My Favorite Books on Yoga and Spirituality

I have a huge library, and today I’m going to share with you my all-time favorite books on yoga and spirituality.

I’ll start in the order of importance, of just how they’ve completely supported me on this journey, or in some shape or form helped change my life. These books are books that I return to again and again for different reasons.

These books, specifically, I have made notes in them and left little letters and keepsakes. They are my most special books. I keep things in them that mean a lot to me; poems and quotes and pictures of my loved ones, and I love opening a book at random and then just finding a little piece of my heart in that book.

rachel-books

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

This is a book that I just recommend again and again and again. We have it at the top of our reading list for our Yoga Teacher Training even though it doesn’t really have anything to do with yoga philosophy or anything like that. It’s not a book you would normally see on a standard Yoga Teacher Training reading list, but this book absolutely helped change my life.

It’s one of those books that I believe will make its way into your life when you’re totally ready to receive and understand it. When I first read this book cover to cover, it did nothing for me. It talked about finding the present moment, and I didn’t understand it. I read it anyway, but I remember putting the book down thinking it was a total waste of time. It just wasn’t the right time for me to absorb the wisdom and the teachings of that book.

I remember finding this book again a couple years later, and I felt drawn to it. It shifted something in me. Every page and paragraph that I read changed something inside of me. Absolutely. This book has a lot of history for me, because I brought this book with me through every phase of life.

So, Eckhart Tolle is a German man and underwent this complete spiritual transformation when he was in his late 20s. He was depressed, suicidal, and just not living a very happy life. He writes about this in the book, I’m not going to give too much away. The book is not about his own personal journey though. It’s about his teachings. I don’t think he even calls it his teachings. It’s just the realizations that came to him through this spiritual awakening.

He had this massive realization of ego, time, and how finding our way to the present moment is the only way to escape suffering and pain. This whole book shares wisdom on how to end the delusion of time and ego by, again and again, practicing the art of being truly present in the here and now.

He provides really great tools of how to make our way into the present moment. Things that are really helpful, especially if you are moving through a difficult time. If you haven’t already, go read it.

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Be Here Now by Ram Dass

There’s something about this book that makes my heart start fluttering more. I don't know how to explain it. It’s all heart, it’s all love. Be Here Now is an interesting and remarkable book. It’s so special. Being gifted this book completely helped change my life.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part, his life story, is what he calls the “least significant part,” but it’s really interesting absolutely amazing to read about. The second part of the book, which is the meatier part of the book, is From Bindu to Ojas. You have to turn the book around as it's written vertically. It has different colored pages and really beautiful hand-drawn artwork. It’s meant to open your heart and quiet your mind.

The third part of the book is called Cookbook for a Sacred Life. Everything from how to take care of your body, how to meditate, yoga poses to practice, what to eat, what to put into your system, mantras, and just an actual cookbook for a sacred life!

It’s just a really special book. I love that it’s one of those books you don’t have to read it from the beginning. Just pick it up, open it anywhere, and just take a moment to digest the page that you’ve opened.

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When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Pema Chodron

I mean, you can tell by the title, When Things Fall Apart. It is a book that I highly recommend for anyone moving through grief, for anyone moving through death of a loved one. Pema Chodron is a Buddhist nun, and a really beautiful human being. She’s written several books, and her teachings are all about leaning into suffering, which is kind of a radical idea.

When we’re moving through something really heavy and difficult, our tendency is usually to escape and move away from pain. Her teachings align so well with my own knowing of what works, which is to sit with pain. To lean into suffering. So when we’re moving through grief, the death of a loved one, or separation, or a struggle of any kind, rather than “How can I escape it and immediately find my way back to happiness,” the question should be, “How can I allow myself to sit with this pain and let it burn?”

Our emotions arise when they do because they’re meant to be felt, and every time we avoid an emotion or we avoid pain, it’s going to come back stronger at a later time. Eventually, when we experience that pain enough, when we’ve sat with those emotions enough, they will transform and we will find that place of genuine happiness again. So, the only way out is through, not around.

It’s a really good introduction to learning how to deal with our emotions, to learning how to sit with pain, and also recognizing the behaviors that we have. This goes for little day-to-day stuff also, not just the big life-changing things like death and grief.

