Four Essential Yoga Books

Via Ryan Nadlonek
on Feb 2, 2009
get elephant's newsletter

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.”

Swami Satchidananda’s translation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras used here.


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.

Ayurveda by Robert E. Svoboda used here.

Thank you, Om Shanti Shanti Shanti, and Namaste!


About Ryan Nadlonek

Ryan combines his passion for the "yogic" sports (rock climbing, snowboarding, surfing, skateboarding), his love of musical exploration, and his dedication to a healthful lifestyle, living yoga in all aspects of his life. He is certified in Prana Flow Vinyasa Yoga by the amazing teacher Shiva Rea and draws from his studies in Qi Gong, Ashtanga Vinyasa, Buddhism, Bhakti Yoga, and Trance Dance to lead fun, creative and powerful classes with wild tantric explorations into the present moment. He teaches vinyasa classes at Divinitree Yoga and Art Studio in Santa Cruz, California ( Ryan also leads ecstatic kirtan and has been performing tabla and mridanga with kirtan leader Jacob Duran in the Santa Cruz kirtan community since 2009. He has worked as a journalist and photojournalist for Climbing Magazine, the Colorado Daily Photo, 808 Scene Zine, and the Elephant Journal.


11 Responses to “Four Essential Yoga Books”

  1. […] Continued here:  Four Essential Yoga Books | elephant journal […]

  2. Another valuable to book for both teachers and students is Guiding Yoga’s Light.

    Guiding Yoga’s Light features 74 easy-to-follow, succinct and illuminating lesson plans for beginning to advanced students. Each lesson embraces a wide array of yoga concepts—from teaching basic diaphragmantic breathing to mindfulness training to applying the yamas and niyamas into hatha practice.

    Guiding Yoga’s Light moves beyond the physical aspects of asana to help teachers and students explore the deeper concepts of yogic philosophy and offer insight into the integration of yogic teachings into everyday life.

  3. […] course, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are also a pretty darn decent marker for the advent of “yoga.” Still, the yoga […]

  4. […] and memorizing the Yoga Sutras, Sanskrit words or contemporary philosophy alone will not give you peace. Information is not […]

  5. […] Swami Satchidananda’s commentary explains, “Everything begins with the mind. When the mind becomes attached to something, you don’t usually question your mind. The mind wants it, so you just chase after it. Let the desires be under your control. Don’t just be carried away by the mind. That’s the teaching.” […]

  6. […] Yoga Sutras of Patanjali say, “Egoism is the identification, as it were, of the power of the Seer [Self] with that of the […]

  7. […] start here. Expand your mind—a necessity to get the fullest appreciation from the festival […]

  8. Trina Lovering says:

    I am using 1.6 OTA with 5.0OS and I can’t get the background to change either. Is there a KB limit on the picture size or something or should I try to reload with the desktop loader?

  9. […] only puts you in their shadow, you miss an opportunity to ride on the coattails of their success. The Yoga Sutras teach us that we should cultivate an attitude of friendliness toward the virtuous and […]