8 Essential Books for Your Yoga Journey

Author Kathryn E. Livingston shares her top picks for those beginning (or continuing) their practice.

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Feel like snuggling down on your yoga mat with a good read? If so, you’re not alone.

More than 20 million practice yoga in the U.S., and it seems that every week a new study comes out lauding the practice for body, mind, and/or spirit. To the delight of yogis all over the world, June 21, 2015, was declared the first International Day of Yoga by the United Nations.

Along with the upsurge in yoga, there’s been an upswing in yoga-related books. Here are eight that will help you get started on your yoga journey and inspire you to keep with it once you’ve begun.

autobiography of a yogi

Autobiography of a Yogi

By Paramahansa Yogananda

This transformative book, first published in l946, remains every yogi’s spiritual handbook. The autobiography takes readers on a magical journey from Yogananda’s early childhood in India to his arrival in America in the 1920s and the later founding of the Self-Realization Fellowship, with International Headquarters in Los Angeles. Yogananda writes with charm and innocence of the miracles that occur when one opens one heart to trust.

Related: 15 Spiritual Books to Inspire Positive Living

inside the yoga sutras

Inside the Yoga Sutras

By Reverend Jaganeth Carrera

There are many editions of the seminal yoga text, The Yoga Sutras, which includes 195 sutras (threads or aphorisms) that guide readers down the yoga path, and help them to find inner peace and santosha (contentment) without harming (ahimsa). This version includes incisive commentary that elucidates concepts that may be difficult for the beginner (and even the experienced!) yogi. 

According to legend, Patanjali, the sutras’ original author, first appeared an unknown number of centuries ago as a small lizard in the hands of his mother Gonika, as she was praying for a child (certainly a unique author bio!).

light on life

Light on Life

By B.K.S. Iyengar

This classic text by the venerable yoga master takes readers through the basics of yoga and includes photos and detailed asana instructions. Iyengar, who passed away in 2014 at the age of 95, offered a style of yoga that can be practiced by all ages (appropriately called “Iyengar Yoga”). He also was the go-to guy for the props that can help yoga feel all the more yummy. Each of Iyengar’s books (he wrote several) is worthy additions to any yogi’s library.

bhagavad gita

The Bhagavad-Gita: A New Translation

By Stephen Mitchell

This spiritual classic shares the tale of Prince Arjuna, who is seeking his path in life. In conversation with Krishna on the eve of a great battle he is reluctant to fight, Arjuna learns that the only route to the true self is to follow one’s dharma, or inner calling. Stephen Mitchell offers an accessible version of this ancient text.

yoga and the quest for the true self

Yoga and the Quest for the True Self

By Stephen Cope

Described on Amazon as “an irreverent Modern-day Pilgrim’s Progress,” this fascinating book by a psychotherapist/yoga teacher takes readers beyond the postures into how yoga impacts the challenges faced in daily life.

the heart of yoga

Into the Heart of Yoga

By Danna Faulds

This personal memoir by author/poet Faulds explores her journey of discovery through yoga, and also serves as a chronicle of the development of Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.


Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence

By Matthew Sanford

This is a stunning memoir about a young man who uses yoga to reawaken his body, mind, and spirit after he is critically wounded in an accident that kills his father and sister and leaves him paralyzed from the chest down. (P.S. Yes, he becomes a phenomenal yoga teacher!)

Related: 10 Mental Health Memoirs From Writers Who Have Been There

seven spiritual laws of yoga

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga

By Deepak Chopra and David Simon

As always, Chopra’s profound understanding of all things spiritual leads readers into the heart of what yoga means on its deepest level. Chopra and Simon deftly explore the branches of yoga, the chakra system, and guide readers through the basic components of a yoga session.

Kathryn E. Livingston has been writing about parenting issues for more than 25 years. Recently, she’s turned her pen to the topic of yoga. A Kundalini yoga teacher, Livingston blogs for the Kundalini yoga music website Spirit Voyage, and her work appears in the popular online yoga magazine Elephant Journal. She also blogs for the Huffington Post on seasoned motherhood and empty-nest issues, and she is a supporting blogger for Dr. Susan Love’s Army of Women, an online effort to research and eradicate breast cancer.

In her intimate memoir Yin, Yang, Yogini: A Woman’s Quest for Balance, Strength, and Inner Peace, Livingston describes her transformation through yoga, exploring how yoga helps her find the courage and strength to face breast cancer and overcome anxiety issues. The book is also a poignant and humorous exploration of motherhood, letting go, and learning to live with grace and gratitude in the now.

Download Yin, Yang, Yogini

Keep Reading: 23 Mayo Clinic Books to Help Keep You Healthy

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