In the research of my deep passions — literature, textiles, yoga and apiculture — I have learned that when in doubt, I go to the sources, to the practitioners and sages to guide me right. Like Dante, we all need a Virgil to lead us through the murky depths — and life presents us with many sticky wickets.
Many books now exist on the subject of yoga, from asana to meditation, in many guises. Thirty years ago, at my favorite bookstore, Victor Hugo's on Newbery St. in Boston, I found Integral Yoga Hatha, written in 1970 by Swami Satchidanada. He makes an appeal to anyone to practice — all ages and all stages. His clear and concise book engaged my imagination and reconnected me to the wisdom of my yogi grandmother. At that time, I searched for some method to connect my overactive mind to my unknowing body. I read and copied each asana and pranayama, finding a glimmer of truth in “my body of lies”. An organic process began without my full awareness. My eating habits improved, my health improved and my decision-making shifted.
Later, I read the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, an imperative for any yoga instructor. In an ancient science and philosophy, it behooves those who commit to yoga to explore the imperative ancient texts for themselves, as well as the esoteric. I thought of myself as a poet and yoga texts spoke of poets as yogis, which gave me a sense of acceptance without having to bend like Gumby. When I discovered asana sequences as a daily routine, I discovered that the benefits of yoga flourish, transforming us into the best that we can be — something that may manifest in physical changes, but reveals that the underlying shifts work on a deeper level than the cellular.
To continue to rediscover my practice and not grow a little bored of myself, I turn to the books that encourage more. My practice is very non-traditional Ashtanga based, but I re-read Astanga Yoga by Lino Miele, viewing it as somewhat of a bible on form, technique, as most importantly discipline. It sits displayed near my mat so that I may turn to it as a reference. Another important book for me is Patanjali’s Sutras in different translations. However, I love the old Christopher Isherwood How to Know God. It focuses on an ongoing the journey, from the cleansing of the body to samadhi.
The philosophy and science of yoga differentiates it from mere kinetics. As we deepen our knowledge so we strengthen the union of mind, body and spirit. We are not blind, passive followers for we seek answers in ourselves. Other wisdom helps us to find the right questions. Thus, I seek in books what cannot be shown: discourse within the self.
For me, yoga, books came first...at 16. Since then, the books I seek focus less on asana and more on the subtle body, affected and dynamically altered after a twenty plus year encounter with myself on mat or towel or bare cement. Daily. The curbing and control of emotions makes life itself the creation, the poetry. The books I recommend create a solid foundation for any practice, from beginner to experienced. Within each seminal text, the eternal student finds a way to adjust to her unique situation, yet remains within the whole of a path tried and true, universally acknowledged. In this physical replication, we practice science. In the metaphysics, we practice spirit. With control of the mind, we discover yoga.