There are only so many hours a day that one can spend on the mat/sheepskin. For those other hours of the day, what can the yoga-obsessed do? Read!
Svadyaya or “Self-Study” is an essential part of an engaged yoga practice. This can take many creative and expressive forms such as journaling, self-reflecting through art, conscious conversation, writing poetry or blogging even, but traditionally svadyaya referred to reading sacred texts or shastras.
The study of these texts remains a valuable tool for all yoga practitioners. Texts such as the Yoga Sutra and Bhagavad-Gita provide incredible insight and wisdom. Because these texts come from a true place of time-tested authority, we can trust the instructions provided in them to benefit our higher selves. My first introduction to these texts was in the classroom as a comparative religion major at Colorado College. But since then, in my personal practice, I have returned at various times to examine these books as well as others such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and our more modern book of instruction, Guruji’s Yoga Mala.
My FY loves to sit and read (and underline with a fine lead and ruler!) these texts for hours on end. I’m so lucky that he leads a great Yoga Sutra discussion group at our house every few weeks from which I can benefit. I’m less of a scholar though and unfortunately I don’t spend as much time as I probably should with these books. But….there are so many different ways of learning and engaging in practice. I am very interested in people, social structures, traditions and customs. I love learning about social and cultural history (a big reason in why I loved studying religion when I was in school).
Over the past few years there has been an influx of really great and informative books about yoga and the introduction of Vedic wisdom and culture to the West. I’ve really enjoyed reading these books recently and I thought I would share with you today a list of the most engaging and interesting books I’ve read about yoga this past year.
The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America by Stefanie Syman
Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois through the Eyes of His Students compiled by Guy Donahaye and Eddie Stern
The Journey Home: Autobiography of an American Swami by H. H. Radhanath Swami
Miracle on Second Avenue by Mukunda Goswami
Krishnamacharya: His Life and Teachings by A. G. Mohan
American Veda by Philip Goldberg
I’m almost done with the last one right now. I’ve learned so much with this book! It’s been fascinating for me to learn about how thousands of people would crowd into great halls to hear yogis and swamis lecture in the 1920s even! I knew about Swami Vivekananda and the Parliament of World Religions and the Transcendentalists but I had no idea how much yogic knowledge had already enchanted huge portions of the American population even at the turn of the century. Very cool.
I would highly recommend all of these books. Each one has been really engrossing. Radhanath Swami’s autobiography is actually one of my favorite books ever. He’s a fabulous story teller and reading about his journey helped me feel stronger devotion in my own spiritual practices.
Have you read any good yoga books recently that you think I might enjoy? Please share!