“Yoga is 99% Practice & 1% theory.”
If you have been teaching or practicing yoga for a while, you are certainly familiar with this quote by Sri K Pattabhi Jois. As a yogi, you are also aware that progress in the yogic path calls for practice, practice and more practice
However, you will also agree that the 1% knowledge or know-how of yoga theory plays a major role in helping you establish a strong foundation and choose a path that suits you best, such as the style of yoga, or a yoga teacher, or provide you with the all the knowledge that will help you in your svadhyaya.
If you are a beginner or someone who is still contemplating on starting a yoga practice, referring to the following books will certainly inspire you and open up a whole new world of choices.
As a regular practitioner or teacher, most of these books may already be a part of your library. We have shared a brief on 11 of the most popular yoga books. We have also included an additional list of titles that may be of interest to yoga teachers. Let us know if you have any more suggestions to add to this list.
Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha by Swami Satyananda Saraswati
If you are a beginner, this book is a must-have. You can categorise it as classic collection. APMB was first published by Bihar school of Yoga in 1969 and is recognized internationally as one of the most systematic yoga manuals. It has simple and clear illustrations and step-by-step instructions for asana practice for all three levels of hatha yoga system, i.e., beginners, intermediate and advanced level.
It is useful for students as well as teachers as it successfully brings the exposition of yoga practices to the standard of a university text. The comprehensive text covers details of important chakras, psychic centers, and other aspects of the subtle body. It also explains different types of pranayama, bandha, mudra and shatkarma techniques. A therapeutic index is included for use by doctors and yoga therapists incorporating recent information from research into yoga.
About the author
Swami Satyananda Saraswati was initiated by Swami Sivananda Saraswati into the secrets of yoga. He has authored over 80 books on yoga and founded the the International Yoga Fellowship in 1963 and Bihar School of Yoga in 1964. This book was later revised and updated by his successor, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati.
2. Light On Yoga By B.K.S. Iyengar
Another classic collection, Light On Yoga is popularly referred to as the Bible of modern yoga, authored by renowned Yoga Guru and world’s foremost teacher, BKS Iyengar. Light on Yoga means Yoga Dipika in Sanskrit. The book covers complete technique of 200 asanas with proper alignment along with 592 photographs which help you understand and master the posture. It also covers bandha, kriya and pranayama.
The instructions are based on author’s personal experience and are thus covered in great detail.You will also learn how to use various yoga props for alignment from the master himself. The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 talks about what is yoga (history and philosophy), part 2 covers asanas, kriyas and bandhas and part 3 discussed the various pranayama techniques. This is one of the most recommended books in Yoga TTCs world-wide.
About the author
BKS Iyengar was the founder of one of the most popular style of yoga called ‘Iyengar Yoga’. He was one of the earliest students of Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya who is also referred to as the father of modern yoga. He has been awarded with the prestigious Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan by the Indian Government and was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine.
3. The Heart Of Yoga: Developing A Personal Practice By T. K. V. Desikachar
Desikachar explained that this book is the relationship between teacher and student. It is the first yoga text to outline a step-by-step sequence for developing a complete practice according to viniyoga–yoga adapted to the needs of the individual. Though later Desikachar even dissolved the name VinYoga that was forming around his teaching.
Based on Krishnamacharya’s fundamental concept of VinYoga, Desikachar maintains that practices should be continually adapted to the individual’s changing needs such as health, age, occupation or even lifestyle. He refers to this book as a program for the spine at every level, physical, mental and spiritual. The book covers yoga poses, conscious breathing, meditation and philosophy and also includes 32 poems by Krishnamacharya. .
About the author
He is often acclaimed as one of the important yoga masters who transformed the way yoga was practiced and popularized it as a therapeutic and wellness concept. He was the son of of Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya who was also the Guru for BKS Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois. Desikachar was never for branding yoga and insisted yoga should be called just yoga or at most Patanjali Yoga. Many of his students went on to become most influential yoga teachers in the U.S., including Leslie Kaminoff and Gary Kraftsow.
4. Yoga Anatomy (2nd Edition) by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews
The first edition of Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff is considered the best selling yoga-guide which has been further updated and expanded in the second edition. The book is invaluable to both beginners as well as regular practitioners. You will learn from full-color anatomical illustrations and in-depth explanation of the structure and principles underlying each asana and movement/vinyasa.