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Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness by Erich Schiffmann

My number one book on Asana this one and honestly, it’s the first book I ever read specifically on yoga. This is one of the books that I always recommend, and it’s also at the top of our reading list for our yoga teacher training.

What speaks to me so much about how Erich talks about the yoga practice is that he has a really rare way of tying together the physical body with the heart of this practice, and with love. He talks about why we should practice yoga in really intricate ways. He breaks down balance, flexibility, and strength in an easy-to-digest way, even though it’s fairly complex.

He talks a lot about heightened sensitivity, meaning that the yoga practice will eventually spill over from the realms of our mats into our day-to-day life. It might change our diet, it might change our health, meaning how we take care of ourselves, the things we choose to put into our bodies. It might change our relationships. We become more sensitive to all of life and we become more aware.

I think when I read this book the first time, because I was just such a beginner, I read the Asana breakdown of poses portion and I took it as law. In the years since I first read this book, however, not all the alignment of the poses fits for my practice or teaching style anymore. The first half of the book though, that talks about why we should practice yoga and the intricate workings of the inner body is super on point and beautiful. It’s a really great read.

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Oneness by Rasha

This book is one of those books that really helped change something in my life. It’s a book that I gravitate toward all the time.

Rasha is a medium that transcribed the book, she didn’t author the book. Actually, I don't know anything about this Rasha, because they have not taken credit for the book, at all.

It’s giving a new vision of the world. A new vision of who we really are and where we are headed. It’s written in a way that peels away layers of ego and inner-critic, and will immediately put your inner-best-friend in the front seat. It’s filled with spiritual teachings and metaphysical concepts and ways of change. It talks about our oneness with the universe, as a whole, and that we’re all divine. It’s just one massive tool of transformation. Kind of like a map to enlightenment, in a way. I don't know how else to describe it. It’s just a very special book, that’s all I can say. Very, very, very special book.

OSHO

Also known as the "Baghwan". I know there’s a lot of controversy after Netflix released Wild, Wild Country. Wild, Wild Country is a wild, wild ride that describes this ashram that was created by Osho’s disciples in Oregon long ago.

So, I talk about Osho all the time. I practice his meditations every week and we do his dynamic meditations at all of our teacher trainings, some of our retreats, and once a week as a team at the studio. It’s super transformational, and many Osho-based spiritual therapy groups, like Path of Love, have completely helped change my life. These groups don't have anything to do with Osho, you’re not worshipping him. The beauty of Osho’s teaching is that there’s no guru and no one on a pedestal.

Osho was completely against any sort of institutionalized religion, government, or institution. Even the institution of family, which is of course a very controversial and radical idea. A lot of the documentary is true, and it was totally wild and crazy, but it doesn’t speak anything on Osho’s teachings, which I found really sad.

So, if you’re skeptical or just kind of wondering who this Osho person was, my first and foremost recommendation is to just pick up a book. Read anything that he has said. You can go on YouTube; you can listen to his discourses or talks. It’s all surrounded around unconditional love. All of his teachings are on love.

Osho actually didn’t write a single book. They’re all transcribed from his talks and discourses that he's done. He has a series of books on courage, intimacy, joy, creativity, family, maturity, awareness, etc.

Joy: The Happiness that Comes from Within - Osho Insights for a New Way of Living is remarkable and is one of my favorites. The one on Intimacy is really, really beautiful. Love, Freedom, Aloneness is on relationships, which is really good. Everyday Osho is made of 365 chapters; 365 daily meditations for the here and now. You can open one page per day for a whole year, or you can just open a page at random.

When it comes to an Osho book, I would suggest picking one whose topic really resonates with you. And if you are skeptical, that’s totally okay, you should be. There’s a lot of wild stuff that went on, especially from his students and disciples and all of that stuff, but read a chapter of one of his books and your heart will settle because the teachings are absolutely beautiful.

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A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles by Marianne Williamson

A Course in Miracles is a monster of a book and is not an easy read. It's a book that was transcribed through a medium in the 70's and many students of the course have written their own translations of the teachings, one of them being Marianne Williamson. Her book, A Return to Love, is my favorite book of hers and I talk about it a lot.

