I have come across so many great articles and books that have helped inform my budding yoga practice. Here are some of my recent favourites.
Yoga and the individual
This post from The Yoga Lunchbox NZ looks at what are the conditions that help set apart the practising of yoga for self-realisation, and that of doing it for something else (strength, flexibility, sponsorships, awesome pants). This is no clickbait so I give away the solution: it is 1) a container (daily practice) and 2) a teacher.
Why are these two elements of container and teacher crucial to create a yoga practice?
Because real work of yoga arises not in the physical achievement of the postures, but in the understand of the Self through observation of our relationship to the postures.
So, get practising and look for a guru!
I read this book while struggling with some difficult stuff personally, and it touched me a lot. This is a memoir about the journey of the author to yoga, and what her practice mean to her. What really speaks to me is that she talks about struggling with postures and philosophy, and not only in the terms of overcoming them- some struggles are bound to stay. The book also balances asanas with meaning focuses on everything that is beyond the asanas, and how the pursue of yoga can help you become a better person.
Although not strictly a yoga book, I find this one really relevant for personal development for everyone dealing with others. That includes most yogis! Being more empathetic is also one of the values you may want to develop through your yoga practice.
This is a book about the power of empathy to change ourselves as people, but also our societies. It tells you about fascinating psychology/sociology research, great stories, and even has a list of 6 things that you can do to grow that side of your personality.
If you’re short on time, the author gave a talk at a Google campus which you can watch below.
Yoga and the community
OK so this is a book about Bikram- actually one of the books that unleashed the shitstorm that has been going on for a while now. It is also an absorbing deep dive into the world of Bikram, from the stories of individuals to the wider community around him, the whole cult of personality and the culture of competitive asana championship. It looks at all the abuse and conflict that people close to their guru have experienced, but also how the practice itself seems to work for so many. Counter-intuitively, reading this actually MADE me go to a class to see what it is about! More predictably, it made me feel very uncomfortable about giving money to anything connected to that guy. But I did actually quite like the sessions, and luckily my local “Bikram” studio has left the franchise and re-branded themselves a few weeks after my first visit. Hooray!
This is one of the most thought-provoking articles I have read in a while. So much of the talk and thinking around yoga concentrates on self-actualisation and individual progress. Much less attention is paid to the ways in which this eternally positive discourse about yoga is inserted in the wider community and how it can contribute to or even hinder social progress. I would love to hear what yoga teachers think about this! The text has several hyperlinks, all worth clicking.
And then I became a yoga teacher, and somehow, all those feisty, political issues became quietly taboo. Modern yoga culture has a tendency to respond to politico-structural issues with fuzzy, pink-tinged, life coach answers; which in the case of structural inequality actually increases rather than decreases oppression. So when yoga studios are struggling to survive urban gentrification and they run more and more teacher trainings, leading to more and more yoga teachers struggling to find students, the answers given are all about personal change – from marketing oneself better to setting a clearer intention. Even though the teachers with the most at stake are those already most marginalised. It’s easy to preach non-attachment when your income is already secure.
What are your favourite yoga books/articles?