12 Books On Yoga & Spirituality That Will Change Your Life
Reading is my favorite way to learn and grasp new ideas. Don’t get me wrong- hands on learning, video lectures, etc all have their pros, too; but there is nothing like absorbing written language that has been strategically woven together and edited meticulously, all at your own pace. I lean on reading a lot to keep me inspired and growth-oriented, and it always feels like the right book comes into my life at exactly the right time.
Each book on this list changed my life in some way, and I hope they will be just as powerful for you, too! I’ve presented them in the order that they came into my life as I really can’t pick favorites; they are all quite different.
As the title suggests, this book by modern spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle emphasizes the importance of living in the present moment, and offers simple techniques for transcending the mind’s tendency to dwell in the past or control the future. This book did a lot to launch me on my path of self inquiry. I had been practicing yoga for a couple years, but reading The Power Of Now was the first time I remember understanding the concept of the ego and a false sense of self, of being able to watch and observe my thoughts, preferences, attachments and emotions.
Credited with bringing yoga to the West in the 1950s, Iyengar was a hatha yoga guru with a coined style focusing on precision alignment in asana and pranayama, and the use of props. Iyengar had a secular approach to yoga and wanted to make the ancient body-mind purification practices available to people of all ability levels and belief systems. Light On Yoga is a great introduction to the practice as it breaks down the 8 limbs of yoga, 200 poses and how to safely practice them (with photos of Iyengar himself demonstrating), and offers an entire section on pranayama (breathwork). I was first introduced to this book in 2013 when I was obsessed with learning advanced arm balances, and one of my teachers back home in Kansas City recommended I check it out.
Meaning “The Song Of God” or “The Lord’s Song”, The Bhagavad Gita is a 700 verse Hindu scripture dating back to 400 ~ 200 BCE. It is part of the greater Hindu epic Mahabharata and its context is set on the battlefront of Dharma Yuddha (a righteous war). Prince Arjuna seeks counsel from Lord Krishna, and the Bhagavad Gita is the discourse that plays out between the two of them. This book offers great insight into Hindu philosophy and the topics of dharma (purpose), bhakti (devotion), karma (cause/effect), and much more. I read it right after my first YTT, and intend to revisit soon now that I have so much more training and knowledge and personal experience. I recommend this highly regarded translation by Stephen Mitchell, or this more secular interpretation by Rancho Prime.
This Toltec Wisdom Book is a quick read with so much simple and applicable goodness. Don Miguel Ruiz was born and raised into a family of 13 siblings in Mexico, and went to medical school to become a surgeon. After a near fatal accident changed his perspective on life, he became a shaman and incorporated indigenous studies into his understanding of the human brain and human experience. In The Four Agreements, he offers four personal moral codes that lead to freedom and happiness.
Michael Singer is one of my favorite authors of all time. I picked up The Untethered Soul at a bookstore because I was drawn to the title, and this book shifted me in such a profound way that I have a hard time remembering who I was before I read it. Singer dives into his own experiences with consciousness, self awareness, and the elusive question of “who am I?” The tagline for this book is “the journey beyond yourself” and it really helped me to explore my inner workings from a new place.
As I was halfway through The Untethered Soul, chance would have it that a yoga student referenced the second book by Mickey Singer, The Surrender Experiment. I read them back to back and found them to be equally powerful. The Surrender Experiment chronicles Mickey’s trajectory after a spiritual awakening in his 20s inspired him to vow to let go of his personal agenda and preferences to be in the flow of what life has to offer. He has a remarkable and diverse story to tell, and the way he writes is both insightful and soothing.
This book is all about creative living, and serves as an inspiring reminder that as humans, we are creative beings. There’s no such thing as “not being creative”, we all just have our own ways of expressing and some of us take longer to find our creativity. She presents the concept that ideas are out there as their own living, breathing organisms, waiting to be snatched up by a human who can bring them forth into the world. Her goal is to inspire us to move beyond our fear of rejection and judgment, and to create for the sake of creating what is in our hearts. A must read for anyone feeling stagnant in the creative process, or for anyone who hasn’t found or unleashed their own creative side yet.
My friends and I refer to this book as the “chakra bible”, and I know you will too. Judith’s explanation of the chakra system is easy to digest, and I uncover new pearls of wisdom every time I pick it up. She covers the history of the chakras and gives an overview on different theories she’s studied; then dives into all 7 of the major chakras, how they react with each other both in one body and in relationships, and raising children with healthy chakras. I also love the graphics in this book and the breakdown of all of the symbolism associated with the chakras. Don’t feel like you have to digest it all at once. Take a week or even a month with each chakra.
“Can human beings lose the density of their conditioned mind structures and become like crystals or precious stones… transparent to the light of consciousness?” This is the question Tolle presents in A New Earth. His intention is to shift our collective ego-based way of thinking and seeing the world so that we can save ourselves and the planet from the destruction we’ve caused. He discusses the problems currently facing humanity in a thought-provoking way, and I love the traditional short stories placed throughout the chapters.
I love Deepak Chopra and really hope to attend one of his trainings or retreats in the southwest (boom - intention out there!). In this book he outlines the basics of human nature and how to align with nature. As one book review puts it - “The same laws that nature uses to create a forest, a star, or a human body can also bring about the fulfillment of our deepest desires”. 😍
This book is admittedly a little woo woo and trippy. But I was able to get into it, and it has given me a new perspective and a sense of comfort about death, what happens between lives, where I may have come from and where I may go next after this lifetime. Journey Of Souls documents Michael Newton’s most interesting cases as a renowned hypnotherapist specializing in helping patients recall their experience after death and before their next life. The transcripts do get a bit dense, but each story is fascinating and the consistency between patient accounts is bone chilling.
I read this book at the beginning of summer when I was in a weird, not-so-great place, and it has without a doubt made me a more compassionate person. Tara Brach is a Buddhist meditation teacher and the founder of Insight Timer (which I love!) The whole book is like a meditation, each chapter offering wisdom for how to lean into the many ways life can make us uncomfortable and embrace it with the heart of a Buddha. She tells personal stories and suggests that we are all stuck in a trance of unworthiness, which just creates our own suffering.
Narrowing down my favorites was not easy! And choosing what to read next is my biggest dilemma right now. I’ll spare you the extended version, but here’s what’s at the very top of my reading list right now. My goal is to average 1 book per month all of 2019 and I’m going to start early today!
Inner Engineering by Sadhguru
Way Of The Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman
Be Here Now by Ram Dass
Which one do you think I should read next? Any others to add to my ever-growing list? I’d love this to be a space where we can all share suggestions, so leave yours below and pin this post so you have it saved when you need a new book in your life!