If you’re interested in A Course In Miracles, I suggest reading A Return to Love first because Marianne is able to break it down in an easily digestable way. She shares her own insights on the practical applications of the teachings that have come out of A Course in Miracles, and how they can improve our lives and provide us with answers when we need them.

I come back to this book again and again. The copy that I have is so faded, you can just barely see the front cover anymore. There’s so much truth in this book that just hits me in the heart.

Yoga Mind, Body, and Spirit by Donna Farhi

This was the first book I read when I became a yoga teacher. It’s just beautiful and is a really good book for the fundamentals and basics of the practice. She breaks down asana, alignment, and shows different ways you can modify with props to support you in whatever you need for the practice. She also talks about the inner workings of the practice. It’s a return to wholeness for students of all levels and traditions.

When I just started teaching, this book was really helpful for me in terms of learning how and when to use different types of cues, about different mudras, and it helped me learn the basic poses in Sanskrit. It’s really easy to digest, easy to work with, great for the basics, and, I just love Donna.

She dives into the principals of movement and that inner listening of how we are the ones who are our own teachers. At the end of the day, we have to stay present with where we are in the here and now, and Donna just breaks down the practice in a really accessible way.

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Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda

Autobiography of a Yogi is a great read and is one of the few old school books that when I first got it, I read it on the beach in Costa Rica. I was living in a little shack. I was not a teacher yet, but I was just super into the practice. It’s a really inspiring and captivating read, and it’s sort of a staple in the yoga world.

Light on Yoga by Iyengar, B. K. S. Iyengar

You will find this book on any reading list for any teacher training. It’s sort of known as the Bible for yogis. It is full of photos, talks about the postures, and teaches you how to breathe. It’s a really full guide into the teachings and the workings of yoga.

It gives a really good look into where yoga was, the tradition of yoga, and how it’s brought us to today’s world, but there are a lot of the old school teachings that I don’t resonate with at all anymore, mainly because the book had a particular body type in mind (young boys or men) when written. It is a staple that is good to have, specifically if you'd like to look up specific terms or knowledge, but I’ll be honest and say that it doesn’t pull on my heartstrings. It’s important to let your own body be your first teacher and to remember that any book, no matter how essential it’s deemed, is just a guide.

Rumi: The Book of Love: Poems of Ecstasy and Longing (Translation by Coleman Barks)

The final book that I’m going to touch on makes me smile. Holding this book in my hand just puts a huge smile on my face. So, Rumi was a Sufi mystic and a poet. There’s something sensual about his poetry and about the love that he’s able to convey through the words of his poetry. It’s so unbelievably beautiful. I’ll sometimes open this book, I’ll read one poem and sit down for meditation. It just does something to you.

Yoga Girl® and To Love and Let Go

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In case you didn’t know, I wrote a couple books myself, so of course I have to mention my own books if I’m going to mention all my yoga staples! My first book, Yoga Girl, talks about my story and I share the pearls of wisdom and moments of epiphanies that I'd had. I share some struggles and hardships and how it brought me to the practice, and the lessons that came from that. There’s also fun pictures of me and Dennis in the book and it includes my favorite recipes and some yoga sequences and poses that I find foundational to my own practice and my own teaching. A lot of people tell me that it was the first book that they ever picked up in terms of yoga and that it was really easily transition into the practice.

My second book, To Love and Let Go, is where I share the story of losing my best friend, Andrea, my dog, Sgt. Pepper, and my grandmother, all within a short amount of time, soon before I got married. I share my love story with Dennis, and also the birth of my daughter, Lea. This book is my heart and every page is so so sacred to me. Every lesson, every minute of grief, every joy, every moment of gratitude, are all poured out in this story of my life. It was painful to write, but also healing. I'm particularly proud of this book and how it's already been able to touch so many people's lives. Every message I've recieved from those of you that this book helped makes my heart want to burst with gratitude and love. Thank you.

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This is the path, this is the journey.

Every book that I’ve shared, I come back to again and again. So, if one of them speaks to you, or if you feel like you really resonate with one of them, go out and get that book, read it, and watch your whole inner world change. Watch your heart open. Watch your mind quiet.

Please share with me your own book recommendations! If there’s a book that you feel fits with this theme of the books I’ve shared, something that has completely changed your life, I’m always looking for new reads so please share them with me!

Xx,

Rachel