I was asked an interesting question the other day. What is my top 5 yoga books? I always like to quote from books and for some reasons a lot of them just stick in my mind. I love reading and studying, so I read one book after the other. But what is actually my top 5 yoga books?
Mastery of Love – Don Miguel Ruiz
There is no doubt about the number one. I have recommended this book to numerous people. This is the number one master piece ever written. It is written by a Mexican shaman, Don Miguel Ruiz. So officially it is not yoga. But what is yoga? The whole message in this book, is the yoga message. And Don Miguel Ruiz puts it in so simple words, it will open up your eyes.
He explains why we are all chasing after money, career, big car, a big house and why that will never make us happy. He also explains why our relations are doomed to fail if we don’t love ourselves enough. And if that isn’t enough he explains how we poison ourselves with our own thoughts and our own emotions. Reading this book, freed me from the little monster inside of me that my mind sometimes is.
How yoga works – Michael Roach
Michael Roach wrote a must read as well. The title of his book, how yoga works, doesn’t sound very poetic, but it is actually a great book to read. The book isn’t a study book as you might expect reading the title. It’s a roman. Roach took the yoga sutras, written by Patanjali ages ago, and make a beautiful novel out of it. How yoga works is a story about a little girl that travels through India to find her new yoga teachers. At a border station she gets arrested. She carries a book with the yoga sutras with her and nobody believes that such a little girl can be the owner of an expensive book like that. She is put in prison and that is where she starts to teach yoga to the captain of the prison.
Roach mixes Patanjali’s sutras beautifully with his story, making the sutras very easily to understand.
Light on Yoga – B.K.S. Iyengar &
Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha – Swami Satyananda Saraswati
I started out as a big asana fan, who was very skeptic about the yoga philosophy. The more asana I did, the stronger I got convinced what yoga can do for people: physically, but mentally as well. Slowly, slowly I started to study more philosophy. The way I look at yoga now, is that it is a shame if people only do asanas. I always compare it with taking a five course dinner and only eating the soup. There is so much beautiful food (for thought) in front of you and you don’t even touch it. We can truly grow when we start to study our own behavior, our interactions with other people and our reactions on others. That’s the reason why the first two books have nothing – Okay, a little – to do with asanas. Light on Yoga and Asana, Pranayama, Mudra Bandha have.
Both books explain yoga briefly. It’s not why I’m using them. Light on Yoga has been my favorite for a long time. It has been to at least six different countries with me. I always use it to prepare my flows. Iyengar describes two hundred different asanas, all with their benefits. In the back of the book is an overview of (series of) asanas that can cure diseases.
I use Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha for the same reason. I mostly pick it up secondly. If I’m not satisfied with the asanas in Yoga Dipika I scroll through this book, which contains about 250 asanas. A lot of them are in both books, but I still manage to find new ones.
In both books they use different Sanskrit names for the same asanas. It’s a bit confusing and the reason I’m not to bothered about knowing all the names in Sanskrit. For me the most important thing is how to get people (safely) in and out of the pose and to know the health (physically and mentally) benefits of the pose and the contraindications. Just like Iyengar Swami Satyananda Saraswati gives those in his book.
The Key Muscles of Yoga (and others) – Ray Long
If you want to make a difference for you students, I think it is good if you have a basic understanding of anatomy. I do understand it is very technical. At the same time, the human body is such an amazing piece of art and machinery. A divine piece of work we still don’t know everything about. What we do know, is that our bodies are not designed for the tasks of our now-a-days society. Yoga can help us to do those tasks and at the same time to stay healthy.
All yoga poses were once invented to do precisely this job. The yogis were sitting in their caves, meditating for sixteen hours a day. Slowly their body would deteriorate. To keep themselves healthy they started to study nature: plants, trees, animals and started to copy their behavior, because they saw that plants and animals stay healthy almost their whole life. It’s the reason why so many yoga poses are named after animals and trees.
We can do the same. Use the poses to stay healthy or get healthy again. We can only do this if we know which pose works on what and how to apply them on ourselves and our students. Yoga Dipika and Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha will give you a lot of insight, but if you want to go into detail, The Key Muscles of Yoga and all other anatomy yoga books, written by Ray Long, are amazing. You can see muscle for muscle and force for force what is happening in your body and use that in your practice and use that to help your students, because all there bodies are different so you can explain why they can and can’t do certain postures.
Tantric Quest ‘An encounter with absolute love’ – Daniel Odier
I’m a tantric yogi, so My top 5 yoga books isn’t complete without a tantra book. There were two titles playing in my mind: Tantra by Margot Anand and Tantric Quest by Daniel Odier. Both are amazing books. Tantra of Margot Anand is more a practical guide. Tantric Quest gives more insight into tantra.
For some reason tantra is still seen as sex. It isn’t. There is a whole tantric branch without sex: white tantra. There is also red tantra. Again this branch is not about sex, but there is a part where sexual energy is used. Too often it is misused. The whole idea behind it is that we can use our body and this sexual energy to help us on our spiritual path. I really like Tantric Quest of Daniel Odier, because he explains perfectly the goal of tantra, the way to conquer fear, how to use this powerful kundalini energy and how our emotions are trapped within our body and how to free them.