a step-by-step method. I would read the Gita first and the Sutras second for this reason–the Gita provides the emotional building block needed to understand why we are on the path of yoga and what it feels like to be living the path of yoga.
With The Yoga Sutras, we begin to bridge the philosophical background with practical application, and implement the how.
by T.K.V. Desikachar
The Heart of Yoga by T.K.V. Desikachar is a great textbook that is geared more towards a modern-day yogi than it is a non-yogi.
Because Desikachar is of direct lineage to the “father of yoga in the West,” Krishnamacharya. In The Heart of Yoga, we are privileged to experience lessons, insights, and teachings from the son of Krishnamacharya, who presents this book to help yogis develop a very, very accessible and personal yoga practice.
In The Heart of Yoga, you’ll find a much more modernized discussion on the ideas behind a yogic life.
The Heart of Yoga is thus a very practical and simple, yet refined, modern-day interpretation of a personal yoga practice that you can begin to create and implement on your own time and schedule, using simple postures and breathing techniques.
The Heart of Yoga is a great introduction to yoga that will help you emphasize the embodiment of yoga in practice and in classes. It’s a great text for someone who is looking to get deeper into an understanding of how yoga is meant to be taught or experienced, especially on the mat.
“Arise; Take Up the Path of Yoga!”
— Sri Krishna, The Bhagavad Gita
Yoga as we know it in the West–the physical practice of postures in 75-minute or 90-minute classes lead by an instructor–is a very, very small piece of what yoga is.
Yoga dates back more than 8,000 years to one of the earliest known civilizations and offers us many ways, practices, philosophical concepts and ideas to live our lives better, healthier and in connection to the Universal Consciousness or God within each of us.
A yogic lifestyle consists of far more than just asanas or poses.
There is meditation and renunciation, integration practices and breathing exercises, codes of ways in which we treat the world and ways in which we treat ourselves.
On the path of yoga, we become deeply committed practitioners of what we say we believe–we become our own gurus, and understand that the lives that we live are the curriculum we’ve been given to learn everything that we will ever need to learn.
And that must be why we yoga teacher trainees have become a family in these last six months.
It was never about embodying the poses side-by-side. It was, all along, about living side-by-side with one another in pursuit of our truth, purpose and unapologetic lives.
PS – The above links are affiliate links through Amazon.com, so if you do decide to purchase one of these books through the links above, I receive a small commission. Otherwise, go out and support your local book store, please :)