Yoga books tend to be fairly predictable. Most lists of recommendations in yoga lit, whether it’s yoga teacher training or some kind of thematic book club, usually include the same reads. “The Untethered Soul.” “The Alchemist.” Anything by Ram Dass. To be clear, I enjoy many of these kinds of works, but these aren’t works that appeal to everyone.
There’s value to be found in learning about alternative viewpoints. I don’t mean Holocaust-denying viewpoints, but different ideas about civilization. How the universe was created. Unique takes on how to make mashed potatoes. Those sorts of things that weave a great, rich tapestry of what it is to be alive today.
Which is why I’m sharing some alternative reads for those who wish to deepen their spiritual practice and awareness. These are books that are a little off that well-worn path.
Yoga Books That Aren’t About Yoga
High Infatuation: A Climber’s Guide to Love & Gravity by Steph Davis
As with the other difficult moments in my life, those experiences reinforced the fact that I climb for myself and no one else. Sometimes the distinctions get blurred, and it’s easy to get sucked into other people’s realities. In the end, climbing is what I love, my own expression of joy. Everything else is just noise.Steph Davis
High Infatuation is about finding and living your passion. Steph Davis is a world-renowned climber, free soloist, wingsuit flyer, vegan cook, and amongst many other things, author. In High Infatuation, her first essay collection, time is presented as a series of snapshots. It’s writing that pushes you to find what makes you feel alive and real.
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.Cheryl Strayed
Wild tends to get the most Cheryl Strayed love and attention. But I much prefer this collection of Dear Sugar letters. Dear Sugar was an advice column penned anonymously by Strayed for years, and every time I open Tiny Beautiful Things, I seem to find a new nugget that was written just for me, in this moment. Tiny Beautiful Things is great for yoga practitioners for a simple reminder. You’re never as alone as you think you are.
Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
It’s hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you’re going to float the fuck away.Roxanne Gay
Whether you identify as a feminist or not, whether you *need* feminism or not, Gay’s Bad Feminist is a must read. A collection of essays touching on modern culture in a way that’s accessible and meaningful. We live in strange times of extreme, public polarization; her work helps explain how we arrived at this point in time. She’s the antidote to too much self-help that puts the onus on the reader to “just change your view/change your mind.” Sometimes, a lot of the time, it’s just not that easy.
I also recommend Hunger by Gay. In an industry that views our bodies as our calling cards, body awareness feels more relevant than ever.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
We study history not to know the future but to widen our horizons, to understand that our present situation is neither natural nor inevitable. We consequently have many more possibilities before us than we imagine.Yuval Noah Harari
Just as Bad Feminist gives us insight into culture, Sapiens tells us how we got here much more literally. It’s foundational knowledge that help ground any love-and-light discussions people pick with you.
Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer
Memory is like a spiderweb that catches new information. The more it catches, the bigger it grows. And the bigger it grows, the more it catches.
This one is a little specific to instructors. Don’t let any YTT instructor tell you differently: there is no shame in using notecards to remember sequencing, cues, anatomical suggestions, modifications, and everything else that yoga instructors have to keep straight in a class. But it’s also really nice to just have it in your head. Moonwalking with Einstein will help you remember sequences and all the other minutiae.
Pick Up Your Next Read
Entertaining alternate paradigms is an important part of any yoga practice. Even ones with which you might not feel share common ground with your own mode of thought. To paraphrase Ram Dass, we’re all walking each other home.
What are your favorite books that influence your yoga practice or teaching that aren’t about yoga?