Originating over 10,000 years ago, the definition of yoga has evolved over time but the most basic translation of the word remains today: union, or unity. More specifically, the unity of mind, body, and spirit. However, the westernization of yoga has caused many of us to think of the practice in only its physical form, or asana. As a culture we have chosen to condense our yoga practice into a narrow 60 minute window that can fit neatly into our busy schedules.
But yoga was never meant to fit into a neat box. Yoga is an ancient practice that extends far beyond the four walls of a studio or the four corners of your mat. In fact, the ancient scriptures pertaining to yoga don’t mention a physical component at all. Rather, they discuss yoga as a holistic practice, one that does not and cannot separate yoga from life as a whole.
Yoga is a way of being, it is a holistic framework by which we approach and experience ourselves and the world around us. To dive deeper into our practice, to learn about its limbs and history we must be willing to explore and study the practice of yoga in its entirety.
This learning is a way to respect and honor this sacred, ancient practice. What better way to deepen our understanding of the practice of yoga than with the calming practice of reading a book? Here are a few books to read on your yoga journey that will not only help you to gain a better understanding of the practice as a whole, but also to open your mind up to new ways of living and experiencing the world.
Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
Autobiography of a Yogi is a beautifully written memoir chronicling the spiritual journey of Paramahansa Yogananda from the mystical years of his childhood in India, to his decade-long search for a guru, to the thirty years he spent teaching yoga here in America. At a very young age Yogananda is aware that he is spiritually gifted. With the help of guru Sri Yukteswar, Yogananda decides to devote his life to the practice and study of Kriya yoga, the ancient yogic ways, and the cultivation of a spiritual life.
In this book, Yogananda is able to translate many of these teachings into modern, digestible terms we can all understand, helping to awaken each individual who reads this book to their innately divine nature. Equal parts entertaining and enlightening, this book is an inspiring introduction to the science of yoga as well as to the spiritual wisdoms that have become nearly universal thanks to Yogananda and his life’s work. If there is one book to read on your yoga journey, this is an all-around great place to start!
The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali
If you are looking to explore yoga basics and history, this is the book for you! Often referred to as the father of yoga, Patanjali is the person responsible for organizing the vastness of the ancient yogic texts and philosophies and synthesizing them into a single framework known as the yoga sutras. The yoga sutras mark the first systematic presentation of yoga which is still the basis of the practice today.
Through the exploration of what Patanjali terms the Eight Limbs of Yoga, the yoga sutras teach us how to live a more meaningful and purposeful life. Patanjali’s Eight Limbs remind us that there is not one path to yoga, or unity, there are several. Together, the Eight Limbs create a system by which one can reach the final state of samadhi, or bliss/enlightenment. This is the ultimate goal of the yogi–to exist in a state of bliss, here and now, regardless of the external circumstances.
This Is That – Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras Padas 1 and 2 by Anand Mehrotra
The yoga sutras are the foundation to the yoga we practice today. In the Ohana Yoga Teacher training you dive deep not only into the yoga sutras but also into this book that beautifully breaks down the first two sutras in a way that resonates with us thousands of years after they were written.
If reading the yoga sutras from Patanjali feels a bit overwhelming (or over your head) then this book is a great way to be introduced to the philosophy in a more manageable way.
Use this book as a devotional and read small snippets every morning before you meditate or to hold onto throughout your day, giving you a new perspective to not only yoga but your day-to-day life, as well.
Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday
Have you been wanting to make space for more stillness in your life but find it difficult to achieve in practice? We’ve all been there. In the increasingly hectic world we live in, it’s easy to convince ourselves that our time could be better spent elsewhere. This inspiring and informative read by Ryan Holiday holds all the motivation you need to start prioritizing stillness in your life, regardless of what is going on around you.
Drawing from a wide breadth of ancient philosophies and religions, Holiday notices a common theme throughout–stillness. Stillness is the practice that binds all great thinkers and change-makers throughout human history. Throughout the book, Holiday explores stillness through the stories of real people who have used its power to make the world a better place.
Stillness is the practice that binds all great thinkers and change-makers throughout human history.
Holiday reveals how slowing down is actually the secret weapon for getting what we want out of life. As the title of the book connotes, he explains why cultivating stillness is actually the key to unlocking our greatest ideas, to happiness, to clarity, and to showing up as the best version of ourselves in every corner of our lives. As the world moves faster and faster, cultivating stillness becomes more and more essential.
Stillness is our birthright as humans–to be able to tune out the chaos of the outside world and tune into ourselves. In this book, Holiday lays out the path for achieving this ancient way of living that has become more relevant and necessary than ever. This book will give you the sense of urgency as well as the tools you need to start implementing the practice of stillness into your everyday life.
Embrace Yoga through Books
While we like to think of yoga as an experience through movement, asana (or the movement practice) was only created to help us sit still for long periods of time. It was meant to condition the body for stillness. As we dive deeper into the philosophies of yoga we can discover new tools and new things about ourselves that we might never have learned on the mat. Grab one of these books, snuggle up on the couch and explore more that yoga has to offer you.
Caroline is an Ohana Brand Ambassador helping create beautiful content for the blog and the Ohana Instagram. You can find her at the studio with her sweet daughter bringing joy to everyone she encounters and inspiring us all to create with heart.