We love books, we always have! Actually The Big Read is a long lost Yogamatters tradition that we have brought back to life. We asked a handful of amazing yoga teachers about their favourite book and how it has inspired their yoga practice, on or off the mat. Prepare to be inspired! Also why not join The Yogamatters Book Club Facebook group where we explore a new book every month and provide a community space to share your thoughts about books you have read or are reading. Join here.
This book changed my mindset completely when I learnt that our unique anatomy will mean we reach the ultimate range of motion through compression. We need to make the practice work for us and not the other way around and remember the intention of the pose, not the idealised image we have of it. I would recommend this book for any yoga teacher or practitioner who wants to gain a deeper understanding of human anatomy and how it influences your practice.
When it comes to literature on yoga, we usually have to choose between asanas and philosophy. In this book though you can find a bit of everything: Meaning of basic yogic terms, inspiring story of a westerner girl who started to live a yoga life, detailed postures techniques. It has bits of all you need to know when yoga becomes more than irregular workout. And you don’t necessarily have to practice Ashtanga yoga. Asanas and philosophical background explained in here are universal for any style.
Anna Fooks recommends “Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success” by Matthew Syed
Not so much a yoga book but, definitely one that I would recommend to shift the way you think about your practi ce. Simply put the book is all about failing. Interestingly, it proves that how we process failure will either set us up for great success or further disaster. We have to fail first and, in a world full of picture perfect yoga, this is just the book you need to ignore those ideals and instead embrace your fails, on and off your yoga mat.
Mariel Witmond-Bateman recommends “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown
I grew up uncertain of who I was, eager to please and constantly reinventing myself to what I thought others wanted me to be and what my surroundings dictated I should be. Through Brene’s words I realised that that disconnect I felt for so long stemmed from my fear of being seen for who I truly was, my fear of showing up and failing, and what keeps us apart is our inability to embrace being vulnerable.
Molly Robinson recommends “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” by Mark Manson
I started reading this book after completing my first YTT, I was in a place of feeling like a little fish in a GIANT pond. I felt lost & actually quite alone, & at the same time very intimidated by the career I’d taken on. Although everyone tries to push their egos to the side it’s very hard to admit that you’re not as good as the rest, you’re not as flexible or as strong. This massively weighed on my mind as a newly qualified instructor. This book gave me the attitude to recheck, to forcefully push my ego to the side & recognise what I was bad at but also what I was good at. It taught me that not only is it ok to struggle but that by struggling we learn, we grow & we evolve as people & teachers – ‘this is the most simple & basic component of life, our struggles determine our successes’. Physically my struggles drive me to grow in my own practice & to deepen my goals on the mat.
Ambra Vallo recommends “Conversations with God” by Neale Donald Walsh
I chose one of the first one that took my breath away. This book is stunning!!!
I love this book as it speak about all the questions about existence: life, death, good, evil, love, karma, Self-realisation. The relationship to the God within and the amazing power, freedom, and responsibility we have been bestowed with.
It speaks about suffering, how we create it in our reality, and how we can transcend it. About karma, karmic debt, and karmic lessons, and Self-realization and the path to mastery.
Kelsie Silva-Neto recommends “Women Who Run With The Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
As a traditional tantra hatha teacher, a big part of my work is moving with the energy of masculine and feminine. This booked helped me honour the feminine energy even deeper, bringing more fullness and depth to my overall practice. Highly recommend it!
Esther Marie recommends “The Path of the Sutras” by Nicolai Bachman
Brilliant book that delves into key principles of yogic living, personal practices, Yamas, Niyamas and inner development. From discussing suffering, heart mind, past, regulation of the body and breath. Combines knowledge and wisdom so eloquently that when reading it not only do you learn but feel so awake and inspired to live your best life.
This was the second yoga book I read at the beginning of my journey in 2016 and due to its brilliance it began my addiction to learning about the philosophy of yoga.
Celest Pereirai recommends “The Chimp Paradox” by Prof Steve Peters
A lot of yoga philosophy, although lovely, isn’t terribly practice. This book feels like a philosophy book for the modern person. It has helped me better understand my own mind so I can be my best self.
It’s a short but powerful read that has the ability to change your mindset and make you happier. The personal freedom I found from reading it was life-changing.
Steph Fall recommends “Women Who Run With the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola
This book taught me how to rewild myself back to my true nature, which is woman of wisdom, power, courage and soul.
This was the read that really helped me link psychology and yoga in concept and practice. I also loved Stephen’s description of the breath and connecting with our calm abiding centre. A deeply soothing and inspiring read!
Sarah Grogan recommends “5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman
An eye opening book for me. Everyone should read it! It’s changed my perspective on relationships. Knowing and understanding the ones you love is of course crucial to the success of any relationship, and this book breaks down the types of people that exist and how to work out what their love language is, so you can communicate effectively. I also loved this book for the deeper understanding it gave me of myself, and my needs, and indeed how it applies to friendships, not just romantic relationships.
