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Beyond the Mat: 17 Best Yoga Books for Beginner Yogis

best yoga-books

Maybe you were called to the mat for a new exercise routine, a stress-management tool, or a way to alleviate back pain. But after a while, the spiritual aspects of yoga begin to penetrate our souls far beyond the physical realm. Yoga books are like a roadmap to guide us into the deeper philosophy of this ancient lifestyle. 

While the Westernized yoga world is very focused on fitness and form, the origins of yogi are far more than skin deep. After all, yoga began as a spiritual practice of which asana (physical poses) is only a small portion. Yoga is a lot more than sequences in a studio; it is a way of life. Yoga is an 8-fold path of practice that helps us navigate the world in a moral, peaceful, and balanced way. 

Yet the complexities of Sanskrit and ancient stories with long Indian names can be pretty intimidating as a new yogi. An 8-fold path? 30 minute headstands? Days-long fasting and meditation? Swami Patanjali? These are often like a shocking foreign world to new yogis. You may want to dig deeper into yogic philosophy, yet feel lost as to how to begin. Don’t worry, there are so many types of yoga and none of them require extravagant gymnastic or meditation skills.

Countless yoga books are available to walk you through the history, poses, stories, and spirituality of yoga in a way that makes sense to someone in the modern world. The incredible thing about this 3,000+ year tradition is that it remains relevant as ever today. 

If you want to take your practice to the next level, we’ve reviewed the top yoga books for a variety of different yoga paths. There is so much to learn within the universe of yoga! 

Contents

The Best Yoga Books – Our Quick Picks

Best Classic Yoga Books

Best Modern Yoga Books for Beginners

Best Classic Yoga Books for Beginners

Best Classic Yoga Book: Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar

Light on Yoga: The Bible of Modern Yoga

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Often called “the Bible of modern yoga”, Light on Yoga is the definitive guide into yoga philosophy and practice as a healing discipline. It has drawings of all major asanas, as well as descriptions and breathing exercises. 

B.K.S. Iyengar was a unique character. He was the founder of the “Iyengar Yoga” style and was considered one of the “fathers of modern yoga”. He impacted millions of lives with his accessible form of yoga that incorporates lots of props and assistance to different body types. 

While his hyper-mobile body type and precise, complicated postures may be intimidating for some, the Iyengar philosophy is more about integrating body, mind, and emotions. This book dives deep into alignment and breathwork, and how to use yoga postures to transform your mind and habits.

Best for Mindful Yoga: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Sri Satchidananda

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

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“Yoga is the cessation of the movements of the mind,” writes Sri Satchidananda. The Yoga Sutras is another classic yoga book that acts as a complete manual for a path of yoga called the Raja path, or the path of concentration and meditation. It outlines the ancient Sutras (thought-threads or guides) of yoga including ethics, meditation, and asana (physical practice). But mostly, this book is about the non-asana side of yoga.

It is filled with lessons and stories, some of which are humorous, to really drive home the core message of the Sutras. I open this book for new insights and wisdom all the time. The Sanskrit outlines of the sutras are beautiful and interesting to explore. There are just so many snippets of ancient wisdom here that are completely timeless. Ultimately, this book will remind you that “yoga takes you into the present moment, the only place where life exists,” along with many other spiritual life lessons. 

Best for Universal Lessons of Yoga: The Bhagavad Gita (Translated by Eknah Easwaran)

The Bhagavad Gita, 2nd Edition

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The most famous of all Indian scriptures, this holy ancient book has been translated by Eknath Easwaran for modern English readers. It is an epic poem that reveals the story of a mythical warrior named Arjuna and his conversations with Krishna, which is the manifestation of God. Despite its thousand-year old roots on the other side of the world, The Bhagavad Gita reveals universal truths in the dialog between Arjuna and Krishna. 

The struggle of the main character is acutely modern: He is a man who has lost his way on the battlefield of life (a metaphor for the war within and the struggle for mastering oneself). He turns to God to find spiritual answers and guidance on living, dying, loving, working, and discovering his soul. This illuminating read is all about changing the course of your life so you can grow toward your cosmic form and discover lessons about living well, making choices, and fulfilling your highest potential. 

Best Modern Yoga Books for Beginners

Best Asana Manual: Every Body Yoga by Jessamyn Stanley

Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear, Get On the Mat, Love Your Body.

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If you need just one book about yoga poses, Stanley’s book is the one for you. It is an excellent guide to asana and how to modify poses for all body types. The author’s stories of how yoga transformed her life are especially relatable and inspiring. 

I also love the way a wide variety of models of all shapes and sizes depict the yoga poses to show how truly everybody can benefit from yoga. Yoga will look different on everyone and poses aren’t just meant to mimic what we see on social media. This manual celebrates diversity as well as functionality of asana practice in our lives.

