There is a wide variety of ashtanga yoga books that may help deepen your understanding of key concepts of Ashtanga yoga and of yoga in general.
There are books that are based on:
- The Primary Series
- The Intermediate series
- For Women specifically
- Supplementary and helpful guides
Here is a list of my 23 recommended Ashtanga yoga books for beginners to this practice, home practitioners, or even experienced Ashtangis looking to deepen their understanding of key topics of this practice.
The books presented in this article have been written by highly experienced, dedicated, and well-known Ashtanga yoga teachers.
There are 2 books on this list that are not on Ashtanga yoga. They are however invaluable books on yoga for everyone to read. These two books are Autobiography of a Yogi, and How Yoga Works.
Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series
David Swenson – Ashtanga Yoga, A Practice Manual
Ashtanga Yoga, A Practice Manual was the first-ever Ashtanga yoga book I bought. It is geared towards beginners and more experienced practitioners.
The book contains 650 photos of the primary series and intermediate asana. Each asana is shown along with multiple variations.
Additionally, it also has three short forms, for those pressed for time: 15 minutes, 30 minutes, and 45 minutes, which is very helpful.
Petri Räisänen – Ashtanga Yoga The Primary Series Practice Manual
Ashtanga Yoga The Primary Series Practice Manual is a beautifully illustrated book that offers a clear and precise layout of the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series.
Petri Räisänen provides a detailed guide on all of the elements of the asana practice: correct vinyasa count, bandhas, and Drishti.
Interestingly, Petri Räisänen also provides a detailed history both of his path within Ashtanga Yoga, and of how Ashtanga changed and adapted by Sri K Pattabhi Jois.
John Scott – Ashtanga Yoga, The definitive step-by-step guide
Living up to its title, Ashtanga Yoga – The definitive step-by-step guide to dynamic yoga really is a definitive guide to Ashtanga yoga.
Each posture and each set of postures is firstly explained with a discussion on their meaning, benefits, and how to approach it.
Then through a series of photos, each asana is shown and explained in easy-to-follow detail.
Sharath Jois – Astanga Yoga Anusthana
I purchased Astanga Yoga Anusthana on one of my trips to Mysore when it was first published.
Sharath Jois firstly explains the eight limbs of the Ashtanga yoga system and then goes into some detail on each of these.
Then through a series of photos, each asana is shown and explained in easy-to-follow detail.
Kino McGregor – The Power of Ashtanga Yoga
For anyone practicing Ashtanga yoga, Kino McGregor is someone you will become very familiar with.
She has written several ashtanga yoga books and has a wide range of videos explaining many aspects of the Ashtanga yoga practice.
In The Power of Ashtanga Yoga, Kino initially takes us from the Ashtanga yoga history to the yoga diet and the Ashtanga yoga method.
She then breaks down each pose and provides a very clear and detailed analysis, followed by a display of the benefits of each pose.
Gregor Maelhe – Ashtanga Yoga: Practice & Philosophy
I was given Ashtanga Yoga: Practice & Philosophy on my teacher training course. Even by a brief skim through it, it is easy to see why they chose this book.
This first half of the book focuses on asana. Each asana is displayed in picture form and in some cases, a sketch showing the muscles at use is shown. This book is a perfect guide for aspiring teachers as it also contains the detailed vinyasa count as well as detailed instructions to enter and safely execute each pose.
The second half of the book focuses on yoga philosophy and the yoga sutras. Each yoga sutra is explained at length in an easy-to-understand manner.
Ashtanga Intermediate series
If you are looking into ashtanga intermediate series books, then have a look at these next recommendations.
Kino MacGregor – The Power of Ashtanga Yoga II
The Power of Ashtanga Yoga II is the follow-up from her primary series book and it is geared towards more experienced Ashtanga yoga practitioners.
In this ashtanga yoga book, Kino McGregor discusses when a student is ready to start the intermediate series of Ashtanga, as well as the purification aspects of the practice, pranayama techniques, and other interesting parts of the practice.
Additionally, she goes into great detail about each intermediate asana and through a series of over 250 photographs, demonstrates the entire intermediate series.
Gregor Maehle – Ashtanga Yoga The intermediate series
Ashtanga Yoga The intermediate series is a follow-up to Gregor Maelhe’s first book on the primary series. It is targeted at more experienced practitioners.
