Yoga cannot be learned from a book. In fact, nobody can teach you yoga but yourself; it can only be experienced. But, these books will give you a great start. Try to find them in your local used book stores, libraries, or order a used copy from the links provided.
Balanced Yoga changed my life. Although I had already been to a few yoga classes, this book showed me how to slow down my breathe which in turn slowed down my mind and allowed me to learn how to listen to my heart beat. The book features twelve yoga lessons, each containing warm-up stretches and asanas (postures) followed by breathing exercises and a visualizing relaxation session. It also offers some yogic wisdom, helping one understand how to truly be holisticly healthy. If you aren’t yet into yoga, but have some interest in it, I highly recommend you start practicing from this book. It will give you the basics, then an instructor can help you with alignment and prana flow.
Balanced Yoga used from amazon here.
Yoga isn’t just about asanas. Far from it. The asanas only purify your body so that your mind can remain calm. For most yogis, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are the yogic bible. This translation from Sri Swami Satchidananda (of Woodstock fame) is really accessible for westerners and includes wisdom-soaked commentary. This text is like the science of the mind…step by step instructions on how to destroy the ego and find bliss. Here’s some of my favorite passages:
“1.32. By cultivating attitudes of friendliness towards the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.”
“2.1. Accepting pain as help for purification, study of spiritual books, and surrender to the Supreme Being constitute Yoga in practice.”
“2.42. By contentment, supreme joy is gained.”
“3.21. By samyama on the form of one’s body, and by checking the power of perception by intercepting light from the eyes of the observer, the body becomes invisible.”
“4.30. From that samadhi all afflictions and karmas cease.”
The Yoga Sutras are great, but they can be a little out there. That’s why Stephen Sturgess’s The Yoga Book is a great aid. It follows the same eight-limbed yogic path outlined by Patanjali, but it gives practical applications for each limb. Plus it has really cool diagrams! The book describes the chakras (energy centers), the nadis (energy channels), yogic diet, chanting techniques, and the kriyas (purification techniques). Don’t judge this book by it’s cover, though; both cover photos I’ve seen have a cheesy picture of a woman meditating in gross posture (my book is currently cover-less). Trust me, this is a real good book for yogis, as it grounds-down the esoteric practices described in the sutras.
The Yoga Book used here.
Every yogi needs some knowledge of Ayurvedic medicine. Although asanas, chanting and proper meditation can cure any ailment, it’s good to understand the properties of food and energy, and that’s where this book comes in. Ayurveda: Life, Health, and Longevity, by Robert E. Svoboda, is a great introduction to Ayurveda. It includes the basic principles of our energetic bodies, routines to base one’s life around, the energetics of food, and how to treat diseases using herbs, food, and routine. Ayurveda is very complex, so don’t expect to be able to fully use the wisdom found in this book, but enough will sink in to expand your mind and practice and make it a worthwhile read.
Thank you, Om Shanti Shanti Shanti, and Namaste!