Yoga lit tends to be predictable. Most lists of recommendations, whether YTT (yoga teacher training) or thematic book club, will almost always include the same iconic-yet-somewhat-niche reads. The Untethered Soul. The Alchemist. Anything by Ram Dass. To be clear, I enjoy many of these works, but they don’t necessarily appeal to everyone.
Everyone can find value in learning about alternative viewpoints. I don’t mean conspiracy theory viewpoints, but different ideas about the creation of the universe or unique takes on how to make mashed potatoes. Those sorts of things that, when they come together, weave a great, rich tapestry of what it is to be alive.
That is why I’m sharing some alternative reads for those who wish to deepen their spiritual practice and awareness with books a little off that well-worn path.
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.
High Infatuation is about finding and living your passion. Steph Davis is a world-renowned climber, free soloist, wingsuit flyer, vegan cook, and, among other things, an author. In High Infatuation, her first essay collection, time is presented as a series of snapshots. Her writing 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.
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 Strayed anonymously penned for years. Every time I open Tiny Beautiful Things, I seem to find a new nugget written just for me in the moment. Tiny Beautiful Things provides great reminders for yoga practitioners. You’re never as alone as you think you are, no matter what you’re facing.
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.
Whether you identify as a feminist or not, whether you ”need” feminism or not, Gay’s Bad Feminist is a must-read collection of essays touching on modern culture in an accessible, meaningful way. We live in a time 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, or even a lot of the time, it’s just not that easy.
I also recommend Hunger by Gay. In an industry (well, culture, really) 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, and that we consequently have many more possibilities before us than we imagine.
Just as Bad Feminist gives us insight into culture, Sapiens tells us how we got here much more literally. The book features foundational knowledge that helps 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 yoga teacher training instructor tell you differently: you should have no shame in using notecards to remember sequencing, cues, anatomical suggestions, modifications, and everything else yoga instructors must keep straight in a class. But it’s also 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 are an important part of any yoga practice, even ones in which you feel might not share common ground with your own mode of thought. To paraphrase Ram Dass, we’re all walking each other home.
Minnnesconsin Yoga offers encouraging, adaptable, alignment-focused yoga classes and workshops in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Lead instructor Meghan Hatalla pulls together elements of different disciplines, aiming to enhance somatic awareness in the body. Meghan completed her 200-hour yoga teacher certification with Maria Toso of Saint Paul Yoga Center, as well as furthered her knowledge with coursework from Jason Crandell, CorePower Yoga (power yoga extensions), and Yoga North (somayoga modalities).