Yoga has been around for centuries and as a result, there are endless books about it, some sublime and some ridiculous. I’m currently working hard to become a yoga teacher so I’ve spent months leafing through all types of books on the topic (because I’m a nerdy yoga teacher!)
Yoga is more than the physical movements that people practice in classes. Not all parts of yoga suit all people (I discount quite a bit of it because I’m a tad cynical), but it has been a seriously mind opening experience to read about the different types, branches and effects of yoga, built up as a practice over hundreds of years. There’s a history in yoga that people just don’t see in their weekly vinyasa class- so I’m gathering the best books, technical, philosophical, instructional and plain old fashioned fun.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
It’s an unfriendly looking mouthful, but this was the first book I read when I started my yoga teacher training and it’s surprisingly an easy read. Some of the concepts around body, mind, soul are a little heavy, but on the whole the sutras encourage a sense of self and a sense of self forgiveness. Yoga is a practice, and perfection is far from the goal.
I like words, and I’m making the assumption that you’re on this website because you like them too. So, besides the comforting messages, the book demonstrates how the Sanskrit language works, and there’s no denying that it’s beautiful to look at the characters, trying to pronounce the words and feeling them roll around in your head. English, Shmenglish.
Yoga For You
This is a great book for a beginner. Yoga can seem daunting and frightening- books alone are never going to show you what you need to practice properly (a pain for Hermiones everywhere!), but this one gives a good outline of common poses, with great pictures and explanations. Tara also explains some breathing practices (pranayama) and chats a little about meditation, without making it all seem unobtainable. If you’re feeling a little anxious, it’s well worth picking up. Tara’s core point is that yoga is for the soul, and it doesn’t matter how flexible your hamstrings are.
For the whimsical among us, there are some great partner poses in her book (significant others, parents and best friends, be wary…)
From the beginner to the advanced; Swenson’s book is the ashtanga and vinyasa bible. His flexibility is frighteningly impressive and in some places, the poses are resultingly comical to examine for us immature types (that’s me). Swenson is a master of his craft. His explanations are clear and the modifications are accessible. This one is a great book to learn from, especially if you’re interested to learn more of yoga than what might be in your standard class.
I was dubious about this one, I won’t lie. Brathen has millions of Instagram followers and lives a ‘Yoga Every Damn Day’ philosophy. The book itself is envy-inducing because Brathen lives on Aruba with a medley of puppies, a husband, a goat, endless sunshine and beaches. I live in London.
Jealousy aside, the book is worth the praise. Whenever I falter in my practice, feel lazy, or scared, I go and re-read some of the short essays in this because they really are a motivation. Everyone goes through hard things: that doesn’t mean we can’t be happy.
The yoga poses in this go from the easiest to the trickiest of inversions, so above all else, they’re fun to play with. A handful of recipes (I’ve tried them all) add a little extra oomph. If you want to buy just one book on this list, make it this one.
Babar’s Yoga for Elephants
Laurent de Brunhoff
I have, when practicing, always wondered where I should put my trunk- and this book makes that super clear! This one is full of whimsy and great for kids. I’m not a parent, but yoga for kids can be super useful to encourage mindfulness, calm, relaxation and ‘down time’.
I’m an adult (so they tell me), and this makes me smile every time I pick it up and see elephants meditating on a bus at rush hour.
Yoga for Travellers
Jennifer J Ellinghaus
My Mom bought me this for Christmas (hi, Mom!) and it’s genuinely lovely. Ellinghaus has a down to earth approach to yoga: roll out your mat in hotel corridors, on roofs of foreign buildings, in the 3 foot space between the bed and the wall in your hostel. Her stick figure diagrams are adorable- but above all else, this book convinced me that yoga is for everywhere and it can either make you feel more at home, or pull you out of home entirely- if that’s what you need. As a bonus, it’s pocket sized!