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Five Favorite Books on Yoga (and related) Filosophy.

Oops. Philosophy. I just couldn't resist having everything start with an F. So sue me. Fue me.

Its been about 200 Jeremy Bearimies since this shelter-in-place began. I had quite a few unread books waiting to keep me company, but I've been having trouble focusing on...well...anything. The idea of committing to hundreds of pages on one narrative, something that typically brings me great joy, has proven nearly impossible. Rather than continuing to beat myself up about it, I've gone back to a few favorite yoga (and yoga-adjacent) texts, especially the ones that can be parsed and read sporadically while losing none of their potency.

Below is list of Five of my Favorites. Primarily yoga-based philosophy with a nice toe-dip into Buddhist thought. These are not beautiful, in-depth reviews, just a few sentences to give you an idea of why they're my faves. I hope you'll consider ordering the ones that speak to you from your own independent, local bookshop; if you don't have a favorite bookshop, I've also included links to a couple of mine! If you pick one (or more) up and read them, I hope you'll comment with your thoughts, or email me, or send an owl. Let me know what you think.

1. Skill in Action: Radicalizing Your yoga Practice to Create a Just World - Michelle Cassandra Johnson

I have trouble knowing where to begin in describing my love for this book, and the work Michelle Cassandra Johnson is doing. The title is drawn from a verse in the Bhagavad Gita where Krishna tells Arjuna that "Yoga is skillfulness in action." Sometimes people take this in the context of being skillful in asana (the physical postures that we do), but in the Gita there is no mention of practicing triangle pose. It is about skill in the actions of life. In her teaching, Johnson talks about the practice of yoga being access to breath. We learn to access our breath, and then we are ready to make space for others to breathe. And so, the entire practice of yoga is one of liberation. However, in today's world, liberation is not equally available to all peoples. In this book the principles of yoga philosophy are brought together with the work of dismantling racism in a way that is accessible and actionable.

It's a very quick read, with big ideas that burn slow and long, filled with practices that will stay with you forever.

2. Yoga Beyond Belief: Insights to Awaken and Deepen Your Practice

This is one of my most-often recommended books. I offer it particularly to folks who have been taking some asana classes and heard bits and pieces of philosophy, but want a broader understanding of what it all means. Ganga White's friendly style of writing and clear understanding of complex philosophies makes for a delightful read. It is non-dogmatic in approach, which keeps it relevant to people from all manner of backgrounds. It's like having a good friend chat with you about some stuff they know that you don't know just yet. An introduction. An overview. A great place to start.

(Oh, P.S., there's a foreword written by Sting. Sting, I tell you! So it must be a cool book!

3. Yoga Rising: 30 Empowering Stories from Yoga Renegades for Every Body - edited by Melanie C Klein

Yoga Rising is an anthology, a collection of personal essays from leaders in the work of making yoga accessible to people in all bodies. It is representation at its finest, making space for inclusivity at the intersection of spiritual practice and social justice. This celebration of collective, honest, and raw storytelling reminds us: yoga is for everyone. And your struggles within what is commoditized and sold as "yoga" throughout the western world? Those struggles are shared. They are given voice. If you've felt left out of the vision of modern, western yoga; if you're a teacher who is working to wake up to your own blind spots when it comes to inclusivity - this is the book. Hear these stories and let them move you.

4. Yoga For a World Out of Balance - Michael Stone

Michael Stone was one of the first contemporary writers on yoga and buddhist thought who really just blew my mind. I own all of his books, and have listened to every podcast and every recording that he made in his lifetime. In Yoga for a World Out of Balance, Stone uses the Yamas from Patanjali's Yoga Sutra as a basis for how we can connect the spiritual path with social activism and ethical action. His writing is going to feel more intellectual and esoteric than Ganga White - which makes it just perfect for folks who want this deeper level of intellectual stimulation. This book takes the framework of the Yamas (the principles of non-harming, honesty, non-stealing, wise use of energy, and non-grasping/greed) and weaves them into an inspiring view of the interconnectedness not only of all humanity, but of all beings and ecosystems in the world. He encourages us to look inward deeply, in order to take the next right action. This is a great read to focus in on one small part of yoga philosophy and see how broadly it connects us into our global existence.

5. Welcoming the Unwelcome: Wholehearted Living in a Brokenhearted World - Pema Chödrön

Sigh. Pema. Oh, Pema. My heroine. I can honestly say no spiritual leader has had a greater influence on my life than Pema Chödrön. She is an American-born Buddhist nun residing in Nova Scotia, who has written some of the most wonderful and widely-read books on Buddhist thought. I struggled to choose a favorite to put on this list. If you have not yet read any of her work, special mention shout-out to Start Where You Are, but there is no need to read the books in any order. Welcoming the Unwelcome is her most recent release, the first in seven years. I recommend it as my favorite specifically because of its newness. Released in 2019, she knows the world we're in right now. Aren't we all brokenhearted? Tender and raw? We were in 2019, and we've become even more so in 2020. Pema writes so warmly and with so much humor, that when the moments come where she's calling out not-so-great behaviors you know you inhabit, you can really hear it. She guides us gently to change. She reminds us that bodhisattvas are compassionate warriors. We can embody grace while remaining fierce advocates for a better world.



1. Find your local independent bookstore and inquire if they're still placing orders and deliveries - most in my area are!

2. You could order from one of my Chicago faves: Women and Children First - they are wonderful, intersectional feminist bookstore owners, whose Womens Voices Fund raises money to help sustain and develop an ongoing program series focused on women’s lives, ideas, and work. I checked their website, and all of these titles are available for delivery - some immediately and some via special order (so it'll take slightly longer).

3. : This website allows you to search for an independent bookseller in your area, though I found quite a few were missing from Chicago. BUT you can also order directly through them. Their entire mission is to use the prevalence of online book sales to support the small bookstores, so even their "non-affiliate" orders (ordering from them, not a specific store) donate 10% into a pool that is split between all registered stores. As of the moment I type this, they've raised $522,948.78 for independent booksellers. YAY. We love this. I searched and all of these titles are available to order here.

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