The best yoga memoirs to inspire you on your path

Kathryn E. Livingston Author Of Yin, Yang, Yogini: A Woman's Quest for Balance, Strength and Inner Peace
By Kathryn E. Livingston

Who am I?

Nearly 20 years ago, I awkwardly stumbled into a yoga class after a therapist informed me that I needed to do something about my anxiety issues (“Take your pick,” she said, “I’ll prescribe pills or you can try yoga.”) From the very first class, I was drawn not only to the physical practice, but to the sense that yoga could lead me deeper into my own heart and soul. I wrote a memoir about my journey—and about how yoga helped me later face and conquer breast cancer. I now teach yoga, and I love reading about how yoga changes lives—as it almost always does. 

I wrote...

Yin, Yang, Yogini: A Woman's Quest for Balance, Strength and Inner Peace

By Kathryn E. Livingston,

Book cover of Yin, Yang, Yogini: A Woman's Quest for Balance, Strength and Inner Peace

What is my book about?

By her fifties, Kathryn E. Livingston thought everything in her life would have clicked into place. Instead, she felt like she was falling apart. She was consumed by panic and anxiety, always expecting the worst. Until her discovery of yoga helped her find peace. This is a memoir about two transformative years in Kathryn’s life, an account of her relationship with a compassionate teacher who taught her to trust herself and the universe, even while facing the death of her parents, her children leaving home for college, and breast cancer. Yin, Yang, Yogini is a memoir about reinvention, with yoga as the backdrop for change—a blueprint for evolving in midstride, learning to let go of the past, and living with trust in the present moment.

The books I picked & why

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Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence

By Matthew Sanford,

Book cover of Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence

Why this book?

This memoir follows the healing (both physical and ultimately spiritual) journey of a 13-year-old Iowan boy who is seriously injured in a car accident in which his father and sister are killed. Paralyzed from the chest down, Sanford recounts the excruciating challenge of restoring his mind/body connection. Though confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life he digs deep to locate hope and inner strength and even eventually becomes a yoga teacher. (I attended his inspiring class when he visited near my home so I can attest to the fact that this is a true story!) This is an unforgettable memoir of fortitude, love, and resilience.

Premka: White Bird in a Golden Cage: My Life with Yogi Bhajan

By Pamela Saharah Dyson,

Book cover of Premka: White Bird in a Golden Cage: My Life with Yogi Bhajan

Why this book?

Once a mover and shaker in the Kundalini yoga world, Dyson (aka Premka) was the right-hand woman to Yogi Bhajan, the fallen guru who brought Kundalini yoga to the west in the late 1960s. The memoir chronicles Dyson’s introduction to yoga, her rise within the Kundalini yoga community, her personal (and sexual) relationship with Bhajan, and the eventual realization that she’d been betrayed. For yogis venturing out on the path, Dyson’s story underscores what all true yogis know: The real guru resides within one’s own heart. As a Kundalini yoga teacher I found Dyson’s story riveting, but it will resonate with anyone who finds themselves seeking answers outside—rather than inside—one’s self. 

Yoga for Life: A Journey to Inner Peace and Freedom

By Colleen Saidman Yee,

Book cover of Yoga for Life: A Journey to Inner Peace and Freedom

Why this book?

I really liked this book because beautiful, blonde, former model Saidman Yee (wife of the popular yoga teacher Rodney Yee) seems so perfect on the outside that one couldn’t imagine she’d ever have had a notable problem—let alone a seizure disorder or substance abuse issues. Growing up in Indiana, one of seven kids, the author ended up posing for glamour shots and making a name for herself in the fashion world. But inside she experienced anxiety and fear of failure. Saidman Yee’s vulnerability and authenticity shine in this candid story of how yoga helped her go within and honor her true self. Wonderful yoga sequences designed by Saidman Yee are included.

Autobiography of a Yogi

By Paramahansa Yogananda,

Book cover of Autobiography of a Yogi

Why this book?

One can’t put together a yoga memoir list without including this classic. So much has been written about it (including that it was George Harrison’s favorite book) but I’ll add my two cents, which is that this memoir helps one believe that there’s a greater force, source, being, or something out there orchestrating some of the uncanny stuff we meet up with in our lives. Yogananda was a revered spiritual teacher, but he was also a human being. When he couldn’t be with his mother at her death, he writes that the “Intervening Hand” arranged his absence because his presence would have been too painful to bear, a profound sharing that helped me face my own guilt about a similar experience. His story is wild, crazy, and so unbelievable that it makes you believe. 

Breakfast with Buddha

By Roland Merullo,

Book cover of Breakfast with Buddha

Why this book?

True, it’s fiction, so not really a memoir at all. But it reads like one in part because it’s the spiritual journey of a likable doubting Thomas (named Otto Ringling) who thinks that all that New Age-y stuff is a bunch of malarkey (there’s also an actual journey from the east coast to North Dakota). If you’ve ever questioned anything “woo-woo,” you’ll be charmed by Otto’s unlikely travel companion—an enigmatic spiritual teacher named Volya Rinpoche. At the onset, Otto is a dry, snarky, judgmental guy but he learns to listen to his heart and accept others. I used to be a lot like Otto, so his path from doubter to a believer-of-sorts spoke to me personally. Merullo has also written sequelsinvolving lunch and dinner, of course.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in yoga, North Dakota, and spirituality?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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