Yoga is much more than getting to the mat and practice a few poses. This ancient Indian spiritual practice has countless benefits, and it works its magic on many levels: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. If you feel it’s time to deepen your practice and find out what more yoga has to offer, there is no better way than by reading some classical texts and yoga books. Because there are hundreds of publications to choose from, we asked Pilar de Miguel, founder and director of Balearic Retreats, to suggest 8 books to get you started.
Pilar has been practicing different styles of yoga for years. She completed several courses in India, in both Ashtanga and Vinyasa styles, and travels every year to Mysore to practice with her guru and teacher R. Sharath Jois. She has also studied with high profile teachers like David Williams, Rolf and Marci Naujokat. Pilar teaches from the heart and brings the philosophy of yoga into the asana practice. She is very disciplined in her daily routine and believes that meditation and self-study are the key to a spiritual growth. She also puts a lot of emphasis on adjustments and alignment.
These are her recommendations.
As Sri K. Pattabhi Jois used the remind us, yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory. Most of us start this sacred path through the asana practice, but it reaches a point when our mind is clearer, we feel better and have more connection with our inner self and start wondering what is behind this sequence of movements that is changing our daily habits and attracts us to the yoga shala every morning. Is at this moment that we feel ready to go deeper in the practice and want to know more, but sometimes we don’t know where to go.
Many people choose to travel to India looking for answers but with the super-commercialization of “teacher trainings” and other courses, there is no guarantee that you’ll find what you are looking for over there.
The fourth Niyama of the Patanjali´s sutras, Svadhaya, means “self-study,” referring to both reading the classic scriptures and studying of the Self. Let’s say that reading the scriptures gives us knowledge and guide us to the truth, but then we need to apply this “theory” to our daily life, to both on and off the mat to fully live the yoga practice; otherwise this knowledge becomes empty.
A good starting point is to begin reading some of the books I recommend below, meditate on their meaning and start incorporating their lessons in our lives. Some of them are ancient texts coming from Mother India; others are excellent books written by good and experienced yoga practitioners.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
This sacred text outlines the eight-step blueprint, the Eight Limbs of Yoga, to control the mind and to live a meaningful, complete and peaceful life. There are many translations and commentaries available, among which some of the most famous are: Four Chapters of Freedom by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Yoga, Discipline of Freedom by Barbara Stoler Miller, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Edwin F. Bryant.
The most popular and well known of all the sacred scriptures of ancient India, the Gita is a small episode of the great epic, the Mahabharata, where through a deep dialogue between the God Krishna and the hero Arjuna, reveals the purpose and goal of human existence. Some of the best commentaries are: Bhagavad Gita as It is by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Good Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita by Paramahansa Yogananda, The Bhagavad Gita, a Classic of Indian Espirituality by Eknath Easwaran, Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation by Stephen Mitchel.
Hatha Yoga Pradipika
It is said to be the oldest surviving text on Hatha Yoga. Swami Swatmaram wrote the text in the 15th century CE, drawing upon previous writings and his experiences. While the book describes asanas, purifying practices, mudras, bandhas, and pranayama, it also explains that the purpose of Hatha Yoga is the awakening of kundalini (subtle energy), advancement to Raja Yoga, and the experience of deep meditative absorption known as Samadhi. Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Swami Muktibodhananda and The Yoga of Light: Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Hans Ulrich Rieker.
Yoga Mala by Sri K. Pattabhi
In his book, Pattabhi Jois offers an explanation of a very particular mala, which is ancient in tradition, as sacred as prayer and as beautiful as flowers. His mala is a garland of yoga, in which each vinyasa is like a sacred bead to be counted and focused on, and each asana is like a fragrant flower strung on the thread of the breath. Just as a japamala adorns the neck and a pushpamala adorns the gods, so too this garland of yoga, when diligently practiced, adorns our entire being with peace, health, radiance, and, ultimately, Self-knowledge. A must read for Ashtanga Yoga practitioners.
Yoga Makaranda by Sri T. Krishnamacharya
The father of modern yoga explains in this book some of the benefits of the daily practice of yoga; it covers the nadis, chakras, prana, mudras, and bandhas. It also explains all the kriyas, or cleansing techniques.
Touching Enlightenment by Reginald A.Ray
From a Buddhist point of view, Ray takes us through a systematic meditative process that results in a profound awareness in your body rather than in your head.
The Mirror of Yoga. Awakening the Intelligence of Body and Mind by Richard Freeman
One of the latest books I read and resonated with, Freeman gives us a brief overview of the different methodologies and practices of Hatha, Tantra, Bhakti, Jnana and Ashtanga yoga, showing their relation and symbolizing the unity, profundity, and beauty of the ancient tradition.
How Yoga Works by Michael Roach and Christie McNally
Fun an easy-to-read novel based on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Thank you for this amazing list Pilar!
If you feel the need to connect to nature in an idyllic setting and reconnect with your body, spirit and mind through yoga and meditation join Pilar on a 8 Day Balearic Yoga Retreat on the Magical Island of Mallorca with daily yoga classes, delicious Mediterranean vegetarian food and plenty of time to explore the beautiful surroundings.
For more information on the upcoming retreats email email@example.com