I am often asked which yoga books have particularly inspired me and this is a little tricky as there have been quite a few. So, I have considered not only those that have inspired me the most, but also those which have had a particular impact on my yoga journey and the ones that I return to time and time again. Therefore, I have narrowed my choice down to three, but with a few extra!
Firstly: Yoga Beyond Belief by Ganga White
Ganga White is one of the most well-known and respected yogis in the world, but he was considered something of a renegade when he was a pioneer of Flow Yoga back in the 1970s. When Yoga Beyond Belief was released in 2007, part of its attraction to people with only a passing, casual interest in yoga, alongside those practising more regularly, was the fact that its foreword was written by Sting, one of his most famous pupils.
Personally, I found it to be a hugely inspirational book, full of insights and anecdotes. It’s scientific, spiritual, philosophical and practical and, best of all, written in a flowing, personal style that’s easy to read.
What’s it about? Well, everything really, the history of yoga and it’s evolution through to the present day, how the various disciplines are really just many strands of one integrated whole. And I really like how it encourages and gives directions on how to make yoga an integral part of everything we do, rather than just something to squeeze in for one hour in a weekly class like a trip to the gym.
As a yoga teacher, it’s also a great book to recommend to students because of the conversational yet informative writing style and the broad palette covered, touching on everything from self-awakening to how to avoid and heal injuries. The section in Chapter 5 on Upwards and Downward and Standing Waves revolutionised my practise, as it taught me to move away from the feeling of pain and how to use the upward biochemical energy (which is, in fact, life force) to move my brain away from the associated feeling of pain and towards letting go and becoming soft (a discipline I had learnt from Howard Milner, my vocal coach.)
This approach will lead you towards becoming an intelligent practitioner, as you give in to the body’s learnt physical behaviour, which can be also referred to as “stiffness”, and then into movement, so you can utilise gravity and surf your internal waves.
“there is movement in stillness and stillness in movement” Ancient yogic text.
Secondly: Functional Anatomy of Yoga by David Keil
The body and yoga. This book is all about how the better understanding you have of the anatomy of the human body, the better knowledge you will have of how it complements and is affected by the practice of yoga. And the more I think about it, the more obvious it seems. Of course knowing how your body works on the inside as well as the outside will enable you to further understand exactly what it is capable of and how far you can push it.
Considering the subject matter, I might have expected this to have been written in a way that could have been weighty and indigestible but, actually, it’s not like that at all and its easy, conversational style has made it really popular amongst both teachers and practitioners. When we’re practising yoga we can feel the difference it is making in our body, this book takes the mantle of describing exactly what is going on in there.
If anatomy is a particular interest of yours, I can also recommend The Psoas Book by Liz Koch, as it is a comprehensive guide to the Iliopsoas muscle, the core muscle in the human body, and its influence on the body, mind and emotions.
Thirdly: The Power of Breath by Saradananda Swari
We all breathe. All the time. Without even thinking about it. But I love this book because it demonstrates, amongst other things, how we can use our breathing to help control stress, boost confidence, revitalise energy levels and give power to our voice. Take a deep breath and count to ten, we’ve all done that from time to time to help calm us down. What The Power Of Breath does is take that premise and run with it, demonstrating how the way we breathe affects everything we do and how we can use our breathing to improve our health, and our lives generally, in many different ways.
Breathing in the right way is also an integral part of yoga, but can easily be overlooked when your focus is on your body and what you want it to do. But in yoga, everything is connected and your breathing is part of that circle too.
Finally I would like to mention the following eclectic list (some more books, a website, even a TED talk), as I invite you to consider continuing self-development as a very important part of your yoga journey. These following recommendations have played an important part for me…
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey: One of the first ‘business’ books I read and one that I have returned to many times.
- I am an avid follower of the online site www.theyogipreneur.com which is devoted to supporting yogi-hearted entrepreneurs. It is full of practical advice and inspirational ideas.
- The Little Book of Persuasion by Joe and Melody Cheal, is a tiny book full of practical ideas to use to help build effective relationships, both at home and at work.
- Brene Brown studies human connection, in particular our ability to empathise, belong and love. Her TED Talk on The Power of Vulnerability really connected with me. Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, change and innovation, it is a place we need to go to more yet the place we all resist or hide from due to other emotions such as shame, self doubt and worry.
- Journal to The Self: Twenty-Two Paths to Personal Growth – Open the Door to Self-Understanding by Writing, Reading and Creating a Journal of Your Life by Kathleen Adams. I discovered this book in 2013 when I was in Ibiza, going through a relationship break down with my fiancée. It inspired me to start journaling, something I continue to do today. I find it a powerful tool that helps me to grow personally and professionally, as it allows me to brain-dump all the internal chatter and start my day thinking clearly, with specific goals in mind. And it is so much fun!
I hope you have enjoyed learning about my favourite books and sources of inspiration. I would love you to share your sources of inspiration and how they have had a positive effect on your life.