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- Leonard Cohen, Singer & writer

5 Books that Should be on your Yoga Instructor’s Bookshelf

By mark l chaves on 15 September 2015

This is a 'top 5' list of books that should probably be on your bookshelf if you are a Yoga Instructor. Just ike my teachers, these texts that I am about to share with you, serve as my guides to a Yoga way of life.

Here’s is a soon-to-become not a little secret: I use a lot of content from these books as interview questions for aspiring Yoga instructors. Case-in-point, every applicant that said they teach Hatha Yoga, has also said they read the Pradipika (see below). So, I always follow-up with ‘Hey, is Virabhradrasana II (or Warrior II) in the Pradipika?’ The answer I always, yes always, receive is a resounding ‘Yes!’ Which might be worrisome on a couple of levels because, unfortunately, that’s not the right answer.


“A Yoga practitioner should know their primary Dosha type before practicing Yoga asanas.”

I consider the knowledge in these books golden, so-to-speak. I hope that you agree. Let’s get started.

5. Leslie Kaminoff, Yoga Anatomy

If you are teaching Yoga asanas (postures), then basic human anatomy is essential. Kaminoff’s book is specific to asanas. An innovative way of highlighting anatomical areas for each posture is used. By that I mean, the postures diagrammed in the book were created by an anatomical illustrator who used photographs of the live models. Why is this important? The diagrams don’t look like robots or lifeless and generic mannequins.

Kaminoff includes a handy-dandy Sanskrit and English index of the asanas. This saves a lot of time. My hat goes off to Kaminoff’s cool summary of the evolution of the human spine. I still use his fantastic spine story when I teach classes today. It’s incredibly useful for us Yoga geeks.

4. David Frawley, Yoga & Ayurveda

Dr. Frawley is a guru of Vedic studies. He states that Yoga and Ayurveda are integral parts of Vedic knowledge. In my humble opinion, concepts from both should be taught and practiced together. One example, a Yoga practitioner should know their primary Dosha type before practicing Yoga asanas. It just doesn’t make sense not to know.

Learnng how Ayurveda applies to Yoga science and vice versa adds a whole new dimension to your practice. Think of it as a protein boost to your vinyasa smoothie.

3. Swami Muktibodhananda, Hatha Yoga Pradipika

This is the Bihar School of Yoga’s interpretation of the definitive Hatha Yoga Pradipika. If you ever read this, you might start to realize that most people practice only a very small portion of what is defined in the Pradipika. For me, the Pradipika is the defacto ‘Bible’ for Hatha Yoga.

There are some nice gems in here such as, the real goal of Hatha Yoga and how it differs/relates to Raja Yoga. If you teach Hatha Yoga, you definitely must have this book. If you practice Hatha Yoga, you probably should have this book –your practice will surely deepen because of it. Other perks include: a detailed table of contents, illustrations, Sanskrit text, and excellent glossary.

2. Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha

I probably refer to this book the most out of all my Yoga books. This is a traditional yet practical guide to Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, and Bandha.

Every serious Yoga Instructor from India that I met has this book. If you are versed in this book, you can hang with the best of them. It’s a powerful resource literally packed full of details from the pawanmuktasana series to sutra neti. I teach Surya and Chandra Namaskar as defined in this little nugget.

warrior 2 yoga asana

aaaaaannnnd finally, last but certainly not the least is

1. Sri Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

This is Yoga as defined by Patanjali circa 3,000-5,000 years ago. Patanjali’s Yoga system is known as either Astanga (8-limbed) or Raja (royal). The term, Raja, is helpful to distinguish Patanjali’s system from the Pattabhi Jois system. Nowadays, Ashtanga Yoga means Jois’ modern and physically intense Yoga style coming from Mysore, India. These sutras should be on every Yoga practitioner’s bookshelf.

Big hint: go straight to sutra 2 and commit it to memory. By the way, I have been known to tell people that this was the best ‘self-help’ book that I ever bought. Let me know what you think.

(Photographs courtesy of mark l chaves and Chandra)

About the author

mark l chaves

Independent Consultant, Writer, & Photographer

Mark became a consultant, writer, and photographer after working in the software industry for 20 years in Fortune 500 companies. He recently transitioned from his roles as a Wellness Consultant and…  Read full bio