Books on Anatomy
Thomas W. Myers, Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists, Second Edition, (Churchill Livingston, Philadelphia, 2008). Fascia is not given enough emphasis in standard textbooks. This book corrects that deficiency. It is an extensive discussion of the prevalence of fascia and its influence on movement and movement pathology. The illustrations alone can lead a yogi or body worker into numerous “aha!” moments.
Deane Juhan, Job’s Body: A Handbook for Bodywork, (Station Hill, Barrytown, NY, 2003). The classic and in most ways unsurpassed description of how fascia integrates all the systems of the body and why touching and massaging the body has such healing effects.
Michael Schuenke et al., Thieme Atlas of Anatomy: General Anatomy and the Musculoskeletal System, (Thieme, New York, 2010). This is part one of a three-volume atlas. It is especially useful for yogis because it combines the muscles and bones of anatomy with charts that illustrate the different movements of each muscle group. The pictures are gorgeous and the many graphs and schematic charts are invaluable and not readily available elsewhere. This atlas was written with the eager student in mind, unlike most reference works.
Andrew Biel, Trail Guide to the Body: How to Locate Muscles, Bones, and More, (Books of Discovery, Boulder, CO, 2010). This is an excellent guide to learning how to feel through the skin and locate the structures that are pictured in anatomy texts. It is literally the hands-on approach to anatomy that a teacher or body worker needs.
Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews, Yoga Anatomy, (Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL, 2010). This hugely popular book on the anatomy of muscles and bones shows how the muscles are worked in a variety of yoga poses. This is much more helpful to a yoga student than the static “corpse position” of standard anatomy texts.
Books on Acupuncture
Joseph M. Helms, Acupuncture Energetics: A Clinical Approach for Physicians, (Medical Acupuncture Publishers, Berkeley, 1995). Chinese medicine and acupuncture are vast subjects that include herbs, diagnosis, needling technique, and so on. What is most relevant to a yogini is where the meridians are and how they influence one another. This is the best resource I have found for cogently and clearly identifying the meridians and their functional groups. In many ways this book is acupuncture’s response to the Thieme Atlas of Anatomy described above. It takes great skill and insight to create charts and schematics that accurately clarify a confusing body of facts, and this book is full of them. Obviously written by a master teacher.
Claudia Focks, ed., Atlas of Acupuncture, (Churchill Livingston, Philadelphia, 2008). This stunningly complete atlas collates the work of most of the atlases of acupuncture now in print. Its mix of photographs and illustration will make it a standard reference book on points and meridians for years to come.
Edward F. Tarabilda, Ayurveda Revolutionized: Integrating Ancient and Modern Ayurveda, (Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, WI, 1997). Ayurveda is the ancient medical tradition of India, but like any form of medicine it has gone through many developments and changes in the thousands of years of its existence. Tarabilda argues that although many of the basic notions of ayurveda are correct, several key ideas on how to apply them effectively have been lost. He reconstructs several of these key ideas based on his original insights into Vedic astrology. One aspect of these insights is the reintegration of meridian theory into ayurvedic energetics.
James L. Oschman, Energy Medicine in Therapeutics and Human Performance, (Buterworth-Heinemann, Philadelphia, 2003). Not really an acupuncture book, but it is included because it is a 350-page discussion of the ways in which modern research is confirming and expanding on the basic insights of yoga and acupuncture theory. Chapters on cells, fascia, waterflow, liquid crystals, electrical and magnetic signaling, and more are described and illustrated with pictures and drawings. Oschman spells out very clearly the implications of this research and the new view of biology that is just around the corner. If you are interested in what modern science has to say about ancient science, this book is for you.
Books on Yoga Asana
Bernie Clark, The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga: The Philosophy and Practice of Yin Yoga, (White Cloud Press, Ashland, OR, 2012). The strongest recommendation I can give Bernie’s book is to say it is a textbook for my own training programs. The first section outlines the philosophy of yin-yang, the second section details each pose, and the third section explains the science behind the practice. Students value its clear, logical outline of yoga and the relevant anatomical discussion.
Swami Muktibodhananda, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, (Bihar School of Yoga, Bihar, India, 1998). This is a modern commentary on an old text of hatha yoga. The ancient text is only 400 verses long, but this elaboration is over 700 pages. A serious student of any subject should know something of its foundational texts, and this one is key. A modern yogi might be shocked to learn how little emphasis is placed on asana practice. Most of the original hatha yoga practices are pranayama and purification practices. The goal was to awaken the chakra by purifying the meridians and becoming absorbed into nada. Nada meditation is emphasized as the key to reaching the highest states of yoga.
Sarah Powers, Insight Yoga, (Shambhala, Boston, 2008). Sarah Powers integrates yin and yang yoga with mindfulness practices, and this three-legged approach makes her book a truly complete yoga system, not just a yin system. Powers includes detailed descriptions of meridian pathways and how they are related to yoga poses. This helps connect the practice of yoga to disciplines such as shiatsu, acupuncture, and bodywork. Integration with other disciplines is key to yoga’s broader acceptance into the modern world, and this book is a natural starting point for interested yoginis.
B. K. S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga: Yoga Dipika, (Schocken Books, New York, 1995). Every serious student of yoga needs a reference book of postures, and this one is it. There are others, but none are really better. There are more postures listed here than most students will need, but that is the function of a reference book. The step-by-step descriptions of each pose have never really been surpassed.
Cheri Clampett and Biff Mithoefer, The Therapeutic Yoga Kit: Sixteen Postures for Self-Healing through Quiet Yin Awareness, (Healing Arts Press, Rochester, VT, 2009). If I were injured or recovering from illness, this is the system and these are the teachers I would start with. Clampett and Mithoefer have honestly and humbly tested these techniques for years. Their students range from people who are injured to the aged to cancer ward patients. The combination of book, flashcards, and CD make it possible for even beginning students to safely learn these techniques.