The books covers everything; dynamics of breathing, muscular and skeletal system, from inversions, kneeling, sitting to standing poses, you will learn how alterations of a pose can enhance or reduce effectiveness and how spine, breathing and body function are fundamentally linked. This is your ultimate reference to see each movement in an entirely new light.
About the author
With over four decades of experience in breath and asana anatomy, Leslie Kaminoff is a popular yoga educator who leads anatomy workshops for leading yoga associations and training programs worldwide. His teaching are inspired by tradition of T.K.V.Desikachar. His books have sold over 500,000 copies and few of his lessons are also available on yogaanatomy.net.
The best-selling book on anatomy is co-authored by Amy Mathews who is a Certified Laban Movement Analyst, a Body-Mind Centering® Teacher, an Infant Developmental Movement Educator, and a movement therapist and a popular and advanced yoga teacher. She is also a Somatic Movement therapist and educator with IAYT and Yoga Alliance.
5. The Key Poses of Yoga: Scientific Keys, Volume II by Ray Long
If you are looking for a combination of modern western science with ancient art of Hatha Yoga, this book can be your source of knowledge for anatomy, physiology and biomechanics applied to the practice of yoga. 3D illustrations of major muscles, tendons and ligaments help understand the correct muscle used in key poses of hatha yoga. You can also follow their blog at https://www.bandhayoga.com/ which is very useful for beginners and teachers.
About the author
Ray Long is a board certified orthopedic surgeon and the founder of Bandha Yoga. Rayhas studied hatha yoga for over twenty years, training extensively with B.K.S. Iyengar and other leading yoga masters.
6. Four Chapters on Freedom: Commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: by Swami Satyananda Saraswati
This book is recommended for serous yoga aspirants and spiritual seekers. It covers the complete Sanskrit text of Rishi Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra along with transliteration, translation, and commentary. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is considered as the theoretical foundation of Raja Yoga and consists of four parts, Samadhi Pada, Sadhana Pada, Vibhuti Pada, and Kaivalya Pada.
In-depth explanation of 196 epithets or verses of Yoga are presented in the form of commentary in this book. Since the author was known to have implemented the Patanjali Yoga Sutra in his life and in his disciple’s lives, his experience reflects in the commentary of each verse and will certainly guide the reader in the path of meditation and contemplation.
About the author
Swami Satyananda Saraswati was initiated by Swami Sivananda Saraswati into the secrets of yoga. He has authored over 80 books on yoga and founded the the International Yoga Fellowship in 1963 and Bihar School of Yoga in 1964.
7. The Yoga Sutras Of Patanjali By Sri Swami Satchidananda
This is another great translation of the Sanskrit text on Patanjali Yoga Sutra which is considered to be at least 4000 years old. In this classic book, Sri Swami offers practical advice, based on his own experience, for mastering the mind and achieving physical, mental, and emotional harmony.
The author’s work on Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Bhagavad Gita are very popular amongst modern readers who admire and respect his incisive insights as a Yogiraj, master yogi, and as a master of humorous parables.
About the author
Sri Swami Satchidananda was the founder of Integral Yoga (http://integralyoga.org/) and was also one of most revered Yoga masters who had dedicated his life to peace and promoted harmony among all faith traditions. He was the author of many philosophical and spiritual books.
8. The Bhagavad Gita by Eknath Easwaran
Bhagavad Gita literally means Song of the Absolute. It is a conversation between Arjuna and Krishna, which took place around 3000 B.C. in a battlefield. Krishna who represents the Absolute (and is also known as Yogeshvara, or “the Master of Mystic Yoga”) teaches Arjuna, an ordinary living being like us, the skill of union with the ultimate reality or the Absolute, also called Yoga.
Through Arjuna’s questions and Krishna’s answers, the complete science of Yoga is revealed in 700 shlokas across 18 chapters. It is considered a science because it describes the concept of Yoga in a systematic step-by-step way. It tells us exactly how to follow the Yoga processes and also what will be the results of different practices.
There are many translations available. You will find this edition is reliable, readable, and profound. The 55-page introduction brings out the universality and timelessness of its teachings. This edition includes notes and a Sanskrit glossary. Bhagavad Gita is a recommended read in Yoga TTC.
