Within my 15 year relationship with yoga I have had the pleasure to have been exposed to a few books that have been particularly impactful on how I view and practice yoga. I am not claiming these are the best books ever written on the subject but they are authors that I read at times in my life when it was information I was hungry for and have proved to be extremely influential in my practice and in my teaching. Chances are if you ever come to my classes, many of the things you will read in these books will seem familiar because their influences (along with specific podcasts and online teachers I may discuss at a future date) now permeate how I feel and talk about yoga. Some of the ideas in these books now form the foundation of how I view the practice.
1. Yoga and the Quest for the True Self – By Stephen Cope
Stephen Cope is probably one of the largest influences on how I view yoga. I read “Yoga and the Quest for the True Self” every couple of years. It was life changing when I first read it at 25, and it remains my favourite book on yoga to this day. It is written by a psychotherapist who uses a narrative story of his journey as a yoga teacher and the growing pains of the Kripalu ashram to explain how the techniques of yoga and psychotherapy have similar processes for human healing and emotional development. It will not resonate with every reader but if you are interested in the practice of yoga from a psychological perspective, it is worth a read.
2. Bringing Yoga to Life – By Donna Farhi
I actually can recommend all of Donna Farhi’s books. Her book “Yoga Mind, Body, Spirit” was one of my teacher training manuals and her “Breathing Book” was my introduction to pranayama. She is easy to read and explains things practically and simply. “Bringing Yoga to Life” was my first deep exposure to the view that the skills cultivated in a yoga practice were skills that could be used outside of the studio in everyday life. Up until that point I had been a very asana based practitioner, focusing mostly on the physical aspects of the practice. Reading this book expanded this perception and made me look at my practice as a life practice to bring emotional freedom to my choices and relationships.
3. The Yoga of Breath: A Step-by-Step Guide to Pranayama – By Richard Rosen
This is one of the fundamental books for anyone interested in the breath aspect of yoga. The book comes with a CD of the exercises to practice with. One of the reasons this book was so influential for me was because it’s very pragmatic and clear and yet the exercises were very subtle. I had always been curious about the ability of the breath practices in yoga to tinker with energy in the body and mind, but up until reading Richard Rosen I had only really been experimenting with more complex techniques. This book and the recording present the most basic of practices and in coming back to the absolute basics I started to experience my regular breath so much more profoundly. This was huge for me. The subtle nature of watching natural breath brought my practice to a whole new level.