Biff Mithoefer, The Yin Yoga Kit: The Practice of Quiet Power, (Healing Arts Press, Rochester, VT, 2006). Biff Mithoefer has taught and practiced yoga for decades. As everyone knows, a teacher can make or break a student’s interest in the early phase of study, and Mithoefer is one of the good ones. He teaches energetic principles of chi and meridians and integrates them with asanas and mindfulness. The use of a book, flashcards, and CD is extremely effective for a self-learner.
Books on Meditation and Spirituality
Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi, (Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles, 2000). This is a personal book about the life and goals of a yogi. One man’s experience cannot illustrate every aspect of yoga, but yoga is the most personal of experiences. Not only is the science of yoga discussed at length, but the footnotes can lead the reader into many rewarding areas of scientific, historical, and religious study.
Hiroshi Motoyama, Awakening of the Chakras and Emancipation, (Human Science Press, Encinitas, CA, 2003). Based on talks given to advanced meditators, this book details the postures, pranayamas, and concentration exercises Dr. Motoyama recommends for each chakra. It includes descriptions of what to expect at the physical, astral, and causal levels of chakra awakening, as well as the signs of proper progress and the signs of improper practice. This is the most detailed description of chakra meditation of which I am aware.
Paramahansa Yogananda, God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita, (Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles, 2001). The first one hundred pages of this thousand-page commentary on the Bhagavad Gita integrates the teachings of the Gita, Samkhya philosophy, and Patanjali’s sutras. It is a colossal intellectual and spiritual achievement. If any of these subjects interest you, consider this two-volume work.
Rudolf Steiner, How to Know Higher Worlds, (Wilder Publica- tions, Radford, VA, 2008). This book outlines the spiritual practices of Dr. Steiner. It includes detailed psychological descriptions of the chakras and their usefulness in spiritual practice. It is always worthwhile to read about chakras from a variety of backgrounds and traditions.
Hiroshi Motoyama, Karma and Reincarnation: The Key to Spiritual Evolution and Enlightenment, (Avon Books, 2008). More simple and direct than many of Dr. Motoyama’s works, this book is about the varieties of karma that affect us. Karma is not just personal, there is also family karma, land karma, national karma, and the influence of greater spiritual beings.
Swami Vivekananda, Raja Yoga, (Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, New York, 1980). Patanjali is the codifier of yoga meditation. His succinctly written book has guided yogis and attracted scholarly commentary for centuries. This book is a clear introduction to Patanjali’s system. It includes several preliminary lectures that set the stage for Patanjali’s work, as well as the great swami’s version of the sutras. It takes a good teacher to make the material clear and Swami Vivekananda is a teacher for the ages.
Paramahansa Yogananda, The Science of Religion, (Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles, 1953). An expansion of Swami Yogananda’s first talk in America, this book is especially helpful in delineating the difference between the four paths to enlightenment, and the unique characteristics of yoga.
Richard Wilhelm, translator. C. G. Jung, commentary, Secret of the Golden Flower: A Chinese Book of Life, (Harcourt & Brace, New York, 1962). This is a translation and commentary on the ancient variation of ajna bandha, herein called “Circulation of the Light.” Wilhelm has clarified the meaning of the deliberately flowery language used to describe the practice. A dedicated student will find the technique familiar and the noble sentiments inspiring.
Hiroshi Motoyama, Theories of the Chakras: Bridge to Higher Con- sciousness, (Quest Books, Wheaton, IL, 1982). This book was written to fulfill three objectives: demonstrate that tantric and taoist yogis were describing the same energy system; detail a series of practices to awaken the chakras; and report on the scientific investigation of chi, meridians, and chakras. This was my first introduction to Dr. Motoyama’s valuable contribution to the future of energy medicine and spiritual practice.
Rudolf Steiner, Theosophy: An Introduction to the Spiritual Processes in Human Life and in the Cosmos, (Anthroposophic Press, Hudson, NY, 1994). This book outlines Dr. Steiner’s views of the different bodies we inhabit. It is illuminating to read about the multiple body theory from a European mystic’s viewpoint. It is always encouraging to have phenomena confirmed by different practitioners from different traditions. This is the essence of the scientific method.
Hiroshi Motoyama, Varieties of Mystical Experience, (Human Science Press, Encinitas, CA, 2006). If Awakening of the Chakras and Emancipation describes the techniques of practice, this book describes the goal. It is a description of the various levels of samadhi, the state of spiritual union with higher beings. It goes into great detail about how our consciousness changes as we enter into higher spiritual states of awareness. It makes clear what our attitude and motivation should be if we wish to consciously progress. This is a mind-expanding and inspiring book.
Swami Hariharananda Aranya, Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali, (SUNY Press, Albany, NY, 1984). This is the book for philosophers. If Vivekananda is the popularizer of Patanjali, then Hariharananda is Patanjali’s meticulous analyst. Hariharananda was a dedicated practitioner, and his analysis of each sutra is not meant to be pedantic but rather to uncover its explicit psychological and spiritual meaning. The premise of the book is an ancient one, that the sutras were meant to be the practical application of the ancient samkhya philosophy. Studying this text means absorbing the ideas of samkhya as well as yoga, and this is what makes the book so rewarding to the dedicated student.
Edwin F. Bryant, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: A New Edition, Translation, and Commentary, (North Point Press, New York, 2009). There are many translations of Patanjali, and this latest one is excellent in many ways, not the least of which is the presentation of how commentators on the sutras have spoken to each other over the centuries. Being exposed to different peoples’ reactions to the same material makes us re-examine our own. After reading Raja Yoga by Vivekananda, this book is the next step.