Best Yoga Book About Presence: Be Here Now by Ram Dass

Be Here Now

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Ah, the beloved guru Ram Dass. This book guided me through so many troubling years in my teens. It is a visceral and beautiful book that draws you in with magical illustrations and a unique way of teaching mindfulness and spirituality. The New York Times called this the “counterculture bible” when it was first published in the 1970s. It continues to address a deep emptiness and spiritual longing in our society. 

Ram Dass was once known as Professor Richard Alpert. Though he appeared very wealthy, happy, and successful by societal standards, he felt like something very deep was missing from his life (can you relate?). The 70s marked a revolutionary period of psychedelics, specifically psilocybin and LSD, which he experimented with many of his colleagues at Harvard and soon dove into a spiritual path that helped him find his inner-self and make peace with the chaos of the world. 

This book is about presence and a unique philosophy of yoga and meditation. It helped me conquer anxiety and get on the path to finding my true self. I highly recommend it. 

Best for Chakras and Philosophy: Eastern Body, Western Mind by Anodea Judith

Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System As a Path to the Self

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You may be familiar with chakras: the energy centers of our bodies that coincide with many of the physical and spiritual benefits of specific yoga poses. In this book, Judith eloquently brings together science, psychology, and philosophy to interpret the Eastern yoga-based chakra system for modern Western readers. 

Each chapter focuses on a single chakra and reflects on how we can use the chakra system to explore everything from balancing our mood and healing from childhood trauma to modern societal issues like addiction, codependence, sexuality, and more. Finding relevant information to your personal life is easy thanks to many organizational charts and explanations. I especially love the threads connecting the ideas of Freudian and Jungian psychology back to ancient Eastern philosophies. This book can be used for therapists, spiritual seekers, and yogis alike. 

Best for Diverse Bodies: Yoga Rising: 30 Empowering Stories from Yoga Renegades for Every Body by Melanie C. Klein

Yoga Rising: 30 Empowering Stories from Yoga Renegades for Every Body

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Where spiritual practice and social justice come together, Melanie C. Klein eloquently shares her collection of personal essays that support you on your yoga journey. This book is all about using yoga as a vessel toward self-acceptance and self-love. 

Yoga Rising explores how yoga and body image collide with race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and gender identity. The result is a fascinating perspective of diversifying the yoga world and how we can build community while dismantling harmful attitudes and healing collectively. 

Best for Feminine Yogis: The Secret Power of Yoga: A Woman’s Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras by Nischala Joy Devi

The Secret Power of Yoga: A Woman's Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras

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In an ancient practice of predominantly male gurus, the feminine perspective of yoga is often missing. World-renowned yogi and teacher Nischala Joy Devi says “Most [of the sutras] are written by men for men, and men have a very different temperament.” She remedies this issue by diving into an elegant and heart-opening exploration of the yoga sutras through a feminine lens. 

Her interpretations of the sutras are entirely different, weaving together storytelling, anecdotes, and teaching of female yogic energy. This manual reframes traditional translations in a way that brings power and relevance to the modern woman. She says “women live in the world, with their children. They are by nature connected and open. I wanted to make an interpretation of the sutras that was positive and heart-centered.” This book is a powerful and beautiful guide to leading with the heart and embracing the divine feminine through yoga. 

Best Spiritual Yoga Guided Journal: Living the Sutras: A Guide to Yoga Wisdom Beyond the Mat by Kelly Dinardo and Amy Pearce-Hayden

Living the Sutras: A Guide to Yoga Wisdom beyond the Mat

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If you are really seeking to dive into a journaling and meditation practice alongside your yoga practice, this resource is one of the best available. The authors lay out The Sutras (8 limbs of yoga described by Patanjali) in plain language and offer space for reflection and journaling after each. This book weaves the ancient with the modern and helps you figure out how to use the moral principles of the yoga sutras in your own life. 

Best Explanation of Yamas and Niyamas: Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates

Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga

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Rolf Gates is an acclaimed yoga teacher that brings reflection and mental discipline to the western yogi. His powerful insights into mindfulness are presented here with 365 daily reflections to heighten your yoga practice beyond the physical realm. Each day begins with a thought-provoking quote and stories of Gates’ healing and growth. This inspiring book explains how the moral sutras (yamas and niyamas) are incorporated into our daily lives.

Best Meditation Yoga Book: Meditations on Intention and Being by Rolf Gates

Meditations on Intention and Being: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga, Mindfulness, and Compassion (Anchor Books Original)

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In his second book, Gates brings 20 years of teaching experience to another transformative 365 daily reflection book. He provides both novice and experienced yogis with tools for creating positive change in their life, exploring topics like effortlessness, nonviolence, mindfulness, compassion, and intention. The audiobook is especially beautiful and excellent to listen to while going to/from yoga classes or during the workday as a reminder to slow down and embrace the beauty of life. 

