Classic Yoga Books from the Last Fifty Years

 

Classic yoga book, vintage yoga book, yoga books, yoga text, yoga reference
Six Classic Yoga Books from the last Fifty Years

I’ve just ordered Judith Hanson Lasater’s new book, Restore and Rebalance and am very excited to learn more about restorative yoga.  Being a paper kind of girl,  I love a new yoga book, and while I have invested some serious money on books in the past I’ve begun to get a little more selective in what I buy (for the sake of my bank balance if nothing else!)

It feels like new books are continuously published on the topic of yoga.  While it is always great to see new, beautifully photographed books on the subject I sometimes find that I’m not learning anything new as the content can be a little repetitive.

Hence, over my years of study and practice I have accumulated many older books about yoga, some of which were first published as far back as the 1950’s.  All of them still have something inspiring to offer and useful information for the yoga student or teacher.  As a teacher, they are great books to refer to when studying, understanding and preparing for practice or class.

Six classic yoga books worth tracking down

Here are six vintage books from my yoga library that I read and refer to often.

Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha – Swami Satyananda Saraswati (first pub.1966)

Copy of Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha by Swami Satyananda Saraswati
Classic text Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha first published in 1966 and still relevant today

I came across this book when I first started studying to teach.  It has an old school, textbook quality to it that I love and offers hand drawn sketches of the poses and great chapters covering pranayama (breath), bandhas (root locks), mudras (which includes hand poses) and shatkarma (purification practices) amongst others.  At the back of the book is a short, but useful, therapeutic index describing the practices suited to certain conditions.

Yoga 28 Day Exercise Plan – Richard Hittleman (first pub. 1969)

Richard Hittleman's Yoga 28 day exercise plan
The original 28 day yoga exercise plan !!

There are 28 day plans filling bookshelves and blogs but this one dating back to the sixties must be one of the originals!

Divided into 28 days, the book offers a short sequence of a handful of poses along with a page of ‘thoughts for the day’.  Accompanied by black and white photos of a leotard clad female yogi, I have dipped into this book often for inspiration and for its simple presentation.  I’ve often wondered about some of the alignment that’s going on i some of the poses but, over all, I still love this book!

Fundamentals of Yoga – Rammurti S Mishra (first pub.1959)

Fundamentals of Yoga by Rammurti S Mishra
Even yoga books published in 1959 remain relevant today!

I picked up a copy of this book on Ebay around ten years ago.  I was craving a yoga read that offered a new perspective on yoga from a time when the practice was still evolving in the West. (in this case, the 1950’s).  It is one of those books that makes me realize how vast the topic of yoga is.  There is always more to know and learn.  My favorite chapter to refer to is chapter 4, The Cittam (the mind).  It gives a rich and interesting perspective on the laws of the mind alongside interesting chapters discussing  the practices of tratakam (training the gaze) and pranayama.  Just as a note, it is an intense book and I can’t pretend to have read it cover to cover or to understand all of the material it includes.  But it does give a fresh perspective and understanding to topics you thought you knew.

…first published as far back as the 1950’s.  All of them still have something relevant to offer with depth in the subject and inspiration and information for the yoga student or teacher.

Yoga for the West – Ian Rawlinson (pub. 1987)

Yoga for the West - Adapting the ancient principles to the oder person's needs
An inspirational book that uses the ‘yoga stickmen’ in its sequencing that any teacher will be familiar with!

Racing up to the eighties with this one!  Yoga for the West describes itself as being a ‘manual for designing your own practice’ with the promise of ‘adapting the ancient principles to the modern person’s needs’.  It consists of a bunch of sequences with sketched stick figures that any yoga teacher will be familiar with.  I’ve used this book many a time to inspire vinyasa sequencing.  There are many variations, observations and pose descriptions to discover which are all useful for teaching purposes.  Well worth a look for the serious student, teacher in training or current teacher.

 

 Yoga for Physical Fitness – Richard Hittleman (pub.1964)

Chapter 'Yoga for the Housewife' from Yoga for Physical Fitness
1964 publication of Yoga for Physical Fitness with special chapter ‘Yoga for the Housewife’

A good friend of mine recently gave me a copy of this book which she had found during a thrift shop rummage.  Richard Hittleman was responsible for promoting yoga through books and TV shows in the West presenting the topic in an understandable and down to earth way.  This particular book was ahead of its time in some ways as he focuses on yoga for working people doing the sedentary kind of desk work that we still do today.  He also discusses breathing techniques and a couple of special conditions that are relevant to modern life.  However, it is also very much a book of its time (1960’s) as one of the chapters is entitled ‘Yoga for the Housewife’! – helping to guarantee a smile too!

 

Light on Yoga – BKS Iyengar (pub.1966)

Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar
The yoga classic Surely every yogi has a copy of this!

Lastly, Mr Iyengar’s absolute classic.  How amazing is it that this is one of the most well known and well used yoga books and yet it was first published in 1966?   Light on Yoga is still being published today and continues to be one of the most widely recognized yoga publications.

 

Despite their age, sourcing these books is still possible on Amazon.  Not all are currently in print but there are several opportunities to buy used copies.  Both Amazon and Ebay are great for used finds.  Secondhand bookstores, library sales and thrift stores are also well worth a look if you have the opportunity and inclination to rummage.  Many of mine are thrift store treasures!

 

 

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Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar

Classic yoga text, light on yoga, bks iyengar, iyengar yoga
The Classic Yoga Text – Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar

Light on Yoga is one of the most universally recognized books about yoga and the textbook of choice for many a teacher training’s reading list.  A must have for any yoga student’s bookshelf.


A yoga instructor once said to me that ‘the only book you will ever need for yoga is Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar’ (admittedly, it was an Iyengar yoga instructor 😉 ) But there must be some truth to this comment as, despite first being published in 1966, it is still in print today and one of the go to references for many a yogi.

BKS Iyengar is one of the most recognized names in contemporary yoga and the ‘Iyengar’ style of yoga one of the most established and popular today.

Light on Yoga is one of the most universally recognized books about yoga and the textbook of choice for many a teacher training’s reading list. 

A book of three parts

The book is broken down into three parts……..

  • Part 1 Introduction – What is yoga?

An introduction with references to other important yogic text books including The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (another important yogic text)

A large section is dedicated to the  ‘8 limbs of yoga’ from The Yoga Sutras which are often referred to in a class setting and certainly in a teacher training program.

  • Part 2 – Yogasanas

Asanas, or poses, make up the biggest chunk of this book.  Each pose is broken down into its Sanskrit name with translation and the effects of the pose – physical benefits, anatomical breakdown and mental/emotional benefits.

This is the section where you’ll know you’re reading a book that dates back to the 60’s simply because of the photos but each photo clearly demonstrates the pose.

  • Part 3  – Pranayama

Pranayama, or breath work. Each technique is described, along with the effects and cautionary information.

The back of the book offers three sections of asana sequences for different levels of student – primary, intermediate and advanced.  There is also a section describing weekly practices incorporating all of the poses.

A further useful section also gives a comprehensive list of health conditions with appropriate poses.

Light on Yoga is always available on the shelves of Barnes & Noble and other large booksellers as well as the online option.

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