November 27, 2018
Top teachers share the yoga and meditation books that impacted them the most.
There are some books that stick with us long after we’ve finished turning the pages. These are the books that become a part of who we are— a fabric of our being, so to speak. They influence us when we think about our practice (and our lives as a whole, really), and they affect our headspace and outlook every time we step on our mats and sit on our meditation cushions.
They’re the kind of books that are worth reading again and again.
To dig into the power that the best yoga and meditation books can have to change our lives, we asked top teachers which yoga and meditation books have changed theirs. Teachers cited books that were favorites because they were easy to return to again and again, as well as books that made a difference at a pivotal moment in their lives.
Read on for the 10 best yoga and meditation books, according to 10 top teachers around the country.
The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts
“My mid-thirties were a dark time. I was depressed, but too trapped in fear to change my life,” says New York City yoga pro Joe Miller. “While I had been practicing yoga on and off for years, I had never really explored yoga philosophy. Then I ran across a used copy of Alan Watts’ The Wisdom of Insecurity. Watts’ message—that we can’t have security without accepting insecurity, that our desire to cling to what’s familiar only creates suffering—resonated with me. Watts helped me see that the fact that there’s no life without death, or light without darkness, could be a cause for joy and reason to live more fully. I eventually read nearly every book he wrote and dove more deeply into yoga practice. Within a few years, I had started teaching yoga and was much healthier and happier. It wasn’t just Watts’ book, of course, and it’s still hard for me to accept “the wisdom of insecurity,” but the glimpse he offered of another way to live came at just the right time.”
The Living Gita by Swami Satchidananda
“I love this version of the Bhagavad Gita,” says Stephanie Snyder, founder of San Francisco based Love Story Yoga. “We include it in our teacher trainings and I reference it all the time. Some of it can seem a little dated, but still, its super accessible. It also has some great stories that help explain some of the ideas in a very engaging way.”
Yoga and the Quest for True Self by Stephen Cope and Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor
“I read Stephen Cope’s book while I was going through a devastating break-up,” says Andrea Ferretti, host of Yogaland podcast. “I was in my early 30s and wanted a life partner and a child so badly and I thought I’d found him. Cope writes so honestly about his own life in this book—but more importantly, he writes with compassion for himself and for the reader. At one point, he talks about his own breakup and how he sobbed while saying to a friend, “I tried so hard…” and then it dawns on him that he has to let go of the fruits of his hard work, just as Arjuna has to let go of the fruits of his actions in the Bhagavad Gita. It helped me so much to read about Cope’s own struggles, and to see how he relied on his practice to get through them. He gave me hope that I would see through to the other side—and I did.”
Bringing Yoga to Life by Donna Farhi
“It’s my favorite book,” says Mary Beth La Rue, Los Angeles based yoga teacher and founder of Rock Your Bliss. “She writes about the practice and philosophy of yoga in such a grounded, applicable way. I have probably underlined every other sentence in this book and can always open it and find a new gem to contemplate and put into action in my life.”
The Secret of the Yoga Sutra by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait
“I’ve found I turn most to Pandit Rajmani Tigunait’s books on the Sutras,” says New York City-based yoga teacher and DoTerra ambassador Elena Brower. “It’s erudite, accessible, and articulate. His translations of each thread consistently land in my practices of both yoga and meditation, and I’m grateful to have such a resource so close at hand.”
Do Your Om Thing by Rebecca Pacheco
“I actually keep this book on my nightstand. Sometimes I pick it up and just start reading at a random spot, and it often seems to be the message I need to hear right at that moment,” says singer, kids yoga and meditation pro, and author Kira Willey. “Rebecca makes the philosophy of yoga completely accessible and easily understandable—it’s funny and serious in all the right places, and just totally works for me.”
See also 11 Poses to Help Kids Feel Brave
Training in Compassion by Norman Fischer
“Norman Fischer is an incredible mindfulness and zen teacher for beginners,” explains Los Angeles yoga teacher Alexis Novak. “He has a few books that are specifically for novice meditators looking to learn more and start a practice. He takes traditional Zen practices and gives them modern language and application.”
The Journey Home by Radhanath Swami
“It’s a modern-day version of The Autobiography of a Yogi—an inspired and compelling true story of a young man’s spiritual quest for meaning, connection, and ultimately his transcendence,” says San Francisco-based yoga teacher Giselle Mari. “It galvanizes the reader to reflect on their own journey and reminds us all that we have the potential to connect to our highest Self. Having spent time with Radhanath Swami has only forged a deeper respect and honoring for all he endured to become one of the most impactful spiritual teachers of our generation. This is a must read.”
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Sri Swami Satchidananda
“This is the yoga book that impacted me the most,” says yogi and author of Strong in the Broken Places, Quentin Vennie. “I’ve always been fascinated by the philosophies of yoga, not just the practice of asana. As someone who has battled severe anxiety and depression, I needed more than just a physical connection—more so a way to change my thinking. I had to learn that my anxiety wasn’t my enemy, but it was my guide. This book guided me to yoga, meditation and an overall better quality of life. The practice of non-attachment allowed me to separate myself from my many mood disorders, which helped my healing process.”
Meditation & Mantras by Swami Vishnu Devananda
“It’s simple and straight forward,” says Pradeep Teotia, a yoga teacher in San Francisco. “I like that in life, things should be simple and straight forward so we can focus better.”
About the Author
Gina Tomaine is a Philadelphia-based writer and editor. She is currently Deputy Lifestyle Editor of Philadelphia magazine, and previously served as Associate Deputy Editor of Rodale’s Organic Life. Her work can be seen in Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Prevention, Good Housekeeping, and elsewhere. Learn more at ginatomaine.com.