If you're looking to learn more about Ashtanga yoga, start an Ashtanga practice, or advance an existing practice, you've come to the right place! I've narrowed down the 10 best Ashtanga yoga books so you can expand your knowledge and work on this wonderful practice in the comfort of your own home!
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What is Ashtanga yoga?
Ashtanga is a style of yoga that can most easily be explained as a highly structured form of Vinyasa. Ashtanga asanas (or poses) are split into five different series, and a student has to “master” every pose in a series before they can move onto the next.
The ultimate purpose of this yoga style is to purify the mind and body. Throughout the practice, your body will build a lot of heat (a LOT), which you might hear referred to as tapas. This helps to expel old and unnecessary energies!
This isn’t a style that’s for everyone, and isn’t best suited to beginners, but many yogis love Ashtanga due to the self discipline that it brings to their practice! I for one love seeing progress in asanas over time, and a consistent Ashtanga practice is a great way to measure this!
Why buy an Ashtanga yoga book?
Since Ashtanga is such a demanding and disciplined style of yoga, it’s definitely beneficial to have a home practice. But if you’re just starting out and learning the practice, it can be difficult to remember all of the asanas!
Ashtanga yoga books are a really helpful way to learn each pose and master your practice outside of yoga classes. They include helpful guides to each asana including cues for proper alignment and form.
Not only this, but they’re a great way to learn about the history and philosophy of Ashtanga yoga if this is something that interests you!
The best Ashtanga yoga books
If you want to explore more of the Ashtanga practice using books, these are some of the best ones to buy!
1. Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual by David Swenson
This is, in my opinion, the ultimate Ashtanga guide. Many yogis even refer to it as the “bible of ashtanga yoga”! It contains 650 photos and multiple variations of every asana in the Ashtanga primary and intermediate series. Although it is very comprehensive this shouldn’t scare you off, because it is accessible for all levels of experience!
2. Ashtanga Yoga: Practice & Philosophy by Gregor Maehle
This book is the perfect tool if you want to learn about the history of Ashtanga and the fundamentals of the practice such as breath, bandhas, drishti and asanas! It contains a detailed breakdown of each of the poses, as well as a guide to the Yoga Sutras and yoga terminology. This is the perfect guide for both home practitioners and aspiring teachers.
3. The Power of Ashtanga Yoga: Developing a Practice That Will Bring You Strength, Flexibility and Inner Peace by Kino MacGregor
Kino MacGregor is one of only fourteen people in the USA to receive certification to teach Ashtanga from its’ founder Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. She is a popular teacher within the yoga community and this book is a favourite for learning the principles of Ashtanga! Kino breaks down each pose into actionable steps, as well as the fundamental connection of breath, posture and gaze.
4. The Power of Ashtanga Yoga II: A Practice to Open Your Heart and Purify Your Body and Mind by Kino MacGregor
A follow up from the primary series, this book moves on to teaching the intermediate series of Ashtanga. Kino goes further in detail on the purification aspects of the practice and pranayama techniques. But remember, this book is for advanced practitioners of Ashtanga and only for those who have completed the primary series!
5. Yoga Mala: The Original Teachings of Yoga Master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
Written by the man who brought Ashtanga yoga to the west, Yoga Mala is an “authoritative guide” to Ashtanga. This book explains the ethical and philosophical principles underlying the practice, as well as guiding the reader through the primary series and the benefits of each asana. This is a great book for beginners wanting to learn more about the practice from an authentic teacher!
6. Ashtanga Yoga: The Definitive Step by Step Guide to Dynamic Yoga by John Scott
This step by step guide is helpful for anybody wanting to learn about correct form and alignment of the Ashtanga asanas. The author also provides information on breathwork and gaze, as well as transitions between each pose in the series. The pictures and diagrams make this book easy to follow, even as a beginner!
7. Ashtanga Yoga: The Yoga Tradition of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois by Petri Raisanen
This manual is a great beginner’s guide to the Ashtanga tradition - it is full of information about each asana in the primary series, along with philosophy and breathing techniques. Accompanied by beautiful imagery, this is an easy to read and understand Ashtanga yoga book, which is great for all levels of expertise!
8. The Art of Vinyasa: Awakening Body and Mind through the Practice of Ashtanga Yoga by Richard Freeman
This Ashtanga yoga book takes the unique perspective of focusing on the meditative aspect of the practice, rather than just the physical form. The authors explain how Ashtanga can awaken both the mind and body. Unlike other Ashtanga yoga books, The Art of Vinyasa does not follow the typical Ashtanga sequence, but instead interlinks the eight limbs of yoga.
9. Ashtanga Yoga: The Intermediate Series: Mythology, Anatomy, and Practice by Gregor Maehle
This is a book targeted at experienced yogis, providing you with information and insights to go deeper into your Ashtanga practice with the intermediate series. Gregor Maehle goes into depth about how to use Indian mythology and cosmology in your practice, as well as the Sanskrit language. This book also explores yoga anatomy and how this affects poses in the intermediate series!
10. Ashtanga Yoga Practice Cards by Kino MacGregor
While not strictly a book, these Ashtanga yoga practice cards from Kino MacGregor are the perfect accompaniment to your home practice! Each card contains a visual demonstration of the asana, with instructions, drishti and the benefits of the pose. This is a fun way to learn the Ashtanga postures and work at perfecting your form!
This list should give you a good place to start with your Ashtanga practice! Let me know what your favourite Ashtanga yoga books are!
Esther Cundall is a psychology graduate and certified yoga teacher. She is the founder of the blog Hopeful Lotus, which guides readers to grow to their fullest potential using spiritual and personal growth practices. By sharing her own journey, she helps others find their own hope and heal from within.