The time we spend in any yoga class is very limited. Self-study (Svadhyaya), and expanding our perspective, is integral to yoga practice and philosophy.
If you know me (are on my mailing list, or like my Facebook page), you'll know that I like to share things I find interesting, or think will be of interest. The following lists some resources that I have found particularly useful in developing, investigating, and questioning my personal practice and my teaching; or, more simply, how I am, and how I want to be, in the world.
Some resources are yoga-specific, others take a more sideways view. Make your own connections, be open and curious, and maintain a healthy level of skepticism. In the words of Danny Paradise:
'Trust the message, not the messenger - the messenger always has their own problems'.
This list will continue to evolve. If you have questions, recommendations, or comments, I'd love to hear from you. Any suggestions for how this list could be more usefully organised are also very welcome.
Note: I'm not endorsing any retailers. Copy and paste book titles of interest into your search engine, and make up your own mind about where to purchase them.
*Last updated: 28th March 2018*
The texts below form the foundation of the yoga canon. When reading any classical literature (Sanskrit, or otherwise), you would do well to remember the time and context in which it was produced, and that each translation, or commentary, can only ever be as inaccurate as it is illuminating. Likewise, your interpretation will depend on your own cultural and personal histories at the moment of reading. Approach these texts like you would poetry, and expect your understanding to change at each and every reading.
- The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali - B. K. S. Iyengar's commentary is accessible. I recommend starting here.
- The Hatha Yoga Pradipika
- The Upanishads
- The Bhagavad Gita
- S., M. and S. Mehta, Yoga the Iyengar Way - a tad outdated in parts, but still largely standing the test of time. I think the distinct cross-over between Ashtanga and what we think of as 'Iyengar yoga' today is apparent in this book. Contains some great alternatives and progressions, as well as setting out some clear DIY home practice courses towards the end.
- Donna Farhi, Bringing Yoga to Life - this is such a good read and clearly describes how we can extend our yoga practice to incorporate all aspects of daily living.
- James Mallinson & Mark Singleton, Roots of Yoga - do you know what yoga is? Think again. This is not an easy read, but complicates the yoga picture in a way that helps us to question our definitions of traditional, authentic, ancient and true.
- Lucy Edge, Yoga School Dropout - I was so prepared to hate this, but it's really very good. Honest and insightful, if you're starting to take your yoga practice more seriously; are thinking about training to become a teacher, or are becoming increasingly jaded with the yoga world, I recommend this.
Websites & Blogs
- Theodora Wildcroft is a fantastically creative, thoughtful and brave yoga teacher. Her blog (and her work in general) is challenging, uplifting and rigourous.
- Matthew Remski divides opinion. His work can be confrontational and veers somewhat towards the academic (I'm not using this as a pejorative, it's just not for everybody). I both love and loathe reading him, but one thing I know for sure is that the world is a better place for people like Remski. We need critical thinkers that encourage us to be critical thinkers ourselves.
- J Brown, Yoga Talks - I have to admit that I find the host's lengthy introductions infuriating, but still, the conversations are rich and insightful.
- Chitheads - this podcast can be dense at times, but the episodes cover an extremely wide range of yoga practices and philosophy.
Ashtanga Vinyasa Method
- David Swenson, Ashtanga Yoga: A Practice Manual - this is an excellent resource for beginners and beyond. Clear and practical, the ring binding makes it a winner for sticking on the floor next to your mat without having to worry about losing your page.
- Matthew Sweeney, Astanga Yoga as it is - I really enjoy Matthew Sweeney's thorough and thoughtful style. This book provides a good introduction to the tradition of Ashtanga and its underpinning philosophy. The first four series are broken down and clearly illustrated. To save repetition, I also highly recommend Sweeney's Vinyasa Krama: Five Unique Sequences. His moon sequence transformed my personal practice for the better. The visual asana library at the back of the book is a brilliant resource in itself. Matthew's website also contains lots of free and well-researched articles.
Websites & Blogs
- Phillipa Asher's website contains some great (and free!) Ashtanga series cheat sheets. These include primary, intermediate, advanced A and B series, as well as an introduction to the Ashtanga system, concepts, vinyasa, chants and some simple pranayama and medititation techniques.
- Stillpoint Yoga London is a very special place. I would count Scott Johnson as a friend, teacher, and role model; his mindful approach to Ashtanga practice (and life in general) is timely. This blog post on listening without prejudice (in light of the sexual harassment allegations against Pattabhi Jois) is one of his best.
- Oxford Yoga - if you live in, near, or can travel to Oxford, Ian and Josephine MacDonald have been hosting workshops with some of the biggest names in Ashtanga since 1989. Check out the workshop diary for upcoming events. (Their approach to technology is somewhat 'old school' but you will soon find yourself part of a warm and nurturing community.)
