Required reading for the student who is new to Yoga

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I was watching a video of B.K.S. Iyengar during the 2013 Guru Poornima, which is an annual observance and celebration of all of our teachers. In the address, he showed two books that were recently pressed from the Institute. He commented that when he started Yoga, there was no written material on the subject of Asana. Now it has gone the other way. There is now so much information about Asana on the internet and in books, that a new comer to yoga may be easily overwhelmed.

I often reflect on the reading materials that I first encountered when I came to Yoga and what continues to guide me on my path. The clear text would be introduction in LIght On Yoga. It is not just written well, it draws from a series of classical Yoga texts and digests it into an easy to understand essay coupled with Iyengar’s experience.

One does not need to be an practitioner of the Iyengar style to appreciate this text. Renowned Ashtanga Yoga practitioner Chuck Miller writes:

One day in 1974, I was in a bookstore and picked up a copy of Light on Yoga. A girl whom I’ve never seen before just looked over and said, “That’s the book.” I took it as a sign from above and bought the book. I went home that night and read the introduction, fifty-five pages, and it blew my mind. It changed my life. I felt I had my hand on the operating manual for the human being.  – From Iyengar, The Yoga Master 2007 Kofi Busia Shalamba Publications, Inc.

One of the gists of the text that I remember every day is that he views the ability to work as a gift. He draws this concept from the Bhagavad Gita, and links it wonderfully to how we integrate our daily practice as our dharma.

He also gives a brief overview of the limbs of Ashtanga Yoga (the classical eight limbs from Patanjali Yoga Sutras). In subsequent texts, The Iyengar family asserts that Ashtanga Yoga is the ABCs of Yoga, and that the other forms like Hatha, Laya, Jnana etc. need a firm rooting in Asthanga Yoga before other forms can successfully be commenced.

In Light on Yoga, Iyengar also gives a brief overview of the obstacles on the path and how to overcome them based on the Patanjali Yoga Sutras. Iyengar had many obstacles that he overcame in his lifetime including childhood diseases, poverty, the early death of his wife, and two auto accidents just to name a few. He practiced Yoga up until he passed away last year at 95 years old.

Keep in mind that Iyengar Yoga style was not my first choice when I started Yoga. I went though many of the different systems until I have decided to pursue Iyengar as my path. Perhaps you may have another system of preference. But there is one common agreement among many practitioners is that the introduction of Light On Yoga is one of the classic passages.

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8 thoughts on “Required reading for the student who is new to Yoga

  1. Elliot

    Light on Yoga is amazing! I don’t know how appropriate for beginners without a teacher, but definitely a good resource. Great book for the asana instructions as well, not just the intro 🙂

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    1. yogibattle Post author

      Thanks Elliot! There was a point in time when that was one of only a handful of resources that were accessible to Western students. It has certainly stood the test of time. I appreciate you feedback and readership!

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  2. Carey

    I just bought this book recently in hopes of helping me develop a home practice. I am currently following the beginners asanas (I’m on weeks 3&4). I have to say it is one of the best books I have ever bought! Love your blog btw 😀

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    1. yogibattle Post author

      That’s wonderful Carey. I remember making it to week 16 before I realized how difficult that program is. In later years, Iyengar said “add a zero” to the weeks in the course (i.e. week 1 should take 10 weeks etc.) You are on the right track as many a good practitioner has started where you are trying to do the poses from the book. It will also teach you the Sanskrit names which because valuable as you add years of practice.

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