~ awake in this moment, at home in the world ~

Resources for Beginning Yoga Students

May 23, 2014
The world is awash with yoga resources and I've compiled a few of my favorites here, just to get youstarted. Enjoy the exploration - yoga is a beautiful adventure!

With its beautiful imagery and description, Awakening the Spine by Vanda Scaravelli is my all-time favorite yoga book. Rather than describing details about yoga poses, this book offers a poetic exploration of how yoga relates to life, nature, art and joy. Yoga: Mastering the Basics by Sandra Anderson and Rolf Sovik is my favorite introductory text, offering a comprehensive overview of the philosophy and practice of yoga along with beautiful photos of many fundamental postures. Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness by Erich Schiffmann, one of my favorite yoga teachers, offers a beautiful explanation of both the art and science of yoga and meditation. Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar, considered the bible for those who study Iyengar yoga, offers photos and descriptions of hundreds of classic postures. The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice by TKV Desikachar offers a mix of philosophy and practice as seen through the eyes of one of the foremost yogis of the century.

In addition to the Yoga: Mastering the Basics (see above), my favorite picks for beginners are Yoga: The Iyengar Way by Silva Mehta, which offers clear, step-by-step instructions for a range of beginning postures, Yoga: Mind, Body and Spirit by Donna Farhi and 30 Essential Yoga Poses by Judith Lasater.

Although I'm not a big fan of practicing in front of a screen, I highly recommend Yoga Journal’s first DVDs taught by Patricia Walden, especially Yoga for Beginners and Yoga for Relaxation. I also recommend the Bodywisdom Media DVDs featuring Barbara Benagh, one of my all-time favorite teachers, starting with Yoga for Beginners and Yoga for Stress  Relief. And I also recommend to documentaries about the teachings of two innovative yoga teachers: Vanda Scaravelli: On Yoga and The Feminine Unfolding: An Exploration of Yoga with Angela Farmer (which I helped Angela create).

Relax and Renew by Judith Lasater is devoted exclusively to restorative poses that quiet the mind and body. I highly recommend it to anyone who especially likes the quiet, supported poses we do in class. Back Care Basics by Mary Pullig Schatz provides detailed advice for those seeking to understand and ease chronic back pain. The Women's Book of Yoga and Health by Linda Sparrowe and Patricia Walden offers an excellent and comprehensive approach to yoga for women of all ages. Conscious Breathing by Gay Hendricks and The Breathing Book by Donna Farhi are indispensable resources for those who want to learn more about healthy, natural breathing. Yoga for Children by Mary Stewart and The Mindful Child by Susan Kaiser Greenland are my favorite books about yoga and meditation for children.

Interested in exploring the structure and function of the body from inside out? I recommend The Thinking Body by Mabel Todd, BodyStories: A Guide to Experiential Anatomy by Andrea Olsen, Anatomy of Movement by Blandine Calais-Germain, and Dynamic Alignment through Imagery by Eric Franklin. For an introduction to Body-Mind Centering, an innovative system of movement and exploration focused on integration and wellbeing, explore Sensing, Feeling and Action by Bonnie Bainbridge-Cohen and Wisdom of the Body Moving by Linda Hartley.

My favorite down-to-earth introductions to Buddhism and meditation include A Path with Heart by Jack Kornfield, Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn and It’s Easier Than You Think by Sylvia Boorstein. Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron’s books and audiotapes, including Start Where You Are, The Wisdom of No Escape and When Things Fall Apart, are beautiful reminders of the importance of acceptance, kindness and wisdom in our lives. The Posture of Meditation and Aligned, Relaxed and Resilient: The Physical Foundations of Mindfulness, both by Will Johnson, offer clear and comprehensive information about the relation between posture and mindfulness in sitting meditation.  And the works of Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano, starting with Landscapes of Wonder, offer a poetic vision of the spiritual lessons we can glean through deeper communion with the natural world.

The Essential Rumi and The Illuminated Rumi, both by Coleman Barks, are beautiful introductions to the poems of this great Sufi master. The Gift: Poetry of Hafiz by David Landinsky is also a great pick. Tao Te Ching by Stephen Mitchell is pure poetry, offering ages-old wisdom on living simply, from the center, with honesty, acceptance and peace. For modern poetry that speaks to the life of the spirit, I highly recommend anything by poets Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry, Billy Collins, William Stafford and David Whyte - start with New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver, Collected Poems by Wendell Berry, Aimless Love by Billy Collins, Ask Me by William Stafford and The House of Belonging by David Whyte.

Looking for yoga props online? My favorite resources are barefootyoga.com, huggermugger.com, manduka.com and prana.com.