Reading

Whenever I try to come to grips with something, I tend to want to get a book — it’s a kind of emotional crutch. When I was researching during my Peru days, I ended with a huge library. But that was before the Web. Now, I am looking at buying books more judiciously. I plan on doing some book reviews here so that people can understand which ones are worth paying for.

All the book links go to Amazon where your purchase will generate a small commission to help me defer the costs of running this site.

Starting Point

Cover - Wherever You Go, There You Are
Jon Kabat-Zinn is a linchpin for me. I started reading about his work at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, and the Stress Reduction Clinic at the Massachusetts University Hospital. I bought some inexpensive audio CDs of guided exercises in relaxation, yoga and meditation from his Mindfulness Tapes website and began exploring. The CDs (there are now three sets of them) actually allowed me to have a first taste of a home practice of gentle yoga — something even a klutz could do — and overcome any fear that I might do something wrong. These simple sessions gave me a taste for yoga and meditation, hungry  to find out more. I then read most of his books. If you’re a visual person, you can find several videos of his presentations on YouTube.
Cover - Full Catastrophe Living

General reading about yoga

  • Yoga and the Quest for the True Self (Bantam Books: 1999) by Stephen Cope is a great narrative about the transformation that occurs in body, mind and spirit. I’ve commented about this in my blog: here, here and here.
  • The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker’s Guide to Extraordinary Living by Stephen Cope (Bantam Books: 2006) is commentary to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, but also a narrative about a group of friends at the Kripalu Center.
  • Happy Yoga : 7 Reasons Why There’s Nothing to Worry About by Steven Ross (ReganBooks, 2003) intriguing title because it underscores yoga’s baseline. It’s not about poses or vinyasas. Steve Ross is a trendy teacher in LA and stars in Oxygen TV’s Inhale yoga program.
  • Yoga : The Poetry of the Body by Rodney Yee with Nina Zolotow (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2002): Creative mixture of posture and position mechanics with yoga philosophy. This was the first book that I bought to understand yoga. I went back and thumbed through it recently and was reminded that it’s a nice approach because it provides eight routines or practices, ending with Sun Salutation. In the second half of the book, Yee emphasizes modifications on key positions, as well as breathing and restorative poses. Many arftul and instructive black and white pictures. A more lusciously colorful presentation is made in Moving Toward Balance : 8 Weeks of Yoga by Rodney Yee with Nina Zolotow (Rodale Books, 2004). The book includes a step-by-step process to transform your home practice.
  • Yoga: The Spirit And Practice Of Moving Into Stillness by Erich Schiffmann (Pocket Books, 1996). This book has turned into a classic. The opening section is about getting your bearings in yoga by understanding some central concepts (stillness, the core of goodness, why yoga, what does it feel like, asana fundamentals, the wind through the instrument, lines of energy and playing the edge). Then, it’s on to the asanas and pranayama.
  • Cool Yoga Tricks by Miram Austin. (Ballentine Books, 2004). This book has proven really useful because it focuses on how to modify poses so that people like me, with impaired flexibility, can modify poses to make them more accessible. Lots of pictures, tips and hints.
  • First There Is a Mountain: A Yoga Romance by Elizabeth Kadetsky (Little Brown 2004) is a curious, but compelling testimony of a writer’s inquiry into the historical roots of yoga in India, the contemporary practice in India and the United States, and her own quest to understand her demons. She studies under B. K. S. Iyengar and then switched to the Ashtanga school. The blend of historical research and personal narrative make it a book that stands out in the literature of yoga.

Breathing

Breathing or pranayama is a core part of yoga; indeed, yoga’s breathing techniques may be what distinguishes it from calisthenics or aerobic exercise.

Meditation

Meditation flows on the breath and the energy that yoga creates.

Reference and Classics

Waiting List

Other list suggestions

  • JJ Gormley’s reading list for teacher training
  • Doug Keller’s list of books and videos. He provides a short review of each selection.

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