Monday, June 27, 2016

10 Yoga Philosophy Books That Will Change Your Life

Yoga Books to Free Your Mind

If you are seeking personal transformation and spiritual growth then these 10 yoga philosophy books are for you.  They are not meant for an intellectual study of philosophy. Instead, these are spiritually rich books that can free your mind and change your life.  

They will inspire you with stories and teachings that are beyond the ordinary, changing all your core beliefs and your perception of reality.  Trust me, once you read these books your life will never be the same.

Not the most popular yoga books

These books are not the best-selling or most popular yoga books in the market.  Some of them you’ve probably never heard about before.  Yet, they are priceless.  

They are either ancient manuscripts or books written by real Indian yogis who have experienced the essence of yoga in their lives.  Their teachings and personal stories, found within the pages of these books, have literally transformed my life and shaped who I am today. 

They have been my gurus, my guides along the spiritual path, and I hope they will do the same for you. May the teachings of the gurus guide you through their written words, and may their blessings always be with you. May your life be inspired and transformed.

Yoga and Vedanta

I should mention that when we speak of yoga philosophy, as one of the six systems of Indian philosophy, it refers then exclusively to teachings of yoga as codified by the sage Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras.  

But in this blog post, I’m referring to the broader usage of the word yoga which is present throughout Upanishads.  In that sense, yoga is about spiritual awakening and self-realization even through the path of knowledge, Advaita Vedanta. 

I have also decided to include books that are easy to read, inspirational, and that give a glimpse into this higher reality.  What you’ll read in the pages of these books is a very practical yoga philosophy.

That’s why I have not included Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras in this list.  The Yoga Sutras demand a dedicated study of the text, ideally with a teacher.  Besides, that ancient text deserves its own article, which I’ll write in the future.

But, meanwhile, if you want to learn more about the difference between Yoga and Vedanta I suggest you read this interview with Siddhartha Krishna, one of my philosophy teachers: Everything You Need to Know About Vedanta, in Theory and Practice.

For your own convenience, I have included links to These are affiliate links. If you buy a product through these links you'll be supporting me to continue sharing my path, via a small commission, at no extra cost to you.

A good tip. Some of these books (you'll find them below) are available in audio format on Amazon's If you try audible for FREE you will get two free audiobooks which you can keep even if you cancel your subscription, so you might be able to listen to at least two of these books for free.

Without further ado, here is my list of the 10 Yoga Philosophy Books for Spiritual Transformation:

1. The Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita

This was the first spiritual book that I ever read. What an initiation, the ultimate yoga philosophy book. Actually, the word "book" seems so inappropriate. I prefer to see it as a manuscript handed down by God Himself to the world.

I still remember that occasion years ago when I walked into a bookstore looking for something, not knowing exactly what I was looking for. I picked up this book "by accident" and after reading just a couple of lines I felt something awakening within me. "I know this!" I thought to myself.

"The Self is not born, nor does it ever die; after having been, it again ceases not to be; nor the reverse. Unborn, eternal, unchangeable and primeval, the Self is not slain when the body is slain."

The Bhagavad Gita is the dialogue between Lord Krishna (the Supreme Consciousness) and Arjuna (the individual consciousness) right in the middle of a battlefield, just before the battle starts (the battle between the evil and positive forces within each one of us). The wisdom of the Vedas is condensed in the 700 verses of the Gita.

2. Autobiography of a Yogi

Autobiography of a Yogi

This was my second yoga book and my introduction to the meditation path. A book written by a real yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda. Reading his personal stories I felt transported to the spiritual India, the land of sages with mystic powers, knowers of the eternal truth.

"One's value are profoundly changed when he is finally convinced that creation is only a vast motion picture, and that not in it, but beyond it, lies his own reality."

I was thrilled when I read about the Bhagavad Gita in guruji's autobiography, and when reading the discussions about the Christian Bible between Yoganandaji and his master Sri Yukteswar. It is one of the most popular spiritual books available today, a classic and an excellent book to get introduced to the life of the Indian yogis.

3. Jnana Yoga, by Swami Vivekananda

Jñana Yoga Swami Vivekananda

After reading Autobiography of a Yogi I started to discover the teachings of another great Indian master, Swami Vivekananda. Within just a few pages he became one of my main guides on the spiritual path.

