Have you ever heard of Jolabokaflod? It’s the Icelandic tradition of giving your loved ones new books on Christmas Eve and then spending the evening reading them together. It translates as “Christmas Book Flood” and sounds like such a cosy tradition.
I love giving books to people for Christmas and below are some of my yoga favourites for anyone looking for ideas; then you can enjoy your own Jolabokaflod!
Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic, by Darren Main
For anyone who is curious about yoga philosophy and looking for a place to start, this book is perfect. It explains yoga terms in a simple and easy to understand way, there’s even a glossary at the back of the book so you can quickly look up the differences between prana, pranayama and pratyahara should you wish.
Darren also describes his life and how he came to practise yoga, become a teacher, and some of the things he has learnt along the way.
In order to use our relationships in a new way, we need to shift control over to the Sadguru or inner teacher so that our relationships are based on love, shared abundance and the desire to express our innate wholeness. In doing this we are able to turn every encounter with another being into a yoga pose of sorts, and relating to each other becomes as much a part of our spiritual practice as sitting to meditate.Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic, by Darren Main
Radha: Diary of a Woman’s Search, Swami Sivananda Radha
I bought this book before my trip to Varanasi in September to get myself in the mood for India. It is the diary that Sylvia Hellman kept as she travelled from Canada to India to learn about yoga, and then back again when she was told to return and take what she had learnt to the West. In the diary, she describes her life in the ashram, her spiritual journey to becoming Swami Sivananda Radha, as well as her travels through India. For anyone who loves travel and yoga this book was fascinating to read, she had such an incredible life and wrote with honesty and transparency about her encounters.
Scientists tell us that our globe is but a speck among millions of other specks in the universe, so we should be under no illusion as to our importance. But even our limited faculties are given to us for some purpose. We as individuals must have some value. Every single cell of my body exists without being consciously experienced at every moment and yet it belongs to the whole. Without the body it has no existence of its own. And this body is only a cell of something bigger – we are a part of something important.Radha: Diary of a Woman’s Search, Swami Sivananda Radha
The Yoga Manifesto: How Yoga Helped Me and Why It Needs to Save Itself, by Nadia Gilani
In this book, Nadia talks about how, at the lowest points of her life, she rolled out her yoga mat and practised. Since becoming a teacher, she has witnessed the growth of the yoga industry and asks if it has stepped too far away from the original spiritual practice. I found it very interesting and engaging to read with lots of things to pause and think about. The book explores all kinds of scientific and philosophical points but in an easy to approach style.
Also, it makes you excited to get up early and get on the mat.
I felt it best to keep them moving as much as possible, so I taught an hour of Ashtanga Yoga – a dynamic form of doing postures that I have practised for many years. What makes this approach distinct is synching the breath with the movement. With practice the breath starts to initiate the movement and that’s when the magic begins to happen. Neuro-scientific research also shows that people who have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can benefit from physical practices to help process trauma and improve the resilience of their nervous system.The Yoga Manifesto: How Yoga Helped Me and Why It Needs to Save Itself, by Nadia Gilani
The Eight Limbs of Yoga: A Handbook for Living Yoga Philosophy, by Stuart Ray Sarbacker and Kevin Kimple
I bought this book to help develop my own knowledge of yoga philosophy after I heard a teacher referring to the Eight Limbs in a class. This short-and-sweet book is an excellent introduction to the Eight Limbs, breaking them down into understandable explanations and chapters, and how yoga philosophy can be brought into everyday life.
The practice of yoga is for imperfect people, especially those who are earnestly dedicated to transforming themselves and their moral and spiritual legacy in this world. As human beings we share a common experience of moral failings and regrets in our lives. Rather than conceiving of this as somehow a reason not to practice yoga, we can view these failings as a great motivating force for doing so… We can work to uproot the sources of our anger, greed, and so on, and in their place plant the seeds of future happiness for ourselves and those around us. From a Buddhist perspective, we should take up practice with zeal…The Eight Limbs of Yoga: A Handbook for Living Yoga Philosophy, by Stuart Ray Sarbacker and Kevin Kimple
Light on Life: the Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace and Ultimate Freedom, B. K. S. Iyengar
This book is so full of wisdom and knowledge about yoga and how it can bring a sense of wholeness to your life. It shows us how we can take yoga off the mat and out into the world, to make us better people for others, but also improve our lives for ourselves.
By learning to appreciate breath, we learn to appreciate life itself. The gift of breath is the gift of life. When we receive a gift, we feel gratitude. Through pranayama we learn gratitude for life and gratitude toward the unknown divine source of life.Light on Life: the Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace and Ultimate Freedom, B. K. S. Iyengar
Hatha Yoga: the Hidden Language, Swami Sivananda Radha
This book explores the symbolism of the asanas (physical postures), through which we can discover layers of meaning and connections within ourselves. The asanas are split into groups: animals, birds, plants and structures (such as the mountain, the triangle, the eagle, the scorpion), and the reader is invited to hold an asana for a longer period of time and be curious about what it may bring up.
