"Anyone can learn to safely practice yoga and experience its healing effects. A beginner's mind is required, a flexible body is not." - Michael
“YOGA IS 95%” PRACTICE AND FIVE PERCENT THEORY!” is a favourite saying of Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois, legendary guru to many of the finest teachers today.
I like to think this view holds true to those who are practising every day for 90 minutes, and experiential discover the theory within the actual physical practice. Then outside practice, an additional five minutes per day can be used studying anatomical theory, or BKS Iyengar’s work covering posture alignment in specific situations. Over one week, five minutes a day of reading ads up to 25 minutes pure theoretical study, combined with a daily experience of putting theory into practice, which is most important. So if you’re following the demands of Pattabhi Jois teaching method, the approach is complete.
For the rest of us who unroll the mat 1-4 times weekly, investing at least a half-hour in theory every week is essential. Here is some recommended reading that I personally have used, and continue to consult, as questions unfold.
My favourite Online Yoga Resources/Blogs
- Brad’s Iyengar Yoga Notebook: An accurate, detailed resource from an Iyengar teacher.
- Yoga Chicago: Amazing summaries from Workshops and Lectures given my some of the world’s most respected Yoga Teachers of today, particularly Ashtanga and Iyengar practitioners.
- Tuesday’s with Timji: Tim Miller’s Blog, another great old Yogi
- Yoga International – Himalayan Institute: A rich resource for articles on asana, philosophy and much more.
- Yoga Workshop Blog: This is Richard Freeman’s baby, one of the most respected Western Yoga Teachers of our time, a student of both Iyengar and Ashtanga Yoga, as one of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois’ most dedicated students.
Fantastic Blogs… by people named “David” who teach Ashtanga Yoga (ha!)
- David Swenson’s Thoughts: Lots of wisdom from a this Ashtanga Practitioner I trained with a few years back.
- David Williams Website: Another wise owl, he was David Swenson’s first Ashtanga Teacher.
- Asana Kitchen, with David Garrigues: Lots of how to videos and insights from a great ashtanga teacher
- David Robson’s Blog: Founding teacher of the Ashtanga Yoga Centre of Toronto
Yoga Books for beginners and intermediate students
Astanga Yoga Practice and Philosphy, by Gregor Mahle
Essential to any serious student of yoga who wants to derive the physical therapeutic benefits of Hahta yoga practices by learning correct alignment and technique. Also includes a superb rendition of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the rich spiritual philosophy underpinning the physical practice.
Yoga Mind, Body and Spirit, by Donna Farhi
This book was mandatory reading in the first 200hr training course I took. At the time, the reading was dry. But a few years later I studied the text in depth and found it full of guidance to common problems encountered in the yoga practice. This book is wonderful in teaching alignment, awareness of energetics and adapting to limitations. Also some great suggestions for sequencing, and safely building up to challenging postures over months and years.
The Heart of Yoga, by TKV Desikachar
Contains very simple gentle sequences. Also is a great introduction to yoga philosphy and the sutras that covers depth. The author Desikachar is from India, and son of Krishnamacharya, the legendary Yoga teacher who influenced most yoga practised today. This style is therapeutic and meets individuals where they are—less strenuous, gentle practices are introduced and Desikachar relates to the western mind in a language they understand.
Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing, by Timothy McCall
More than a decade of travel to Indian Medical Centres and Universities across North America went into the research of this book from Timothy McCall, retired M.D. and editor of Yoga Journal. The research results provide systematic yoga practices, including traditional breathwork (pranayama), meditation and modern understanding of Yoga postures that have existed since anywhere between the 1930s and the 1400s, as refined tools to help people cope with Cancer, Depression, Anxiety, and a variety of common “dis-eases.” Includes tones of information on safety on adapting to patient student’s limitations.
Yoga Books for advanced practitioners only
The Complete Book of Vinyasa Krama, by Srivasta Ramaswami
Ramaswami is the longest standing student in the lineage of Krishnamacharya. His knowledge reflects 30 years direct study under Krishnamacharya, and he explains precisely how to use the breath in sequences that meet the physical abilities of the student, from the inflexible student to the advanced leg-behind your head kind of practitioner. Not really a book for beginners, more for teachers and serious students of yoga. Lots of illustrations, and also helps Ashtanga practitioners to understand what has shaped their style.