Derived from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj‘, which means to merge, join or unite, yoga is the art of knowing oneself. It also touches on the functions of the body, the rhythm of the mind, and the ability to look at all aspects of life evenly. It’s often a common misconception to look upon yoga as a religion, however this is far from accurate. Instead it should be looked at as a philosophy, one that has not been realised through divine intervention, but through reasoning and self-exploration. If you’re one of the many who currently practice yoga or are looking to widen your knowledge, these five books are required reading.
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The Bhagavad Gita
This is one of the most widely read Hindu religious texts in the Western world. At its core, The Bhagavad Gita is a poem recounting a war between two clans of a royal family in northern India. Framed around a dialogue between Prince Arjuna and his charioteer Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the primary question that emerges from the text is ‘how should we live?’. The beauty of the Gita is that despite being an ancient text, it still holds sway in today’s modern world. Essential wisdom is contained inside that will prove vital to any practising or aspiring yoga teacher. This is a seminal piece of work that should always be within reach.
Autobiography of a Yogi
Paramahansa Yogananda has been hailed as the father of Yoga and in 1999, his autobiography was selected as one of the 100 best spiritual books of the 20th century. The book chronicles Yogananda’s search for spiritual enlightenment, a journey that brought him into contact with many of India’s Hindu sages and saints. As well as finding a guru in notable scholar Yukteswar Giri, he also encountered notable spiritual figures during his life including Therese Neumann, Anandamayi Ma, Vishuddhananda Paramahansa and one Mahatma Gandhi. Providing an inspiration for countless people, Yoganada’s autobiography was apparently first read by the late Steve Jobs as a teenager, something he would repeat once a year, every year until his death.
Light on Yoga: The Definitive Guide to Yoga Practice
Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar, often referred to as B.K.S. Iyengar, is widely regarded as the one of the world’s most respected yoga teachers. This comprehensive book covers step-by-step guides to routines, accompanied by photo illustrations; a week-by-week development plan; breathing techniques; and an exploration of the spiritual aspects of yoga. Named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World and ‘the Michelangelo of Yoga’ by the BBC, Iyendar’s teachings have been influential for decades and continue to be ever-relevant today.
Anatomy of Hatha Yoga: A Manual for Students, Teachers and Practitioners
Author H. David Coulter has practiced yoga since 1974 and previously studied under Pandit Rajmani Tiguanait at the Himalayan Institute. Across 600 pages, his book provides an in-depth physiological examination of more than 100 yoga postures and how they relate to the systems of the body. Also included are chapters on relaxation and meditation, and breathing, accompanied by illustrations, detailed diagrams and photos.
The Complete Guide to Yoga for Fitness Professionals
Debbie Lawrence and Conrad Paul’s book explores all the necessary skills needed to become a successful yoga teacher. Moving beyond a simple ‘how to’ guide, the book runs through the very basics to advanced techniques of yoga. Included is step-by-step colour photography of postures and sequences, a section devoted to mastering the classic asana pose, and an exploration of the health benefits of yoga. Combined, Lawrence and Paul have over 50 years experience working in the fitness industry, which goes some way to explaining why this book is so popular.