4 ‘Must Read Yoga Books’ in 2017
by Lisa Ash Drackert
One of the tenants of Ashtanga Yoga is svadhyaya, or self-study. This asks yogis to spend time outside of yoga class learning about the philosophy of yoga from sacred texts. These texts can include yoga commentaries by learned scholars, scriptures from your religious tradition, or even inspirational poetry about mysticism and enlightenment.
Because yoga is a science, your personal experience is extremely important. What you learn from your yoga teachers is imperative, but even more important is your direct experience and study. This upcoming year, set a goal to read at least two svadhyaya books in 2017.
Here are four recommendations:
The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga by Deepak Chopra
This book describes how yoga is a practical guide to healing body, mind and spirit. It explains the yamas and the niyamas in a gentle and insightful way. A unique aspect of this book is its explanation of the chakras (energy centers in the body) in relation to the seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga and how healing each chakra leads to positive change in your life. If you choose only one book to read, choose this one!
The Path of the Yoga Sutras by Nicolai Bachman
This is a practical guide to the core of yoga’s teachings. Instead of going through The Yoga Sutras one by one, Bachman uses each chapter to explain a central teaching of the Sutras. Each chapter explains a Sanskrit concept in plain English terms, offers a suggestion in how to practice this concept in daily life, and recommends a meditation to accompany it. Bachman’s elucidation of the core concepts helps unpack the mystery of Sanskrit and the primary text of Yoga.
How Yoga Works by Geshe Michael Roach
This book reads like a novel, but hiding inside the story is an explanation of how yoga works at its most fundamental level. A young yogi named Friday finds herself in a small village jail and becomes yoga teacher to the warden. Through their discussions, sessions, and mishaps the reader experiences the traditional yoga teaching method—question and answer between teacher and student. It’s a delight to learn with Friday as she struggles to explain the most elusive yogic concepts to her student and watch each character develop compassion through their yoga journey.
The Bhagavad Gita: a Walkthrough for Westerners by Jack Hawley
This book requires an ambitious reader, but does not require a background in religious studies. Hawley’s translation of this ancient text is far and away the best there is. It is a melodic, accessible, and enlightening interpretation of the great story of Arjuna, King, and Krishna, his advisor, before an epic battle. Arjuna confides in Krishna his confusion over the meaning of life and Krishna reveals himself to be an incarnation of wisdom and Divine presence, giving Arjuna an explanation of the cosmos and his part in it all. The Gita is said to be India’s greatest contribution to the world. It was written over five thousand years ago but its message is poignant as ever in today’s cluttered and confused world. A must read for any serious yogi.