The best books to inspire your yoga practice

Julie Rappaport Author Of 365 Yoga: Daily Meditations
By Julie Rappaport

Who am I?

A writer, yoga teacher, and somatic psychologist, I’ve been passionate about yoga and the sacred arts ever since I encountered, on my parent’s bookshelf, the awe-inspiring art catalogue, The Manifestations of Shiva, an exhibit curated by the late, great art historian Stella Kramrisch. An adjunct faculty member in the Somatics MA program at the California Institute of Integral Arts, I have lived and traveled extensively throughout India, studying yoga there, and teaching in the U.S. In Berkeley, I write fiction and maintain a private psychology practice, incorporating yoga as a tool for nervous system regulation and embodied wellbeing. I also lead local and international yoga retreats. 

I wrote...

365 Yoga: Daily Meditations

By Julie Rappaport,

Book cover of 365 Yoga: Daily Meditations

What is my book about?

365 Yoga is a daily companion for your yoga practice. Filled with thought-provoking and inspiring quotations from the greatest yogic texts and spiritual teachers throughout history, as well as invaluable instruction on specific practices, it is an essential resource for anyone who practices yoga or meditation. A celebration of the powerful practice that is yoga, this book guides readers - day by day - through centuries of philosophy and themes. 365 Yoga infuses yoga practice with a deeper understanding of the intricate connection of mind, body, and spirit.

The books I picked & why

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The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice

By T.K.V. Desikachar,

Book cover of The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice

Why this book?

This book is my go-to when anyone asks me to recommend the best book for learning and understanding yoga. It’s one of the few that integrates actual yoga practices with the meaning of yoga in clear, concise language, including a wonderful translation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra embedded within. The yoga of linking body, breath, mind, and relationship in a series of vinyasa kramas is timeless and doable. Each chapter is organized around a theme from the Yoga Sutras. The historic photos of the author and his world-famous yogi father, T. Krishnamacharya (who was the teacher of teachers, responsible for the wide reach of global yoga) are wonderful to peruse, as is the interview with Desikachar himself. 

Awakening the Spine: Yoga for Health, Vitality and Energy

By Vanda Scaravelli,

Book cover of Awakening the Spine: Yoga for Health, Vitality and Energy

Why this book?

Visually enticing, this book provides an innovative approach to yoga based on gravity and the spine. Care for your spine and you care for yourself. Scaravelli, a student of Desikachar, Iyengar, and the philosopher Krishnamurti connects the body to nature. The spine of a leaf resembles the human spine, an ocean wave, or the undulation of a back bend. We are nature, not separate from it. This book is full of stories, ancient myths, and her own blunt advice: “Do not kill the instinct of the body for the glory of the pose.” The yoga photos of Scaravelli in her later years will inspire you to keep up your practice. This book reminds me that yoga can be serious, joyful, and immediate all at once. Everything I need is already here.

The Tantric Way

By Ajit Mookerjee, Madhu Khanna,

Book cover of The Tantric Way

Why this book?

Art can serve as a support for meditation. Ritual brings the spiritual dimension of yoga into action. Mookerjee and Kanna’s breadth of living scholarship portray the ritual arts of the Indian Tantric traditions to be a form of yoga itself, one that reflects the non-dual or Advaita philosophy of Tantric yoga. This book is a practical guide, as well as a deep dive into Tantric symbolism, both satisfying and transformative. If you crave visual support for your practice, pick up this book. 

Selling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture

By Andrea Jain,

Book cover of Selling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture

Why this book?

The sociologist, Andrea Jain, contextualizes the historical roots of yoga in this well-researched and readable book. For the yogi who has read everything, she provides a refreshing perspective. She addresses the yoga explosion in the West, linking spiritual consumer culture with late-stage capitalism without the typical moralizing, or nostalgia for a so-called golden age of yoga. She shows that yoga was never a fixed historical or essentialist enterprise, but rather, always changing and adapting to the culture that surrounded it. That culture, in turn, re-makes yoga over and over. While serious yogis can respect yoga’s roots, we’re also part of its innovation and evolution. This is a yoga history lesson worth reading, offering much to ponder. 

Speaking of Siva

By Anonymous, A.K. Ramanujan (translator),

Book cover of Speaking of Siva

Why this book?

This book of ancient vacanas- lyric verse of four saint-poets of South India- will seer into your heart. These mystical poems, translated by one of India’s most revered writers, bring the reader into direct experience with the divine, or God, or Shiva, cutting through caste, class, race, religion, and culture. Born of the bhakti (devotional) protest movement, these poems will remind you of Rumi. I’m always surprised that these soulful poems are not better known to Western readers. Read a verse. Sit in meditation. Notice what happens inside your body. 

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