Newly updated for 2019!
Your body Your Yoga by Bernie Clark - So much more than anatomy book. It’s written from the perspective that we are as different on the inside as we are on the outside and the importance of practising yoga from a functional approach, according to the range of motion offered by our own unique body.
I am that by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj - an old classic that every serious yogi interested in attaining enlightenment should read.
Yoga School Dropout by Lucy Edge – Full of relevant information, and the hilarious adventures and antics of a (very) modern day yogini will make you laugh out loud!
Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda – The quintessential legend and prevalent introducer of yoga to the West invokes faith in his timeless story.
The Surrender Experiment by Michael A. Singer – The voice of a relatable guy surrendering to the natural flow of life inspires relief, hope, and a profound desire to recommit to spiritual practices.
Dancing with the Gods by Kent Nerburn - Advice from a lifelong creative in the form of timeless metaphors we can all contemplate to different depths upon subsequent reads.
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron - Simple yet powerful exercises on how we can (re)discover our creative source.
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown - A highly motivational book encouraging us to call upon courage, entering our own arena of truth by baring our vulnerabilities.
God talks with Arjuna, Yogananda’s commentary of the Bhagavad Gita. The work he has done is astounding and there is enough inspiration here for many lifetimes. Another Gita version I love is Eknath Easwaran’s translation. SO beautiful.
Also, anything by Vivekananda. He is incredibly straightforward and hugely inspiring. Every time I read something by him I feel he removes some coat of excuses and justifications I indulge in and reaches me right where it most matters. Raja Yoga - his own commentary on the Sutras of Patanjali - leaves me inspired and impressed every time.
Kabir! So beautiful and enlightened. There is so much hidden meaning, delicacy and beauty in his words. I received a book with 44 of his ecstatic poems from my teachers and I treasure it deeply. Here's one of my favourites:
Are you looking for me?
I am in the next seat.
My shoulder is pressed against yours.
You will not find me in stupas, not in Indian shrine rooms, nor in synagogues, nor in cathedrals: not in masses, nor kirtans, not in legs winding around your own neck, nor in eating nothing but vegetables.
When you really look for me, you will see me instantly - you will find me in the tiniest house of time. Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God?
He is the breath inside the breath.
How awesome is that?
I love the writings of Pema Chodron. She is an American Buddhist nun with immense compassion, a delicious sense of humour and a talent with words.
I was deeply moved and impressed by Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. It spans many lives and lifetimes (in my view) and for me it was all about Karma. It’s a complex book and worth every effort. Every now and again I indulge in well-written fantasy stories - good vs. evil types of battles and challenges!
Paul Grilley’s newest book on chakra meditation is a must have for everyone who has a meditation practice or wants to start one! It’s an easy manual about complex material. Paul is a master at making ‘difficult’ things understandable. Personally I’ve never read a book on meditation that is so inspiring and contains so much information, despite its size! If you know anything about Patanjali’s ‘Yoga Sutras’ it’s great to have it next to you when you read and study this book. Paul refers a lot to Patanjali, explaining techniques and in which sutras Patanjali talks about the same subjects.
I’ve never had a better and more inspiring explanation of the ‘Gita’ than this. It’s not an easy read though, it’s a full on study: 2 volumes of about 600 pages. What I think is the most interesting thing is that Yogananda connects the Pandu brothers with the chakras and the Kuru’s with our patterns of behaviour, our limitations, our desires, basically everything that keeps us of the path of Self realisation.
The Bhagavad Gita is a conversation between Prince Arjuna the warrior and his charioteer (God) Krishna. It’s right before the battle starts (between 2 groups of the same family) in the middle between the two armies, when Arjuna thinks he cannot fight and kill anymore. Krishna reminds him of his Dharma (path of life) and why it’s important to do his duty and kill the Kuru’s (his uncles and cousins).
For me this book and the one above are great reference works to remind me why I meditate! I would recommend to read Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda (another great inspiration) first!
This is a must-have for every serious yoga practitioner and yoga teacher. Bernie explains why we can and cannot do certain things with our body. How everybody (and every body) is unique on a physical and mental level. It's also packed with scientific research to back up everything. I’m happy and grateful that Bernie took the time to research and write this book, since I am a ‘functional’ yoga teacher and this is exactly how I teach!
Tantra Illuminated by Christopher Wallis - An amazingly thorough explanation of how Tantra informs most of our modern practices of yoga
Finding Clarity by Jeru Kabbal - Clear, articulate and beautiful. This is the teacher of Esther's first teacher [Taetske Kleijn] and it's a book that touched my heart deeply.
