Yoga Teacher Training is well under way, and my book collection is steadily growing. I’m so excited to have finally started yoga teacher training. The majority of our training comes from the Joy Yoga University manual, but these books are my best friends for the five months of yoga teacher training. I have tons of other books on yoga to dig into and share, but these are the core books for me to really focus on for now. I respond well to learning from books.
Teaching Yoga: Essential Foundations & Techniques
By Mark Stephens
Teaching Yoga feels like the primary textbook for our yoga teacher training. There’s a chapter that I read in relation to each training theme. The book starts with brief history of asanas, before moving into subtle energy concepts (prana, bandhis, chakras, doshas, etc) and an overview of anatomy. Then on to the physical yoga practice for studio setup, teaching asanas, pranayama, meditation, and specialized teaching (prenatal, beginners). The techniques and tools for teaching yoga is one of the chapters that I keep rereading. It is full of useful cues to help students move through asanas. The sequencing and planning chapter is helpful, but it felt like too much of an overview to me so I bought Stephens’ full book on sequencing.
Mark Stephens has written two other fantastic companions to this book, Yoga Sequencing and Yoga Adjustments. I bought both of these books, and use them (or at least attempt to) to intelligently develop creative yoga sequences and reference yoga adjustment techniques.
Staying Healthy With the Seasons
By Elson M. Haas, M.D.
Staying Healthy With the Seasons integrates Eastern and Western medical practices to make physical, nutritional, and mental recommendations to balance your health in each season and seasonal transition. Each season has colors, organs, goals, elements, nutrition, emotions, and behaviors associated with it. The book has some fantastic charts covering meridians and organ themes for each season.
I started reading this book with skepticism. I’m a Westerner who is used to Western medicine and science. But, the more I read, the more I like this book. If nothing else, it’s a great way to systematically draw awareness to different areas of your body, habits, etc, and address them in cycles. As you cycle through the seasons year after year, paying specific attention to your health and cycles, you will grow. To me, the way Eastern medicine draws parallels and harmonies between time and the physical makes sense. I’m all in. There are a few recommendations that I’m not quite sold on – for example, seasonal enemas are not on my to do list. Other than that, I love it.
By Leslie Kaminoff
This best-selling anatomy guide for yoga has a fascinating chapter on spinal alignment that has more detail than I have seen elsewhere. I found this book to be thorough and easy to read through. Its primary use for me has been as a reference in the poses – to look up names, muscle engagement, and cues between each pose. The illustrations and diagrams are top notch. You can see the muscles that are engaged in every pose.
Light On Yoga
By B. K. S. Iyengar
Light on Yoga is often referred to as the Bible of modern yoga, and one of the books that you are most likely to find on a yogini’s bookshelf. Iyengar Yoga is a very popular form of Hatha Yoga developed by B. K. S. Iyengar, who studied under Krishnamacharya along with Patabhi Jois and T. K. V. Desikachar (Sidenote – Desikachar wrote one of my favorite yoga books, The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice, which integrates the mental and the physical aspects of yoga very well),This book is awesomely thorough. You will find more of a variety of poses in this book than in the Leslie Kaminoff or Mark Stevens book. However, the alignment in many of these poses is not what is recommended for Westerners. Since we sit in chairs all day, most Westerners have lower back issues. We benefit from softening our knees in folds, so we can emphasize hinging at the hips. Iyengar’s book recommends locking out the knees during a fold, which brings the tension to the back.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
By Swami Satchidananda
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are one of the oldest texts on yoga – likely about 2,000 years old. In Sanskrit, sutra means “thread”, and yoga means “union” or “yoke”. The yoga sutras are phrases or aphorisms describing right action according to the eight-limbed path of ashtanga yoga. The book itself actually only references asana, the physical practice, a handful of times. The rest of the sutras address the intellectual and behavioral side of yoga.
I love this book, so much. It’s good to read through it once, and then pick it up from time to time and randomly flip to a page to find a sutra to focus on for the day.
My practice has grown so much on the mental and intellectual side since being exposed to all of this information through yoga teacher training. It used to be a very physical power practice, and now I find myself dividing time more evenly between books and asana.