Get The Skinny On…..Five Great Yoga Anatomy Books

 

yoga anatomy books, yoga anatomy

 

Yoga anatomy books are a great investment for any yoga teacher or teacher in training.  Human anatomy is a vast topic but it is very useful for a yoga instructor to have an understanding of how the body moves and functions.

There are many great anatomy books out there dedicated to the subject of anatomy focusing on yoga asana.   Here are five to consider for your bookshelf.

5 Great yoga anatomy books for yoga teachers

Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff & Amy Matthews

Yoga Anatomy Leslie Kaminoff
Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff/Amy Matthews

The thing I love about Yoga Anatomy is the fact that it is the perfect goldilocks size.  Not too big, nor too small but just right.  It is a paperback format book that covers a great deal and is not instantly overwhelming!  As a teacher training favorite, it is easy to read and presents a great deal of information in a very understandable way.

The opening chapters cover breathing, the spine, and the muscular and skeletal systems.  I particularly like the breathing chapter which covers use of the diaphragm in depth.  Each asana is grouped logically by type and broken down into 4 sections – the skeletal joint action, muscular joint action, breathing in the pose and a useful notes section relevant to the asana.

The diagrams are clearly illustrated and show the relevant muscles and bones that are key to the pose.  For me, if you are going to invest in a yoga anatomy book, this is a good place to start.

Page from anatomy book Yoga Anatomy
a sample page from Yoga Anatomy

 

The Key Muscles of Hatha Yoga by Ray Long

key muscles of hatha yoga ray long
The Key Muscles of Hatha Yoga by Ray Long

I came across a ‘favorite anatomy book’ survey on a Facebook yoga teacher group recently and Ray Long’s range of books were at the top of the list.  This book does exactly what it says on the cover and shows you the key muscles of hatha yoga across a range of poses.  Big, clearly labelled illustrations show the inner workings of poses clearly and coherently.  As well as a brief but helpful chapter on the skeleton, there are also chapters about joints, ligaments and tendons clearly illustrated with easy to grasp descriptions.

The poses are illustrated in skeletal format with muscles shown in isolation.  This is accompanied by helpful information to describe the body’s physical rotation and flexion and extension in a particular pose.  Brief sections on breath and bandhas are worth a look.  This is one of the clearest books on muscle use in yoga and I can see how it is the yoga teachers book of choice.  Ray Long has also published a number of other yoga anatomy books that are super helpful to yoga instructors.

key muscles of hatha yoga ray long
a sample page from key muscles of hatha yoga

 

it is very useful for a yoga instructor to have an understanding of how the body moves and functions…

 

Yogabody by Judith Hanson Lasater

yobabody judith hanson lasater
Yogabody by Judith Hanson Lasater

I love every book written by Judith Hanson Lasater and this is not an exception.  However, it is a more intense read.  The approach to anatomy is taken from the physical region of the body as opposed to the yoga asana.  Each region is analyzed by bones, joints, connective tissue, nerves and muscles with a dedicated section on kinesiology (the mechanics of body movement).  The information presented is comprehensive and in depth but takes a little extra focus.  Closing each chapter is a helpful section demonstrating how to put what you’ve learnt in to practice as an instructor in a yoga class.  If you are looking to learn anatomy in a little more depth this book is a good investment.

Yogabody by Judith Hanson Lasater
a sample page from Yogabody

 

The Anatomy of Exercise & Movement by Jo Ann Staugaard-Jones

the anatomy of exercise and movement
The Anatomy of Exercise and Movement by Jo Ann Staugaard-Jones

Although not strictly an anatomy book dedicated to yoga this is a very useful book for those working in movement practices like yoga.  There is a useful chapter discussing the ‘core’ of the body, a term more common to pilates but nevertheless interesting to anyone wanting to understand more about yoga anatomy.  This book explores the movement of the body and the affect of movement.  Worth a look if you are a teacher who also practices different disciplines such as dance or pilates.

The Anatomy of Exercise & Movement
sample page from The Anatomy of Exercise & Movement

 

Anatomy Coloring Workbook

anatomy coloring workbook
anatomy coloring workbook

There are many versions of anatomy coloring books available on the market.  I’ve owned my workbook published by The Princeton Review for many years and have referred to it often.  Simply a coloring book that encourages you to learn as you color.  It is a useful tool to have in addition to any of the anatomy books listed above as a way of reinforcing your understanding.

Anatomy Coloring Book page the princeton review
Anatomy Coloring Book page

In summary, all five of the above books are incredibly useful resources for yoga instructors wishing to understand more about  anatomy.  The benefits of having even a basic knowledge of anatomy can support your teaching skills and provide valuable additional information for your asana explanation and demonstration.

Which books have you found to be incredibly useful in your understanding of yoga anatomy?

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please know that I am an affiliate and may receive a small commission for anything you may purchase via yogaskinny but at no additional cost to you 🙂

yoga anatomy for yoga teachers
Great yoga anatomy books for yoga teachers

 

 

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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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Hatha Yoga Illustrated

Hatha Yoga Illustrated
Hatha Yoga Illustrated
Looking for an easy to understand yoga book?

Hatha Yoga Illustrated is a great book for any new student looking to find out a little more about yoga poses.  I was gifted my copy many years ago and have often referred to it since.

It is a great visual reference with clear photos of many of the poses, or asanas, you will discover in a class setting. Each chapter is dedicated to a specific group of poses like standing, twists and balances making it an easy to use yoga pose reference.

It is a great visual reference with clear photos of many of the poses you will discover in a class setting.

If you want to know more about yoga in a broader sense, chapter one outlines its history alongside other aspects of yoga such as breathing techniques and meditation.  All of the information in this first chapter is easy to dip in to if you’re interested but not critical to enjoy practicing the physical aspect of yoga

Here are some of the great things about this book…..

  • clear photos of several poses for beginning students to advanced
  • photos demonstrate the use of props i.e. blankets, blocks & straps to assist in poses and also illustrate alternative variations
  • each pose is accompanied by a list of its physical and mental benefits along with any contraindications (when to avoid or adapt the pose according to any injuries or conditions you may have)
  • at the back of the book you’ll find some easy to follow yoga routines
  • the index shows a small photograph of the pose along with the pose name in English and the yogic description in Sanskrit (the ancient language used in yoga).

Whether it is your first yoga book purchase or you are expanding your collection, Hatha Yoga Illustrated makes a great addition to your bookshelf.

Yoga Mind & Body

Yoga Mind & Body is a great book if you are interested in yoga and would like to learn a little more about the subject in an easily understandable way.

This is one of the first Yoga books I ever owned and I often refer back to it.

Despite the image on the front cover.  There is another more up to date copy which also shows an advanced pose on the cover but please don’t let it put you off!  This is a book for all levels of student offering something for beginners and advanced yogis alike.  As well as covering many poses there are also brief sections that describe some of the other aspects of yoga such as yogic breathing, relaxation, meditation and the origins of yoga.  There is also a section of recipes (all vegetarian) and some interesting nutritional information, again, small

Published by the Dorling Kindersley publishing house, more commonly known as DK, they have a reputation for publishing high quality, educational books and this one is no exception.