Yoga and the Quest for the True Self by Stephen Cope - A great read and a great story of the journey into the world of yoga
I Touch by John Prendergast - A really lovely read about welcoming and being intimately connected with our inner world of thoughts and feelings.
The Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee - It was down to Bruce Lee that I got into physical disciplines at the age of 14. This book inspired me early on and is still a source of reference today. A must.
Convict Conditioning by Paul Wade - A no-nonsense approach to old-school calisthenics, super strength and bulletproofing every part of your body from an ex-con who turned himself around.
Freestyle by Carl Paoli - Awesome, whole-body challenges from ex-gymnast and CrossFit coach who presents key drills in easy-to-understand, progressive & approachable sequences.
What is Fascia and Why it Matters by David Lesondak - The first book to really give a clear picture for everyone about fascia and its properties and why we really need to start working with this knowledge. You don't have to be a scientist or anatomy nerd to understand this book as David has a wonderful, casual style of writing and explains what he's talking about very clearly. A must-read if you teach yoga!
Awakening the Spine by Vanda Scaravelli - A beautiful book written by a pioneer in the yoga world. Her work wasn't really fashionable in the early years of the yoga boom, but so many more people are headed in that direction now. Vanda is responsible for the quote; "We need to work with the body, not against it".
Healing the Core Wound of Unworthiness by Adyashanti - A fantastic book for everyone, as our society is plagued with the idea that we are not "worthy". Adyashanti is a spiritual non-dualistic teacher who brings an accessible quality to how we can perceive and eventually live in the idea of oneness.
The Radiance Sutras, translation and commentary by Loren Roche - An esoteric poetic gift of consciousness and living a liberated life.
Dying to be Me by Anita Moorjani - A real 'life after death' story that brings a beautiful perspective on the gift of life and how to keep things simple. This book also gives beautiful insights on how to make difficult decisions and how to keep those we truly love in our hearts
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson - Exactly as the title says… Amazing for those who love trivia, insights on evolution and cool stories of how we got here as a human race on this unique planet.
Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan by Howard Sounes - The story of the greatest singer/songwriter of modern times (in my opinion). I am a huge Dylan fan and this book illuminated many dark corners of the life of one of my idols. I highly recommend reading a few chapters, then go to YouTube for videos of that time period to see him and what was going on. And also, more importantly, listen to the songs that are described in the chapters you read.
Gulp by Mary Roach - A beautiful and detailed story of our digestive tract… yes, seriously! It’s incredible and you’ll never wonder again what they are talking about when someone mentions ‘fecal transplant’ at a cocktail party.
Moving into Stillness by Erich Schiffmann - Beautifully written and immediately gets to the heart of what practising yoga is about in easy to understand terms (without all the fluffy new age stuff). The photographs and explanations of the asanas are clear and easy to understand. I reference it constantly for my own practice as well as for teaching. Get it, read it, love it!
Yoga Spandakarika - The Sacred Texts at the Origins of Tantra by Daniel Odier
Daniel Odier is a great writer and his take on the Spandakarika is a lot simpler to understand than many other translations. What I like about this book that it that gives an interesting perspective and enough information about the real philosophy of Tantra and leaves enough place for self-interpretation of the sacred text.
Awakening Shakti: The Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga by Sally Kempton - I learned SO much about Hindu goddesses, and the author presents the information in an accessible and compelling way. Each chapter, which follows the same format, is centred around a specific goddess and includes meditations to help the reader manifest the goddess and her energy. The feminine energies of the world are so fascinating. Even thinking about them just a tiny bit and tapping into them at all can be profound. Definitely recommended!
Life on Land by Emilie Conrad - passionate, dramatic, deep and explains breath movement and fascia beautifully.
Awakening the Spine by Vanda Scaravelli - Beautiful imagery, poetic radical and rebellious.
The Original Body - Primal Movement for Yoga Teachers by John Stirk - Totally original, artistic, deep and creative. A book for life.
Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic by Darren Main - Darren Main's book has been required reading for all my 200-hour teacher trainees since 2010. It is such a fun and easy way to dive into the practice and philosophy of yoga. The light and fresh way Darren Main authentically describes his own way of working with the 8 Limbs of Yoga is delightful.