About the author
Eknath Easwaran was an Indian-born spiritual teacher, author, as well as a translator and interpreter of Indian religious texts such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. In 1961 Easwaran founded the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation and Nilgiri Press, based in northern California. Nilgiri Press has published over thirty books that he authored.
9. Raja Yoga by Swami Vivekananda
Irrespective of whether you practice yoga or meditation, if the subject of yoga in itself interests you, you must read this book on Raja Yoga which was first published in 1896. First half of the book is based on a series of lectures that Swami Vivekananda gave on the subject of Raja Yoga. It contains a great deal of practical information on meditation and psychology from the Vedantic point of view.
The second half of the book is a translation and author’s commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. The book had become an instant success and was highly influential in the Western understanding of Yoga. The book describes methods on concentration, psychic development and liberation of the soul.
About the author
Swami Vivekananda was one of the first missionaries from India who visited United States of America in 1983 to attend, and speak at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago. He was almost like a spiritual rockstar of that era who swayed an entire generation, both in the West and in India, with his books, lectures, and individual work.
He was the chief disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa and the founder of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission which have over 181 centers all over the world.
10. The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga: A practical guide to healing mind, body and spirit by Deepak Chopra and David Simon
The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga brings spirituality back to yoga. It shows how the Seven Spiritual Laws play a crucial role in yoga’s path to enlightenment which is union of mind, body and spirit. As a reader you will benefit from a wealth of meditation techniques, mantras, breathing exercises, and yoga poses.
Whether you are a newcomer to yoga or an experienced practitioner, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga is your portal to yoga’s deeper spiritual dimension and a beautiful step to a happier, more harmonious, and more abundant life.
About the authors
Deepak Chopra studied medicine in India before emigrating to the USA in 1970. He went on to become a best-selling American author, public speaker, alternative medicine advocate, and a prominent figure in the New Age movement. Through his books and videos, he has become one of the best-known and wealthiest figures in alternative medicine.
Dr. David Simon was a world-renowned authority in the field of mind-body medicine. As a board-certified neurologist and expert in Ayurvedic medicine and other traditional healing arts, he brought a unique perspective to the relationship between mind, emotions, and health.
11. The Secret Power of Yoga: A Woman’s Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras by Nischala Joy Devi
You will agree that apart from physical benefits, yoga can transform us emotionally and spiritually. This book is the first representation of the ancient text of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, which is interpreted from a heart centered, intuitive, and feminine perspective. The book relates to the feminine aspect in each of us, thus it is a wonderful reference for all yoga teachers (irrespective of one’s gender).
It is considered to be the first translation intended for women that will help them understand the spiritual significance of each sutra and also learn to implement them in daily life through suggested practice and meditation. The book has been recommended by several leading yoginis who find this book relevant to their spiritual quest.
About the author
Nischala Joy Devi is a masterful teacher and healer. For many years she received direct guidance (as a monastic disciple) from renowned Yogiraj Sri Swami Satchidananda. She developed and was the primary instructor for the Basic and Advanced Teacher Training Program for Integral Yoga, as well as pioneering yoga programs for Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Michael Lerner.
As a teacher, the following 4 books on yoga practice and philosophy may interest you:
- The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice by Georg Feuerstein
- The Language of Yoga: Complete A to Y Guide to Asana Names, Sanskrit Terms, & Chants by Nicolai Bachman
- Yoga Teacher’s Toolbox by Joseph Le Page and Lilian Le Page
- The Key Muscles of Yoga by Ray Long
If you want to study Iyengar yoga further or pursue training in Iyengar yoga, you will find the following book useful: Yoga:
- The Iyengar Way by Silva, Mira, and Shyam Mehta
If you have been practicing or learning Ashtanga yoga, the following book will help you enhance your practice:
- Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual (Spiral-bound) by David Swenson
If you can’t get enough of yoga philosophy, meditation and mysticism then go ahead and indulge in the following books:
- Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
- Yoga – Yoga The Spirit And Practice Of Moving Into Stillness by Eric Schiffman
- Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life (Paperback) by Judith Hanson Lasater
- Theories of the chakras – Hiroshi Motoyama