Newly updated for 2019!
Your body Your Yoga by Bernie Clark. So much more than an anatomy book. It’s written from the perspective that we are as different on the inside as we are on the outside. It explains the importance of practising yoga from a functional approach, according to the range of motion offered by our own body.
Living Dharma, the flavour of liberation, Volume 4 by Burgs. Brings the Buddha’s teachings to life, showing that they are just as relevant today as they were 2500 years ago.
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 hilarious adventures and antics of a (very) modern day yogini. It 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. This book 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. Subsequent reads offer deeper interpretations.
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, and enter 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 self-indulged coat of excuses and justifications hits 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:
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!
A Yogi’s Guide to Chakra Meditation by Paul Grilley. Paul’s newest book 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! Patanjali’s ‘Yoga Sutras’ is great to have it next to you when you read and study this book. Paul uses it as a reference points for many subjects.
God talks with Arjuna, the Bhagavad Gita by Paramahansa Yogananda. 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. Yogananda connects the Pandu brothers with the chakras and the Kuru’s with our patterns of behaviour, limitations, desires. Basically, everything that keeps us off 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. Arjuna thinks he cannot fight and kill anymore. Krishna reminds him of his Dharma, 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 reading Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda (another great inspiration) first!
Your body, Your yoga by Bernie Clark. 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 grateful that Bernie took the time to research and write this book, since I’m 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 because of 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.
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 an 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 give a clear picture about fascia, its properties and why we need to start working with this knowledge. You don’t have to be a scientist or anatomy nerd to understand this book. 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. Vanda’s work wasn’t that fashionable in the early years of the yoga boom, but 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. He 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 ‘life after death’ story that offers a beautiful perspective on the gift of life and how to keep things simple. This book also gives 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 stories of how we got here as a human race.
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 his life for me. I recommend reading a few chapters, then go to YouTube for videos of that time period to see 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! 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 all about. 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’s take on the Spandakarika is much simpler to understand than many other translations. This book gives an interesting perspective about the philosophy of Tantra, while leaving enough space 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 is focuses on 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 little and tapping into them at all can be profound. Highly 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. This 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 Main 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 after my very first reading of this Sutra-inspired tale. It became more intimate, more intentional, more purposeful and more soulful. I have recommended it ever since in my 300-hour teacher trainings. 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. 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’s the culmination of Mr Iyengar’s insights from years of practise and teaching. It also interweaves 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 pick it up and turn to a page or chapter and each time it speaks something new and profound. I’ve used it as a teacher training resource 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. 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 and read a few lines as the sun rises.
The Nothing that Is by Robert Kaplan. This is more a metaphysical philosophical book than a yoga book. It ‘takes us from Archimedes to Einstein and makes fascinating connections between mathematical insights from every age and culture’.
Living in the Heart by Drunvalo Melchizedek. An explanation of how to move from a brain-centred experience of reality to that which comes from the heart.
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. He relates much 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. It looks at how it evolved from an ancient spiritual discipline to a practice that millions of Americans place at the centre of their 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. His books are dense and academic but his knowledge and wisdom is unparalled. 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. Whilst not necessarily a page turner, it’s great if you’re interested in yoga philosophy and history.
Kriya Yoga: Four Spiritual Masters and a Beginner. If you’ve read Autobiography of a Yogi 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’ve 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)