"There is no 'you' or 'me'; all variety is merged into the absolute unity, the one infinite existence - God."

I read all of his books on the different paths of yoga: Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Karma Yoga; but the book that influenced me the most was Jnana Yoga, the path of knowledge. Through this book, which is based on different lectures that he gave around the world, I learned for the first time about the teachings of the Vedas and the Advaita Vedanta philosophy, the non-dualistic philosophy.

4. Taming the Kundalini, by Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Taming the Kundalini

You have probably never heard of this book, yet it belongs to one of the most popular collections of yoga books, published by the Bihar School of Yoga (BSY). BSY has published hundreds of excellent quality books on yoga, but if I had to I would drop every one of them and keep just this one.

Swami Satyananda Saraswati came a bit later in my life, during my first trip to India back in 2005. I knew already a bit about his teachings and his ashram in Bihar, but once I picked up this book I realized that he was truly not an ordinary person, but a true master living in a higher reality.

"By day and night you will have to remember this: He resides unseen within me and He makes me perform all actions. When this idea is firmly rooted in the mind, every act of yours will be an act of yoga."

This book is a collection of letters written by Swami Satyananda Saraswati himself to two of his disciples. The letters contain detailed instructions to his disciples on the discipline of yoga. They are beyond inspirational, they transcend human comprehension. If you want to know what a real guru is then you should definitely read this book.

5. Steps to Yoga and Yoga Initiation Papers, by Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Steps to Yoga

Another yoga book that is not so popular, yet it's pure gold. Also one of BSY books. It is a continuation of Taming the Kundalini, another collection of letters written by Swami Satyananda to other disciples. If you liked Taming the Kundalini then you should get Steps to Yoga without thinking it twice.

"You should not allow the mind to sit idle even for a minute. The first step to spiritual life is to keep the mind ever busy. Every work is sadhana if done with concentration..... Become the master of your mind by applying it to various jobs from morning till night. Do your work efficiently and with full concentration."

Words fail to describe the richness of the teachings contained in these letters. I promise you, after reading them you'll life will never be the same.

6. Samatvam: The Yoga of Equanimity


This book, also published by BSY, is based on the teachings of two great masters, Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh and his disciple Swami Satyananda Saraswati. If you want to learn about the essential teachings of yoga in a condensed format then you should definitely read this book. It contains a commentary on some main verses of the Bhagavad Gita, and instructions for every spiritual seeker.

"Mental equilibrium is maintained by remaining a witness. One definition of yoga is: an art by which we become a spectator of all the experiences of awareness."

7. Living With the Himalayan Masters

Living with Himalayan Masters

Another autobiography written by a real yogi, Swami Rama of the Himalayas. Swami Rama has been one of my latest guides in the spiritual path. By now I have read every single one of his books and listened multiple times to all of his lectures on the Upanishads, Meditation, Yoga Sutras, and Sri Vidya.

"Non-attachment and renunciation expand the consciousness. When an individual learns to expand his consciousness or unites with the universal consciousness, then he no longer remains within the bounds of his karma. One remains totally free."

Swami Rama's teachings which sometimes seem to be simple and basic go to the root of yoga. If you are interested in Dhyana Yoga, the meditation path, then you should definitely study his teachings, starting with this book.

8. The Yoga Vasishta

Yoga Vasistha

Would you like to know where did we come from, where we are going to and what is the true nature of this mystery that we call life? Would you like to know the true meaning of the biblical statement, “The truth shall set you free”? Then this is the right book for you.

Similar to the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Vasishta is a dialogue between the sage Vasishta and his disciple Sri Rama, who was actually a prince and one of Hinduism's greatest Gods. In this dialogue, the sage instructs Sri Rama on the highest of all teachings, the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta, the non-duality philosophy.

"Nothing whatever is born or dies anywhere at any time. It is Brahman [God] alone appearing illusorily in the form of the world."

The Yoga Vasishta Sara or The Essence of Yoga Vasishta published by Sri Ramanasraman in Tiruvannamalai, is a Kindle version that contains selected verses (230 verses) from the full Yoga Vasishta text which is 32,000 verses. It is a fascinating book, small and very easy to read. I'm now reading the extended version by Swami Venkatesananda of more than 700 pages long.