How Yoga Works by Michael Roach and Christie McNally - This book really changed the way I approached practising and teaching yoga. My personal practice and teaching deepened incredibly after my very first reading of this Sutra-inspired tale. It became more intimate, more intentional, more purposeful and more soulful. I have required it ever since in my 300-hour teacher trainings and each re-reading has further helped to evolve my practice and teaching to new levels of intimacy and service.
One Soul and Going in and in by Danna Faulds - Danna Faulds' poetry books are expressions and insights to the inner landscape of us as humans. I use them to offer depth in the practice and open the space within.
The Diamond in Your Pocket - Gangaji - this book is about spiritual awakening in this lifetime. The ordinary in the extraordinary!
Light on Life by BKS Iyengar - This is a wonderful book to have in one’s playlist. It is the culmination of Mr Iyengar’s insight from years of practise and teaching, weaving together Patanjali's 8 Limbs of Yoga and the 5 Koshas from the Taittriya Upanishad. I have read this book many, many times, though never from cover to cover! I always pick it up and turn to a page or chapter which calls to me and each time it speaks something new and profound to me. I have used it as a resource in teacher trainings and highly recommend it to anyone wishing to inquire deeper into the practice and philosophy of yoga.
The Radiance Sutras, translation and commentary by Loren Roche, PhD - Dr Roche has spent decades studying and translating this luminous translation of the ancient Vijnana Bhairava Tantra text. Its 162 verses sing the song of Life and Love between the Devi (Shakti), the creative power of the Universe, and Bhairava (Shiva), the infinite consciousness which embraces Her and from which She arises. The verses describe the mystery and wonder of Life within every thing, thought and activity. Bringing light to the loving awareness which makes all existence possible.
The Heart of Awareness (Ashtavakra Gita) - translation by Thomas Byrom - Referred to in many Vedanta circles as “the highest teaching next to silence”, this is the song of awareness in all of its infinite forms. I like to take it to the beach as the sun rises, read a few lines, and sit in the quiet of the morning.
The Nothing that Is by Robert Kaplan - more a metaphysical philosophical book than a yoga book, 'taking us from Archimedes to Einstein and making fascinating connections between mathematical insights from every age and culture'.
The Path Of Practice by Maya Tiwari - A beautiful book on Ayurveda for women. Inspiring and heartwarming.
After the Ecstasy, the Laundry by Jack Kornfield - Brief, concise, humorous, and always enlightening stories.
Feeding Your Demons by Tsultrim Allione - Clearly written, practical, and detailed instruction.
Yoga and the Quest for the True Self by Stephen Cope - I've just finished reading this and absolutely loved it. Written more like a novel, Stephen is a psychotherapist and yoga teacher. His insight and experiences of yoga are exceptional and he relates a lot of it to spiritual practice and the therapeutic impact that yoga has when you immerse yourself in it for long enough. One of my top ten yoga books!
The Subtle Body by Stefanie Syman - This book is about the development of yoga in the US and how it evolved from an ancient spiritual discipline to a practice that millions of Americans place at the centre of their way of life. The book is entertaining and easy to read.
...Unlike almost everything by the late Georg Feuerstein, who dedicated his life to the understanding and practice of yoga! All of his books are dense and academic but I can still recommend him for his vast knowledge and wisdom. If you ask me to pick one I would choose Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice. The book offers a complete overview of every yogic tradition, from the familiar to the lesser-known forms. Not necessarily a page turner but it might be everything you need if you're interested in yoga philosophy and history. And once you start reading and get used to the style it can be entertaining too.
Kriya Yoga: Four Spiritual Masters and a Beginner - If you have read Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda then you know about the sages who attained the highest level through meditation in the Kriya Yoga lineage. Yoga is a path of Self Realisation and through Kriya Yoga you can walk this path.
I read Autobiography of a Yogi in 1998 and at the time wished that I could meet a teacher who would show me 'the way' and teach me more about Raja yoga, meditation and Pranayama. In 2001 this wish came true: I met my Guruji (spiritual teacher) in India and received Kriya Yoga initiation in 2002. This book is about the Kriya Yoga lineage I follow and about being devout to a living Guru. I have learned so much under his guidance over the past 16 years. The lessons and meditations that I share on EkhartYoga are just an insight of the depth of the Kriya Yoga practice where breath, embodied awareness and devotion come together in higher realms of the mind.
We'd LOVE you to share your own recommendations - please let us know in the comments below.
n.b. Where possible, I've provided links to the author's website.
This is an updated article, originally published in 2018)