As with his first ashtanga yoga book, Gregor Maelhe goes into great detail explaining each and every pose and provides information on how to deepen your Ashtanga yoga practice.
He also explains how to use Indian myth and cosmology to deepen your practice, the importance of Sanskrit language to the yogic tradition as well as the mythology behind the names of the asanas in the intermediate series.
Petri Räisänen – Nadi Sodhana
Similar to the two books just mentioned, Nadi Sodhana is a follow-up to Petri Räisänen’s first book.
Aimed towards the more experienced Ashtanga yoga practitioner, Petri Räisänen illustrates the intermediate series, clearly explains each and every asana both individually and as a complete training system.
Additionally, Petri Räisänen also offers a very detailed description of the Ashtanga yoga philosophy and how it can be integrated into our everyday life.
Gregor Maehle – Pranayama the Breath of Yoga
Pranayama the Breath of Yoga is Gregor Maehle‘s third book which is perfect for those with some pranayama experience looking for an advanced understanding of what pranayama is as well as how it can be incorporated into their practice.
With fewer photos and more very detailed information, Gregor Maehle supports his findings at length with quotations from yogic scriptures.
Amongst other things, he also explains how pranayama creates heath, how it can be used in therapeutic applications, the mental and spiritual benefits, and pranayama’s effect on the nervous system.
David Garrigues – Vayu Siddhi: A Guide to Pranayama
To the best of my knowledge, this is the second book I have found on pranayama that has been written by an Ashtanga yoga practitioner/teacher.
David Garrigues is well known for his teaching style which involves breaking down information into more easily understood parts, without of course losing any of the true essences.
Vayu Siddhi: A Guide to Pranayama, Ashtanga Yoga’s Fourth Limb is actually meant to be part of a DVD-book set. Together, David Garrigues aims to help us understand the role the breath can play in our daily practice. He also aims to help us understand how the consciousness developed in breath awareness can lead to the greater spiritual context in our life.
Richard Freeman & Mary Taylor – The Art of Vinyasa
Written by two very well-respected teachers of Ashtanga, together, Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor explore this practice as a meditative form, rather than a physical practice in their book: The Art of Vinyasa.
Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor also provide very detailed information on how alignment and anatomy can work together in this practice.
Interestingly, this book does not follow the traditional, linear pattern for the set sequence of Ashtanga yoga. Instead, it interlinks the eight limbs and shows how to incorporate them into the physical practice.
Kino MacGregor – The Yogi Assignment
Don’t let the picture of Kino in a bikini on a beautiful beach fool you.
The Yogi Assignment is actually a heartfelt and inspiring guide and is recommended for those who want to experience yoga beyond just asanas.
In the form of a 30-day assignment, Kino MacGregor offers us a guide to how to truly live a yogic lifestyle.
Each day we are invited to focus on a key yoga concept, such as stillness, vulnerability, and truthfulness.
Kino McGreggor – Ashtanga Yoga Practice Cards
Though not a book, Ashtanga Yoga Practice Cards: The Primary Series is a set of Ashtanga yoga practice cards is ideal for those starting off on their Ashtanga yoga journey.
Each card contains a demonstration of each asana, along with instructions, the drishti, and the benefits of that asana.
These cards could be used instead of a cheat sheet, for those starting practicing in an Ashtanga Mysore-style class, or for those practicing at home.
Guy Danahaye and Eddie Stern – Guruji
One year in Mysore I remember noticing many fellow practitioners quietly reading Guruji in the lovely cafes of Mysore.
I picked up my copy and was immediately hooked. Written by two well-respected teachers, Guy Danahaye and Eddie Stern, present a series of interviews carried out with senior Ashtanga yoga teachers, all explaining their relationship with Ashtanga yoga and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.
It provides a nostalgic feeling to who Ashtanga yoga was practiced once upon a time in Mysore, before is was as well known and popular as it is today.
Matthew Sweeney – Ashtanga yoga as it is
Matthew Sweeney is one of my teachers so I am a bit biased here.
He is a wonderfully charismatic teacher with many years of experience in both practicing and teaching Ashtanga yoga.
Ashtanga Yoga As It Is is Matthew’s only book on Ashtanga yoga, which is a great resource for those with an established practice. With over 2000 photos, it is a comprehensive guide to the first four sequences of Ashtanga Yoga: Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, and Advanced B. The only of its kind.
