A few stimulating resources from my teacher trainings and beyond:
“Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendance,” by Matthew Sanford. Simply one of the most moving books I’ve ever read. Matthew is an Iyengar yoga instructor who started practicing and teaching yoga more than a decade after he was paralyzed in a car accident. That ought to pique your interest.
“The Tao of Leadership: Lao Tzu’s ‘Tao Te Ching’ Adapted for a New Age,” by John Heider. Every person in a management position should read this closely. Of course, it’s also meaningful for yoga students. Excerpt: “Learn to see things backwards, inside out, and upside down.”
“How Yoga Works: Healing Yourself and Others with the Yoga Sutra,” by Geshe Michael Roach and Christie McNally. An inspirational and accessible story that weaves together several threads of yoga philosophy. Excerpt: “Everything is a reflection of the condition of your own heart; or at least of the condition of your garden: of the seeds you have planted there, by being kind or not to others.”
“The Bhagavad Gita,” translation by Eknath Easwaran. A basic text for any student of yoga or life. The “Gita” is part of the “Mahabharata,” a classic Indian epic. The dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna, Easwaran says, is really an internal conversation “between the ordinary human personality, full of questions about the meaning of life, and our deepest Self, which is divine.” Excerpt: “It is better to strive in one’s own dharma than to succeed in the dharma of another. Nothing is ever lost in following one’s own dharma, but competition in another’s dharma breeds fear and insecurity.”
“Bringing Yoga to Life: The Everyday Practice of Enlightened Living,” by Donna Farhi. A jewel of a book. Excerpt: “When we realize that what we are advancing toward is not some physical form but an inward recognition of the truth of who we are, then we will not feel ourselves to be failing if we cannot attain difficult postures. ‘Advanced’ practice is any movement that brings us closer to this recognition of our true self.”
“Fire of Love: For Students of Life, for Teachers of Yoga,” by Aadil Palkhivala. This was not assigned during my training courses, but it’s a great resource. It’s full of pithy practical and philosophical summations from Aadil and is interspersed with quotations from poets and great thinkers through the ages. Excerpt: “Our work on the yoga mat is not merely to discover the expansiveness of the pectoralis major, but also to discover the expansiveness of the heart. It is not merely to do a handstand without support, but to work such that, when the time comes, we are strong enough to stand up for ourselves, even when unsupported.”
“Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga,” by Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison. This book is just fantastic, though as I write this, I’m on only Day #61. Each entry is concise, pithy and full of wisdom and inspiration. It’s nice to have a bite-size chunk of distilled yoga every day, little reminders of what it’s all about.
Other texts that aren’t overtly about yoga but really are:
“Open: An Autobiography,” by Andre Agassi. A stunning, frank portrait of inner reflection and self-discovery.
“Walden,” by Henry David Thoreau. Of course. “Simplify, simplify.”
“Letters to a Young Poet,” by Rainer Maria Rilke. Excerpt: “Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. … Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
“Gift from the Sea,” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. A striking nugget of a book about a woman’s passage through life. Excerpt: “The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. … One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach — waiting for a gift from the sea.”
“Writing Begins with the Breath,” by Laraine Herring. Makes perfect sense.
“Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within,” by Natalie Goldberg. A classic that emphasizes practice and process over product. Just like … guess what? … yoga.
“Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life,” by Anne Lamott. A wry and raw look at a writer’s process. I don’t know if Lamott practices yoga, but the threads are there: “Writing is about learning to pay attention and to communicate what is going on.” And this gem: “You don’t want to spend your time around people who make you hold your breath. You can’t fill up when you’re holding your breath. And writing is about filling up, filling up when you are empty.”
And how could I leave off “Women, Writing, and Soul-Making: Creativity and the Sacred Feminine,” by Peggy Tabor Millin. This is such a deeply thoughtful and inspirational work, full of heart and, as the title suggests, soul. I participated in a weekend workshop with Peggy in fall 2011, and it really brought her centered writing practice to life. She emphasizes the freewriting technique and creating from a place of being quiet and centered in our bodies — not our heads. Great stuff.
And (at least) two children’s books:
“The Velveteen Rabbit,” by Margery Williams. Excerpt: “Real isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become real.”
“The Story of Ferdinand,” by Munro Leaf. About a bull who preferred to sit and smell the flowers rather than fight.