Chris Magee recommends “The Dance of the Lion and the Unicorn” by Mark Waller
Not strictly to do with yoga, more psychology and understanding the mind and human relationships/communication – great for living yoga off the mat! Another would be ‘do your om thing’ by Rebecca Pacheco for giving a modern outlook and understanding to yogic traditions, and making them accessible to today’s society. A really easy and fun read on what could be a dense and heavy subject matter.
Finlay Wilson recommends “I Don’t Want to Talk About it” by Terrence Real
This book really made me look at myself and the way I behave and act, not only on the mat and the way I tear myself down, but the relationships I have with everyone around me. It has given me to tools and awareness to see in others the ways that depression can manifest and the ways we as teachers can get people back into their bodies (without thinking that we are trauma therapists!). This is one of the few books that had me sitting back and thinking “oh gosh, that’s me they are writing about.”
Amazing self help book for anyone struggling with life and looking to understand themselves better.
David Tilston recommends “The Book of Five Rings” by Miyamoto Musashi
Why do I love this book? Because to me it reiterates this: nothing is separate from anything else and the key does not reside in the accumulation of ideals and forms; but in the removal of these, understanding the ego and the cultivation of unbound flow that transcends our own human experience.
Naomi Absalom recommends “A Life” by David Bowie
It’s a constant reminder to keep colouring outside of the lines, to explore endlessly – that to live a creative life is to live a spiritual life – that spirituality can often be found in the most unexpected places and that those who wear it like a badge are often best avoided!!
I read all his books, but Siddhartha has delighted, inspired, and influenced generations of readers, writers, and thinkers, including myself. In this story of a wealthy Indian Brahmin who casts off a life of privilege to seek spiritual fulfillment. Hesse synthesizes disparate philosophies–Eastern religions, Jungian archetypes, Western individualism–into a unique vision of life as expressed through one man’s search for true meaning.
This is a bible for any movement or anatomy geek! With very in-depth material and an evidence-based approach the book really helps the reader to understand the intricacies of the spine in relation to stability and mobility, and reminds us repeatedly that our bodies are each entirely unique. It’s a book that you’ll come back to time and time again!
Connecting phycology to the chakra system in a beautiful and practical way. I have found this book so illuminating and healing on a personal level. It’s also a great inspiration for teaching. Other favourites include The Great Work of Your Life – Steven Cope and The Gift – poems by Hafiz the great Sufi Master.
Craig Norris recommends “A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya” by Swami Satyananda Saraswati.
Within it are some of the most powerful but accessible practices of yoga for the evolution of human consciousness. As well as a run down of everything Hatha Yoga from asana, pranayama, Mudra, bandha, and cleansing practices. It also goes through some amazing meditations, how to practice mantra yoga and how to slowly build up the practice of Kriya yoga with all 20 kriyas. It also includes discussions on subjects such as tantra, yantra, Bhakti, chakras. As well as a discussion on vegetarianism that I would recommend (as an omnivore). I see this book as a true yoga bible with its nearly 1000 pages. It’s a bit of an expense but necessary for any serious yoga student. I am still finding gems of wisdom within it 14 year later.
Katarina Rayburn recommends “Light on Life” by B.K.S. Iyengar
Regardless of whether you are a teacher/practitioner the principals in this book can be related to the principals in every day life. It’s a beautiful book for anyone to read.
Gandha Savio recommends “Journey to the heart” by Melody Beattie
My absolute favourite book is one I read each morning. It is part of my morning rituals. While sipping warm water with lemon, I read the daily meditation (there is one for each day of the year). They are thought provoking, inspiring and instill positivity in my mind, to start the day on the right foot.
I looove reading, especially about yoga, so it’s really hard to choose! But I think that one would have to be top of my list. It’s the first book I bought when I started practicing Ashtanga, and it’s worth it’s weight in gold for any Ashtangi, or teacher. The Primary and Intermediate series are both really clearly laid out, and there are modifications given for each pose, for any level. I refer to it all the time… It’s an invaluable practice aid.
Mimi Kuo Deemer recommends Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the “Tao Te Ching”. The Tao Te Ching is the seminal text on Taoism (Daoism)
This book has been hugely influential on how I view the world and how I believe I can best live in it. I keep a small pocket version in my yoga bag at all times. Mitchell’s translation is modern, which means it takes certain license with the meaning of the original text. Nevertheless it is my favourite version as it describes the deepest paradoxes of life using language that is modern, evocative, poetic and alluring. It also honours nature’s generous, humbling power and mystery while shining light into the predicament of being alive, and how might we find kindness through living in a balanced and generous way.
I love her observations on profound practices. She was a woman travelling in disguise through Tibet in the 1910’s. She saw, experienced and participated in practices that transcend all that we currently believe possible. A very inspiring read.
Phoebe Greenacre recommends “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield
I love it as it’s narrative that’s set in Peru that gives you major insights to live and learning how to deal with energy exchange.
She so clearly outlines the philosophy of yoga, whilst also perfectly depicting the experiences you undergo when beginning your yoga journey. It’s a book that you can so easily relate to as a new or more seasoned yogi. I found myself carrying it around and dipping into it even after I’d read it twice!