Additionally, in the now revised third edition of the book, Mathew Sweeney discusses important aspects of pranayama, the role of warming up, details on core postures and traditional and novel ways to approach the practice.
Geshe Michael Roach – How yoga works
How Yoga Works may not be an Ashtanga yoga, it is, however, a book I purchased in Mysore after a fellow practitioner recommended it.
Very different from all the books presented above, this book is in the form of a story. Beyond asanas, anatomy and alignment, this book presents a story of how the teachings of yoga reached Tibet from their home in India, over a thousand years ago.
Yoga philosophy is unfolded and there are a couple of yoga philosophy themes threaded through the story that tie all the lessons together.
Beautiful book if you want something different from the standard yoga books.
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois – Yoga Mala
I bought Yoga Mala when I first started practicing Ashtanga yoga as it was considered to be ‘the ashtanga yoga book to have’.
Sri K Pattabhi Jois brought Ashtanga yoga to the West and is considered to be the person who helped make this practice so popular.
This book is Jois’s distillation of Ashtanga. He begins by outlining the ethical principles and philosophy of this practice. He then explains the key terms and concepts.
He then us through the Sun Salutation and then all the poses in the Ashtanga yoga sequence in a way that precisely describes how to carry out each asana and what benefits each provides. This is a more vintage-like book in comparison to the others, that does deserve a place in any large Ashtanga yoga book collection.
Paramahansa Yogananda – Autobiography of a Yogi
Autobiography of a Yogi is another book that may not be on Ashtanga yoga, it is however highly recommended for all yoga practitioners.
An interesting fact is that apparently, this was the only book Steve Jobs downloaded on his iPad, and went back and reread it once every year.
When first starting this book it took me a few pages to get into it. And then I couldn’t put it down.
It presents a fascinating portrait of one of the great spiritual figures of our time, Paramahansa Yogananda. In this book, he takes us on his life’s journey, from his remarkable childhood to encounters with saints to his training to become a yoga teacher to how he then started teaching in America.
David Keil – Functional Anatomy of Yoga
David Keil is considered an authority on the subject of anatomy in the Ashtanga yoga world. I was lucky enough to practice with him several years ago and I got to experience being adjusted by someone who really does know how the body works.
When Functional Anatomy of Yoga was published I was one of the first to order it.
In a very clear and conversational style, David Keil explains the anatomical structure and function of the body in yoga.
The book presents beautifully illustrated photographs and colored images to clearly explain the concepts and asanas. This book is invaluable for both yoga teachers (not just Ashtanga teachers) and yoga practitioners looking for a deeper anatomical understanding of their practice.
Leslie Kaminoff & Amy Matthews – Yoga Anatomy
Yoga Anatomy is actually considered as ‘the best-selling anatomy guide for yoga’.
It isn’t specifically an ashtanga yoga book, however, it provides an in-depth and detailed guide on asanas through full-color anatomical illustrations making it an excellent book regardless of what yoga you practice.
From breathing to inversions to seated asanas, this book shows how specific muscles respond to the movements of the joints, how modifications to a pose can enhance or reduce effectiveness, and how the spine, breathing, and body alignment are all connected.
This book is recommended to teachers and practitioners who want more information on yoga anatomy.
For women specifically
Sharmila Desai & Anna Wise – Yoga Sadhana For Mothers
Yoga Sadhana for Mothers is the first ashtanga yoga book that has been written, dedicated to Ashtanga yoga, pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.
This book offers the guidance, wisdom, and practical tips that every student and teacher of Ashtanga yoga needs for the journey from pregnancy, to motherhood and beyond.
This is a must-read for any woman, as it is an honest and very informative collection of experiences written by women about their relationships with their yoga practice throughout their lives.
Through these stories, it explains all the physical and emotional changes that accompany pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.
It is beautifully written and presents empowering information. Highly recommended for all women practitioners and especially those wanting first-hand experiences of how yoga can help in each of these stages of a woman’s life.
Strength and grace
Another ashtanga yoga book, written by women for women (of course not only).
In Strength & Grace, established Ashtanga Yoga practitioners reveal how they maintained their practice as they go through various stages of life.
This book offers an insight into how powerful and healing Ashtanga yoga can be when practiced with wisdom and patience.
This collection of essays provides guidance on how to develop and maintain a regular practice with awareness – not a rejection – of the unique qualities of a woman’s body.