- The Ashtanga Dispatch podcast features conversations with lots of influential figures in the Ashtanga community, such as Sharath Jois, Eddie Stern, Kino MacGregor and John Scott. I appreciate the honesty, integrity and curiosity of the podcast's host, Peg Mulqueen.
- Paul Blakey, The Muscle Book - super simple, no frills reference book. This is a great go-to guide for complete anatomy beginners. I often use it to quickly pin point areas for further research.
- David Coulter, Anatomy of Hatha Yoga: A manual for students, teachers and practioners - don't be put off by this dense looking book, it's extremely accessible. I come back to it frequently.
- David Keil, Functional Anatomy of Yoga: A guide for practitioners and teachers - grounded in Ashtanga yoga practice, David breaks down some common movement patterns that can be beneficial and injurious. If your anatomy knowledge is limited, this is a good place to start. David's Yoganatomy website is full of free, high-quality yoga anatomy resources.
It is easy to get carried away with, or repulsed by, ideas of spirituality. If you are curious, pause your judgement and investigate these.
- Chogyam Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism - Trungpa may have a chequered reputation, but his writings are full of warmth, humour and good sense.
- Chogyam Trungpa, Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness - A concise introduction to some preliminary Tibetan Buddhist practices.
Mental Health & Wellbeing
- Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: The brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma - van der Kolk is a psychiatrist and leading expert on post-traumatic stress. This book is superb (and there is a chapter on yoga).
- Scott Stossel, My Age of Anxiety: Fear, hope, dread, and search for peace of mind - this personal story from a lifelong anxiety sufferer expertly intertwines with the history of anxiety; its diagnosis and treatments.
- Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive - brutally honest and life-affirming, Haig shares his experience of depression, and how he came back from the brink.
- Ruby Wax - Sane New World: Taming the mind - Hilarious, moving, clever and practical. This book will leave you feeling less mad and alone.
- Oxford Mindfulness Centre's, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) app is designed for those that have taken/are taking their 8 week MBCT course, but I think everyone and anyone could use it. It's free, simple and effective.
Being Alive in General
Fact, fiction, and somewhere in between... There's far too much to say about each of these, so I've just included some key words. See what takes your fancy and make up your own mind.
- Paul Bloom, Against Empathy - Psychology; cognitive science; morality
- Alain de Botton, The Course of Love - Relationships; marriage; parenting; psychotherapy; philosophy
- Brené Brown, Daring Greatly - Psychology; vulnerability; courage; shame
- Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow - Psychology; behavioural economics; statistics; cognitive bias
- Richard Layard, Happiness - Economics; psychology; neuroscience; sociology; philosophy
- George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo - Death and dying; grief; human relationships; Buddhist philosophy
- Elizabeth Strout, My Name is Lucy Barton - Dysfunctional families; human relationships; forgiveness
- Miriam Toews, All My Puny Sorrows - Depression; suicide; families; grief
- Ken Wilbur, Grace and Grit - Psychology; spirituality; relationships; cancer; grief
- I could watch The School of Life YouTube channel all day. Based in London, their website is a place to find plenty of interesting events, workshops and things. The Book of Life is an ambitious digital spin-off attempting to uncover all of the things that we struggle with, and that make us human. I love this humourous entry on how to comment online.
- Michael Stone has had a profound impact on me. The community library on his website is very generous, and his podcasts allow you to listen in on his teachings like you were there (and like he is still there too). His 2014 Toronto TEDx talk on why we need a deeper materialism is a good place to start.
- On Being is hands down my favourite podcast (so much so, that I'll be launching a podcast that takes a similar approach later this year). The whole On Being offering is extremely rich. I'd recommend diving into the depths of their website, especially the blog.
I value social media accounts that are focused on learning and questioning, rather than on prescribing particular lifestyles and products.
- Kathryn Bruni-Young, @KathrynBruniYoung - a smart, playful and generous yoga teacher, weightlifter, and overall mindful movement practitioner.
- Trina Altman, @trinaaltman - this woman is all about making yoga postures functional and fun. Expect playful movement explorations that include sliding, jumping and rolling (yoga mats optional).
- Yoga Detour, @yogadetour - I really hope this is the future of yoga asana.
- GMB Fitness, @GMBfitness - 'Gold Medal Bodies' doesn't immediately scream 'yoga', but these guys are the real deal as far as I'm concerned. Their website is fantastic.
- Diane Bruni's Yoga and Movement Research Community on Facebook holds a wealth of knowledge. Like any group, or forum, there are many posts (and posters) that have made me want to tear my hair out, and burn the world, but in general, my experience has been much more positive than negative. I have truly learned so much from being a part of this.