Calli Popham recommends “Intelligent Yoga- Listening to the Body’s Innate Wisdom” by Peter Blackaby
Beautifully presented, it encourages us to ask crucial questions around how and why we practise yoga, encouraging teachers to move away from a reductionist, anatomical and mechanistic view of the body, instead understanding that the body doesn’t move in parts, it is an intelligent, feeling vessel and moves from intention, from the ‘bottom up’ (through the sensory nervous system) as opposed to the ‘top down ‘ (moving from a thought, concept or idea) A must read!
Sarah Highfield recommends “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It’s All Small Stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Taking Over Your Life” by Richard Carlson
I’ve read this book several times and still re-read sections of it every now and again. It’s full of so many wonderful examples about how we can live a happy, contented life. It offers solutions to everyday occurrences which can upset or stress you out. As a yoga teacher, it reminds me to always be empathetic with my students and to live as ‘presently’ as I can.
Zarouhi Grumbar recommends “Journey to the Heart” by Melody Beattie
I often find that inspires the intention for the day and filters in to my practice and teaching, as my teaching is very much heart-led, both physically and metaphorically. Right now I am also loving, Myths of the Asanas – Alanna Kaivalya and Arjuna van der Kooij.
This book really opened my eyes for the first time to the fact that there is more to Yoga than just the physical practice. This book inspired me to take my first Forrest Yoga Teacher Training, and is a constant source of inspiration for me. I love to delve into it sporadically, and no matter which page I open it on I always receive the wisdom I need to hear at that moment.
Emma Jefelt recommends “10% Happier” by Dan Harris
Without offending anyone… I love any approach to meditation, that takes the spirituality out of it. I am a yoga teacher and I meditate daily, but I am also a very logically minded person, and I appreciate scientific evidence and real life stories more than ancient traditions and philosophy. I related so much to this book, which takes a very realistic, hilarious and, at first, sceptical approach to meditation and mindfulness, but also eventually proves what incredible benefits it can have on anyone’s life! After reading countless books on yoga philosophy and meditation, this one is what really prompted me to get a regular meditation practice going once and for all.
Huge research into the roots of yoga and how it affects us as women. It is a real tome, a must-have for all women. I don’t agree with all that she says and I love this, that I have my own experiences and opinions. But I have gifted this book to many women.
The most inspirational book I have read. I read it first in the early stages of my practice when I was trying to reconcile what it was that I had been searching for within the practices I had found. Reading that book felt like coming home. To this day, the practices and the philosophy within those pages act as a cornerstone to my practice.
My biggest inspiration these past few years.
This is one of the books that has had a big influence on my development as a yoga student and teacher. Some of the practices are pretty mind-blowing and things I wouldn’t ever expect to come across in a modern day yoga class. The book is a great reminder of how expansive and magical the practice of yoga can be.
Richie Norton recommends “Yoga – Fascia, Form and Functional Movement” by Joanne Avison
This book helped me connect the dots from my body building and human performance training with a more detailed look into what’s actually happening when we move. When we know how to make a better connection with our body and mind, the more powerful and progressive the practices become.
I read it decades ago and it was the first moment that I realised that the teaching and practice of yoga need to be informed by our human design! Light-bulb moment.
When I was starting out, this book was a constant support to make sense of what I was learning and experiencing in classes and later within my teacher training. I have studied with Donna since and her work has been highly influential in my practice, teaching and writing. I need to add in anything by Judith Lasater too and also Tias Little’s book Yoga of the Subtle Body, which is more recent but an invaluable resource that brings in the poetry of yoga philosophy to the physical matter of the body; he is a wonderful teacher. Oh and Joanne Avison’s Yoga, Fascia and Anatomy…. Oh and John Stirk’s Original Body…
Rebecca Bieraugel recommends “Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child” by Thich Nhat Hahn and “Ten Types of Human: Who we are and who we can be” by Dexter Dias
I recommend absolutely anything by Thich Nhat Hanh but above and beyond the greatest healing on my journey of understanding myself came about reading “Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child”.
Nowadays I’m madly interested in the workings of all of our brains so loving “Ten Types of Human: Who we are and who we can be”.
I used this book so much during my early and middle teaching years that it fell to pieces and I had to buy a new one! – I like many of the Bihar school of Yoga books, another favourite is Yoga Nidra.
Sharon Whitely recommends “How to Use Yoga” by Mira Mehta
I love it because when I first started Yoga it was such a simple step-by-step guide to the Iyengar Method and uses plain English and lovely clear pictures of the basic posed.
I still love it now as it tells you how to use Yoga for every day problems!
My fave book at the moment. She’s very “real”.
A life changing read on the power of opening your heart and staying aligned with your soul to discover who you are. Each chapter had me captivated as to how we can shift our perspective to see the light in every day. A very practical guide that is modern and can be applied to everyday life as we live it now. “Learn to stay open no matter what happens. If you do, you get for free what everybody else is struggling for: love, enthusiasm, excitement and energy”.
Tell us your favourite book