The book prompts you with questions you might like to ask yourself as you hold the asana, encouraging you to make reflections and take your time within each posture. If you want to start practising on your own, this book is a wonderful guide and encourages curiosity and self-exploration. I have found it to be very inspirational.
The name of the asana is the place to begin to look for its symbolic meaning. For example: Mountain. The words we often associate with a mountain are strong, massive, immovable, insurmountable, high. What have mountains meant to peoples of different cultures? You can ask yourself: “What does mountain mean to me? My inner strength, my immovability or stubbornness, my strivings, my insurmountable obstacles, my lofty ideals?” as you stand in this posture and view it as a symbol, think of your struggles to reach the top, the stretching of your body and the effort of the muscles helping you to see different aspects of yourself and gain new insights.Hatha Yoga: the Hidden Language, Swami Sivananda Radha
Yoga School Dropout, by Lucy Edge
After a decade in advertising and enjoying a wine or two, Lucy quits everything and goes to India to travel round the different yoga schools and find her way to happiness. Not quite a beginner, and not an advanced student, she tries to find a daily routine in the different schools and ashrams that she stays at, but nothing really feels as right as she expected. This book made me laugh out loud and roll my eyes as she describes her journeys round India and the people she meets in the schools along the way. Also, great for anyone who loves reading about travel.
Train number 6525, the 21.00 Kanyakumari Express from Bangalore to Trivandrum, sat at the platform for a good hour after it was due to depart. The note on the timetable was proven right – passengers were warned that the published time of departure was the earliest the train would leave.
Leaving Mysore I had felt like a prisoner newly released from jail – seeing the world as if for the first time. Now, as I stood in the train doorway, sounds seemed amplified – the hiss of departing trains, the shouts of the chai vendors, the excited screams of children. I took in the broad spectrum of Eastern colours and textures with wide-eyed wonder. How come I hadn’t noticed these things before? Living in Mysore had felt very insular, the students were almost entirely Western and there had been little exploration of the world beyond the yoga schools. The small details of Indian daily life that I now saw before me held me transfixed. The platform was crowded with the friends and families of the departing. Young women in parrot-green and flamingo pink saris tried to control uncontrollable children, older ladies looking stern – adjusting their spectacles and tut-tutting at the lack of discipline, important men with important business looked on impatiently.Yoga School Dropout, by Lucy Edge
Teaching Yoga: Adjusting Asana, by Melanie Cooper
This book was a god-send during my teacher training, and I still regularly refer to it now when creating my sequences. Adjusting can be a tricky thing and requires confidence – this book takes you step-by-step through the Ashtanga primary sequence in an informative and easily digestible way.
Teaching is an ongoing process. In the beginning you teach what you know. As time goes on, your understanding deepens, your knowledge expands and your teaching develops. Your practice is a major resource for your teaching. As you go along, your practice helps your teaching and in turn your teaching will help your practice.Teaching Yoga: Adjusting Asana, by Melanie Cooper
The Confidence Solution: Seven Steps to Confidence, by Chloe Brotheridge
Not a yoga book, but I think this is a must read for any teacher (or any student) looking for that extra little boost of confidence. I read this as part of my YTT and can honestly say it helped me so much with understanding confidence and how to build it.
Hint: try it, at the very least you won’t expire on the spot.
Being human is messy. We are by our nature imperfect beings. Trying to be perfect actually goes against our nature! It’s unnatural! What needs to come first is acceptance. Weirdly, that’s when things start to feel perfect, when you accept that you, as you are, are pretty awesome. Accepting your imperfections doesn’t mean stagnating. It’s going to make your life so much richer to think of yourself as ever evolving, ever learning and growing, and always making progress, no matter what.The Confidence Solution: Seven Steps to Confidence, by Chloe Brotheridge
Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert
Again, not technically a yoga book, this is about creativity. I think it is a common trait amongst yoga students and teachers to appreciate creativity. I love this book, I love Elizabeth Gilbert. Quick side note, if you haven’t read Eat, Pray, Love, (I know, who hasn’t), I recommend it, for the descriptions of pizza alone, but also her experiences of going to an ashram in India and her discussion of the world around her.
Both are wonderfully written books by a truly inspiring author.
Are you considering becoming a creative person? Too late, you already are one. To even call somebody “ a creative person” is almost laughably redundant; creativity is the hallmark of our species. We have the sense for it; we have the curiosity for it; we have the opposable thumbs for it; we have the rhythm for it; we have the language and the excitement and the innate connection to divinity for it.Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert
What yoga books do you recommend? Let me know in the comments!