All yoga practitioners reach a point when they start to look beyond their yoga class for resources to explore more. Some look for more guidance and some for answers. Usually we turn to the internet and look up all the books and their reviews we can find. We start to look for teachers and students see if we can find the light through the avenues which they are seeking answers.
There are many many books written on the subject of yoga. From coffee table books to instruction manuals. YouTube gives you access to teachers old and new. I’ve been through my fair share of texts. Some have been forgettable, some have been good and some I consider essential. The books below have not only given me food for thought, but have also helped with my asana practice, philosophy etc. I still have a bunch of books that I’m waiting to devour (birthday shopping), but until now, the below are books I consider indispensable
- Light on Yoga by B.K. S. Iyengar. None of the other books on this list come close to being as detailed as this one. Published some time in the 60s (the earliest editions I could find are from 1965), it is astounding in terms of the sheer attention to detail. I guess this is only a reflection of the practice of Iyengar yoga. You’ll find the asnwer to almost any question about yoga in this book. I also love the simple and crisp tone of the book. There are no frills and cup cakes. It’s forthright, businesslike and super technical. When in doubt, this is my go-to resource.
- Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Swami Muktibodhananda. I’m currently reading this one. I borrowed the one published by the Yoga Publications Trust of Munger (the Bihar School of Yoga). I like the fact that the appendix contains the Sanskrit text as well as the English translations for the Sutras. It has illustrations which help in understanding asanas and ideas. This is an excellent, easy to understand, comprehensive translation for anyone who can take the time out to patiently go through it (the book is a thick one.)
- Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha by Swami Satyananda Saraswati. This text focuses on the physical side of the practice. So there are lots of illustrations and the descriptions of the asanas, mudras etc are detailed and amazing. I haven’t been through this book cover to cover, but I have come back to it every once in a while when I need to understand the nuances of an asana. The drishti and the bandhas for each asana are also specified, which is important as you deepen your practice. In this way I think this book serves beginners and advanced practitioners alike.
- Yoga Mala by K Pattabhi Jois. I hadn’t heard about this (or much about Ashtanga for that matter) before I went to Mysore. I love this book because I felt it broadened my approach to yoga. In Mysore, not only was I practicing Ashtanga yoga but I was also interacting with long time Ashtangis. Reading this book around the same time put a lot of things into context. Being an Iyengar practitioner, I’ve never really looked to read books by other teachers, and I felt that this book changed my perspective about yoga as a whole (in a good way). After reading this book I realized that it’s important for yoga practitioners to actively pursue the teachings of a range of teachers/traditions. The value of the teachings of all great teachers should not be underestimated.
- Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by B.K.S Iyengar. This book is quite intense, so you need take your time with it. In fact, you can even use this book as a reference book. Some Sutras will make sense to you right now, some will make sense to you 10 years from now. But every Sutra has been explained exhaustively in Iyengar’s easy, free flowing and concise style. You’ll read a lot of translations of the Sutras and meet a lot of teachers who will expostulate about them, but this book is a great way to start your studies of the Yoga Sutras.