Best Yoga Handbook: Yoga Body and Mind Handbook: Easy Poses, Guided Meditations, Perfect Peace Wherever You Are by Jasmine Tarkeshi

Yoga Body and Mind Handbook: Easy Poses, Guided Meditations, Perfect Peace Wherever You Are

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This accessible handbook is perfect for anyone interested in diving into spiritual meditation, pranayama (breathing techniques), and beginner yoga poses. Tarkeshi is all about accessibility and taking out the intimidating challenges of yoga so that anyone and everyone can enjoy the benefits to mind, body, and spirit. The handbook includes step-by-step yoga routines and illustrations, easy poses for beginners, and guided meditations to help with healing and personal growth. 

Best for Enhancing Creativity and Gratitude: The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker’s Guide to Extraordinary Living by Stephen Cope

The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker's Guide to Extraordinary Living

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Many of us find ourselves stuck in disillusionment from a mundane life that isn’t fulfilling our deepest desires. If you are looking to enhance your creativity, be more present, and feel more grateful on a daily basis, this is the book for you. I love the way the author interprets the Sutras for a modern reader by incorporating them into everything from careers to dysfunctional families to relationships and daily dilemmas. 

Stephen Cope is a psychotherapist and Kripalu yoga teacher who uses modern psychology, neuroscience, and religion to reveal the practical modern uses of a timeless yogic philosophy. The result is beautiful stories, Sanskrit translations and explanations, and profound reflections on life. 

Best for History of Yoga: Yoga: The Greater Tradition by David Frawley

Yoga: The Greater Tradition

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The ultimate beginner’s blueprint, this short book is a primer on the ancient tradition of yoga from its Indian origins to modern day iterations. David Frawley is the director of the American Institute for Vedic studies who offers a uniquely accessible take on the history of what he calls “the greater universe of yoga”. 

In the spiritual quest to unravel the inner truth of the Universe, beginner yogis may also seek to understand the roots of yoga and the spiritual-emotional harmony it can bring. This book is the perfect introduction. 

Best for Everyday Yoga: Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life by Judith Hanson Lasater

Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life

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Enlightenment isn’t only for monks at the peaks of the Himalayan Mountains. Judith Lasater grounds us in the possibility for utilizing yogic philosophy and cultivating spirituality in our everyday western lives. Drawing on the wisdom of classics like the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutra, this book is the ultimate off-the-mat guide for using yoga to deepen your relationships with yourself, your close ones, and the world at large. 

You won’t learn any asanas, meditations or breathing practices. Rather, you will find the richness of the moral and philosophical sides of yoga. The book is broken into three major sections: the first about you as an individual, the second about a yogi’s relationships with family and friends, and the third looking at a yoga practitioner within the context of the whole world. This is an inspiring and easy read perfect for the back porch, a cup of tea, or a casual reminder on your lunch break. 

Best for Learning Sanskrit: The Language of Yoga: Complete A-to-Y Guide to Asana Names, Sanskrit Terms, and Chants by Nicolai Bachman

The Language of Yoga: Complete A-to-Y Guide to Asana Names, Sanskrit Terms, and Chants

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Sanskrit is a profoundly interesting ancient language that is often more like a holy song. Any advanced yogi or yoga teacher may have tremendous interest in understanding the linguistics of yoga because they are so deeply interwoven into this practice. Learning the names of asanas is always an intriguing addition to any yoga class or home practice. This book is an in-depth reference guide for most all major asana names and chants. 

Nicolai Bachman is a Sanskrit scholar with a deep knowledge of translations, pronunciations, and root meanings behind yoga terms. He explores why yogic philosophy and Sanskrit language are so intertwined, and how modern yogis can draw on this ancient tradition to deepen their practice. It even includes downloadable audio files to help you learn proper pronunciations of terms and posture names!

Best Yoga Memoir: Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda

Autobiography of a Yogi

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Lastly, we can’t talk about yoga books without referencing the infamous Autobiography of a Yogi. This book was named “One of the 100 Best Spiritual Books of the Twentieth Century”. First published in 1946, this poignant memoir is an account of the exceptional life of Paramahansa Yogananda. 

It details the profoundly inspiring, humorous, and entertaining experience of growing up in India, encounters with sages and saints, searching for a yoga teacher, training for 10 years under a yoga master, and moving to America to teach yoga in the West. The story illuminates many deep reasons behind why the yogic path is so powerful and how yoga helps us understand the mysteries of the human condition. 

Start Your Yoga Journey on the Right Page

There is no wrong way to begin yoga, but it always helps to have a guide. While your favorite yoga instructor or yoga teacher training may guide you into physical asanas, these books could be the perfect opportunity to find spiritual guidance as you seek to deepen your yogic practice.

“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” -The Bhagavad Gita

Yoga is a lifelong undertaking with transformations continuously happening both on and off the mat. As a global collective of yoga practitioners, we can raise the vibration of humanity by working to raise our own vibration through reading, learning, and reflecting. It is a pleasure to be on the path with you. 

Namaste! 

Julien
About Julien

Julien Raby has been in the web marketing industry for 15 years. An avid yoga practitioner himself, he's now the full-time owner of The Yoga Nomads where he helps yoga teachers earn more from their passion.

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