9. Talks With Sri Ramana Maharshi

Talks with Ramana Maharshi

Sri Ramana Maharshi, one of India's greatest sages, realized in his early childhood that knowledge by which everything else is known. Without any previous education, he was able to understand the deep meaning of scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Vasishta.

He taught Self-enquiry, constantly trying to answer the question "Who am I?", as a path to liberation. According to him, once we know the answer to this question we will realize that there is nothing to be attained, we will realize that we are already free and always have been.

"The doubts arise in the mind. The mind is born of the ego. The ego rises from the Self. Search the source of the ego and the Self is revealed. That alone remains. The universe is only expanded Self. It is not different from the Self.

This book is a collection of "Talks" or "Question and Answers" sessions that Ramana Maharshi had with many different seekers who came to him looking for answers and guidance on the spiritual path. The book is more than 700 pages long.

I started reading it in 2010, after my first visit to his ashram in Tiruvannamalai, and I'm still reading it! I'm not in a rush to finish it. I like to pick it up from time to time to read some of the talks, just to get inspired and change my perception of reality. Whenever I finish it I'll restart from page one.

10. Select Works of Sri Shankaracharya

Works of Shankaracarya

And to go even deeper into the Advaita Vedanta philosophy one can't miss reading the teachings of Sri Shankaracharya, one of the main expounders of this philosophy. By the age of thirty, Adi Shankaracharya had already written commentaries on several ancient texts like the Bhagavad Gita, the Brahmasutras, and some main Upanishads.

"I am indeed Brahman, without difference, without change, and of the nature of reality, knowledge and bliss. I am not, therefore the body which is unreal. This is what the wise call knowledge."

The truth revealed by the Advaita Vedanta philosophy is simply that everything is One; "Brahman (God) alone is real, the universe is unreal, the individual soul (Jiva or Atman) is no other than the Universal Soul (Brahman)." To be able to grasp this truth it is useful to contemplate on it from different angles until it finally gets firmly rooted in the mind. Reading this book is a way to practice this contemplation.

Bonus book recommendation!

11. Radha, Diary of a Woman's Search

Radha Diary of a Womans Search

Here is one additional truly inspiring yoga book.  It’s not written by an Indian yogi but by a Western yogini who visited India based on a call from her guru, Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh.

Her book is a collection of her personal diary entries where she talks about her experiences living at Swami Sivananda’s ashram in Rishikesh.  

As I wrote in my extended review “These diaries are like letters written not only to herself but to all those who would eventually read them.  They include not only the reflections of a disciple, and her experiences living in an Indian ashram, but also the teachings that she was receiving from her guru Swami Sivananda.”

To be honest this book is a rare gem and a must-have for any spiritual seeker.  It gives a different perspective on the spiritual life in India and a glimpse into who Swami Sivananda was in life.  

I hope you’ve found this list of yoga philosophy and spirituality books useful. If you've read any of these books please tell us how they have influenced your life.  You could share your favorite quotes in the comment section below. 

And if you have any other unique yoga philosophy books for spiritual seekers that you would like to recommend, please go ahead and tell us about them. Thanks for sharing.

Yoga Books to Free Your Mind


  1. yet again, very good article, thanks. Also just to share Marco, I along with my family stayed for 7 days for yoga vacation after reading your stay at Ashram article... thanks again

    1. Thank you so much Ravi. That's great to hear, in which ashram did you stay? I hope you had a great experience. Greetings.

  2. Hi Marco, thanks so much for putting together this blog. I've been spending over 2 hours reading already!
    I have one question which is not related to this article specifically, but hoping that you can help me answer. I am very curious about Transcendental Meditation or Vedic Meditation, and would like to learn the technique and obtain a mantra from a guru. Do you know where best to go for this? I know you can pay thousands of dollars to get that from a "trade mark" TM teacher, but my finance doesn't allow me to. Look forward to hearing from you. Thank you! Annie

    1. Oh 2016... I'm a bit late. Lol. Sorry, I just noticed this comment. Well, to be honest I don't know, all I know is that they charge lots of money to get a mantra and to me that's unacceptable, but many people seem to be very happy with it. So I hope you've been able to find an affordable option.

  3. And the book "I am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

    1. Yes, that is definitely another eye opening book 😊🙏