As Sri K. Pattabhi Jois used to remind us, Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory. Most of us start this sacred path through the asana practice but it reaches a point when our mind is clearer, we feel better and have more connection with our inner self, that pushes wondering what is behind this sequence of movements that is changing our daily habits and attracts us to the yoga shala every morning. It is in this moment when we are ready to go deeper in the practice, we want to know more, but sometimes we don´t know where to go.
Many people chooses to travel to India looking for answers but with the super commercialization of the “teacher trainings” and other courses, there is not guarantee that you´ll find them there.
The fourth Niyama of the Patanjali´s sutras, Svadhaya, means “self study”, referring to both readying the classic scriptures and studying of the Self. Let´s say that reading the scriptures gives us knowledge and guides us to the truth, but then we need to apply this “theory” to our daily life, to both on and off the mat in order to fully live the yoga practice, otherwise this knowledge becomes empty.
Before you’ve practiced, the theory is useless. After you’ve practiced, the theory is obvious, David Williams.
A good starting point is reading some of the books we recommend bellow, meditate on their meaning and start incorporating their lessons in your life. Some of them are ancient texts coming from mother India, others are great books written by good and experienced yoga practitioners.
Balearic Retreats book selection:
- Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. This sacred text outlines the eight-step blueprint, the Eight Limbs of Yoga, to control the mind and to live a meaningful, complete and peaceful life. There are many translations and commentaries available, among which some of the most famous are: Four Chapters of Freedom by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Yoga, Discipline of Freedom by Barbara Stoler Miller, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Edwin F. Bryant.
- Bhagavad Gita. The most popular and well known of all the sacred scriptures from ancient India, the Gita is a small episode of the great epic, the Mahabharata, where through a deep dialogue between the God Krishna and the hero Arjuna, reveals the purpose and goal of human existence. Some of the best commentaries are: Bhagavad Gita as It is by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Good Talks with Arjuna: Tne Bhagavad Gita by Paramahansa Yogananda, The Bhagavad Gita, a Classic of Indian Espirituality by Eknath Easwaran, Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation by Stephen Mitchel.
- Hatha Yoga Pradipika. It is said to be the oldest surviving text on Hatha Yoga. Swami Swatmaram wrote the text in the 15th century CE, drawing upon previous texts and his own experiences. While the text describes asanas, purifying practices, mudras, bandhas, and pranayama, it also explains that the purpose of Hatha Yoga is the awakening of kundalini (subtle energy), advancement to Raja Yoga, and the experience of deep meditative absorption known as Samadhi. Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Swami Muktibodhananda and The Yoga of Light: Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Hans Ulrich Rieker
- Yoga Mala by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. In his book, Pattabhi Jois offers an explanation of a very special mala, which is ancient in tradition, as sacred as prayer and as beautiful as flowers. His
mala is a garland of yoga, in which each vinyasa is like a sacred bead to be counted and focused on, and each asana is like a fragrant flower strung on the thread of the breath. Just as a japamala adorns the neck and a pushpamala adorns the gods, so too this garland of yoga, when diligently practiced, adorns our entire being with peace, health, radiance, and, ultimately, Self-knowledge. A must read for Ashtanga Yoga practicioners.
- Yoga Makaranda by Sri T. Krishnamacharya. The father of modern yoga explains in this book some of the benefits of the daily practice of yoga, it covers the nadis, chakras, prana, mudras, and bandhas. It also explains all the kriyas, or cleansing techniques.
- Touching Enlightenment by Reginald A. Ray. From a Buddhist point of view Ray takes us through a systematic meditative process that results in a profound awareness in your body rather than in your head.
- The Mirror of Yoga. Awakening the Intelligence of Body and Mind by Richard Freeman. One of the latest books I read and resonated with, Freeman gives us a brief overview of the different methodologies and practices of hatha, tantra, bhakti, jnana and astanga yoga, showing their relation and symbolizing the unity, profundity, and beauty of the ancient tradition.
- How Yoga Works by Michael Roach and Christie McNally. A fun an easy-to-read novel based on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.