If you looked around my bedroom right now, you would notice piles of books stacked on my bed, nightstand, desk, and in drawers. I even have a box of books in my car and I always have a book in my bag. It would be safe to say that I enjoy reading.
I guess it would come as no surprise that I first began exploring yoga not through the physical practice, but through books. When I returned to the United States from Rwanda in 2014, I spent the first few months resting, relaxing, and of course, reading. I took time to reintegrate into American life and yes, reverse culture shock, is a thing. As I went through this experience, I found comfort in books. But I wasn’t interested in any type of book. I no longer desired to read fiction, politics, or history. I became fascinated with the spiritual world, personal development, and Eastern philosophy. Though I have read countless books on yoga, personal development, and Eastern philosophy, these books below sparked the beginning of my journey.
Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda
“Live quietly in the moment and see the beauty of all before you. The future will take care of itself.” – Paramahansa Yogananda
Paramahansa Yogananda was one of the first teachers from India to introduce yoga to the United States in 1920. Yogananda sailed across the ocean to participate in a religious conference in Boston. His book is a beautiful account of his spiritual path to enlightenment.
This was also the only book that Steve Jobs had on his iPad and a book that the late Beatles singer, George Harrison, had in his home to pass out to guests. It was first published in 1946. I read this book twice, the second time being easier. I, too, keep a copy on my iPhone.
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
“The yogi, absorbed in contemplation, contributes in his degree to creation; he breathes a divine perfume, he hears wonderful things. Divine forms traverse him without tearing him, and united to the nature which is proper to him, he goes, he acts as animating original matter…To some extent, and at rare intervals, even I am a yogi.”
– Henry David Thoreau
You may remember Walden from high school. It was on my required reading list for English class, but I had no idea the vast wisdom that this book contained at 15 years old. My sister had a copy and at this stage in my life, I felt compelled to read it again. Something about a man documenting his solitary experience in the woods for two years intrigued me. In 1845, Henry David Thoreau built a cabin near Walden Pond in Massachusetts to “live deliberately.” For two years, he explored the divine through nature and reading, especially Eastern philosophy. He recorded his experiment on living simply in nature. Thoreau is known as the first American yogi and references yoga in his memoir. I felt connected to Thoreau and his writing. He was also the same age as I was when I first discovered yoga.
Bhagavad Gita, A Walkthrough for Westerners by Jack Hawley
The whole and sole purpose of the Bhagavad Gita, the only reason it was originally given to humanity, is to help people rid themselves of their worldly suffering, find true happiness and achieve Self-Realization.” – Sathya Sai Baba
I found this book in my mother’s closet and it has been one of my most treasured books of all time. Who knew that this ancient wisdom of life was tucked away in a closet? The Bhagavad Gita (Song of God), read by millions worldwide is a beautiful story between God and man. It is a an epic Indian poem with Arjuna, the warrior, and his faithful friend, Krishna, as the main characters. Throughout this dialogue between the characters, Krishna informs man how to live beyond worldly suffering. Writing about it doesn’t do it justice. All of life’s spiritual lessons can be found in this book. I keep this book close with me and sometimes I pick it up and read whatever page I turn to. If I was ever stranded alone on an island, this would be the book that I’d have with me.
I’ll be sharing a more complete list of my favorite go-to yoga books, but hopefully these will spark your interest. What books inspired you? Have you read these already? Share your thoughts and comments below!