I have been practicing yoga independently for several years now. Once in awhile I take a class, but mostly I rely on books, websites, and videos to learn new poses (called asanas) and routines. Part of what I like about yoga is the way it makes me feel more relaxed, present, and comfortable in my body. Stretching so deeply helps my joints and muscles cope with the pressure of sedentary office work, and paying such attention to my breath helps me feel centered and focused. The term “yoga” encompasses many different styles and disciplines that range from physical exercises to meditations to daily actions that encourage mindfulness. These are some of my favorite books, magazines, and websites that give instruction on the asanas and discuss the spiritual side of yoga.
- Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness by Erich Schiffmann is my absolute favorite handbook for the meditative, mental, and physical elements of yoga. He offers accessible guides to even the most challenging poses. While giving instruction in his books and videos, Schiffman repeatedly encourages you to “listen for the inner cue to begin” and reminds you to be attentive to your own body’s abilities, rather than your mind’s opinion of what a pose should look like.
- For detailed descriptions of specific asanas, new pose sequences, and insightful essays, I turn to Yoga Journal magazine. Also, Yoga Journal’s website includes a terrific index of step-by-step pose guides and related information, including modifications for beginner and theraputic applications.
- Om Yoga Today: Your Yoga Practice in 5, 15, 30, 60, and 90 minutes by Cyndi Lee is a handy little book that includes lots of stick-figure drawings and recommends routines to fit any schedule.
- The YouTube channel Yogatic includes over 100 videos on everything from single pose instruction to videos and playlists. Instructor Esther Ekhart offers well-paced, uplifting videos and playlists like “Yoga for Weight Loss” and even “Yoga for Hangovers.”
- One of the classic texts of yogic philosophy is the The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali, which describes the workings of consciousness and the spiritual dimensions of yoga. The asanas comprise only one of eight parts of this philosophy. If delving into ancient texts sounds daunting, several modern translations and interpretations of the original Sanskrit text exist. The library owns this one from a modern American Buddhist perspective and this one, which considers the sutras with an emphasis on their meaning for women.
- Many who practice yoga also meditate, and one of many, many books that promotes these disciplines is the ’60’s counterculture classic Be Here Now. Its brief section on the asanas includes this lovely explanation of yoga’s physiological connection: “Just as bringing the hands together in prayer or challenging someone with a raised fist have associated with them various thoughts or feelings, so it is with the total body. At any moment it is making its statement, and as you come to hear such statements you bring the messages of your body in line with the messages of your heart and head.” Its heavily-illustrated pages are also a lot of fun to read.
I hope you enjoy these resources as much as I do!