One of the most frequently asked questions to teachers: What books can I read to deepen my knowledge of Yoga?
There are thousands and thousands of very valid texts that talk about Yoga and to have a complete overview is almost impossible, a first important thing to ask yourself before approaching a text is: What am I looking for? Am I searching for a technical study related to postures, breathing techniques, mudras, etc, or to deep dive in the so-called "philosophy" of Yoga? Do I want to have a comparative approach among traditions or to get specific with one?
Most of the traditional texts listed inside a Teacher Training, for example, tend to focus on one aspect or the other.
We'd love to underline that a book, however detailed and full of information, cannot replace the teachings of a teacher. Yoga, since its birth, has been handed down directly from teacher to student (parampara - this concept will be explained and transform on the next article) and not in writing. In fact, the first texts on Yoga appear only several centuries after the birth of this discipline and are written in the form of sutras - aphorisms - which makes them difficult to understand in the absence of an external guide and interpretation or, at least, of a commentary.
Said that, here we present some interesting texts that can help deepening basic aspects.
Written in the form of sutras, this writing is the 10 Commandments or the Quran of Yoga - It's the pilar of yoga traditions. Reading the individual aphorisms is particularly complex, so choose a commentary that helps understand its content. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali - E.F. Bryant; Commentary on Patanjali's Yoga Sutras - B.K.S. Iyengar. These texts are good for those who want to deepen the philosophy of Yoga, as the postures are not a subject of discussion except for a very few sutras, which in any case do not address the technical aspects of the asana.
Curated by Swami Sivananda
The Bhagavad Gita is an epic poem, divided into songs, where various "types" of Yoga are widely explained. It is also considered one of the sacred texts of Hinduism. Although written in the form of dialogues, it's better to chose a version with comments, to clarify the culture behind. Personally we find the one edited by Swami Sivananda clear and fluent, considering that it is a fairly complex text that requires a certain dedication. This is also suitable for those who want to deepen the theme of the philosophy of Yoga.
Hatha Yoga Pradipika
It is one of the basic texts of Hatha Yoga - This is what we practice on the mat. Written in the form of a sutras as well, it is therefore important to choose a version with commentary. The difference with texts mentioned above is that some fundamental postures and other “technical” aspects of the practice are described, such as mudras, for example. It is therefore suitable for those who want to deepen these aspects following a classic approach.
by Swami Vivekananda
A series of Yoga talks elaborated by Vivekananda over the course of his life. The topics addressed are quite complex, but the use of the discursive form, as well as examples and images, make reading accessible to all, bringing the reader to the fullest of many of the basic concepts of Yoga, such as the Non-Dualism. You can find online several free PDF versions in English.
Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha
by Swami Satyananda Saraswati
A very complete manual, full of details about the main technical aspects of the practice, as suggested by the title. Postures are illustrated and grouped by type and level of difficulty. As explained in the introduction, our personal suggestion is not to replace the assistance of a teacher with a written text, but certainly the consultation of this book can be useful to deepen more technical aspects of the practice and have a universal visual point of reference.
The Mirror of Yoga
by Richard Freeman
This book is a comprehensive guide to understanding the many teachings, practices, and scriptures that serve as the basis for all the schools of yoga—hatha, bhakti, jnana, karma, tantra, and others. Freeman shows how the myriad forms are ultimately related and can even be perceived to make up a vast, interpenetrating matrix, symbolizing the unity, profundity, and beauty of the ancient tradition.