Whether you’re looking to explore the rich spiritual tradition of yoga or simply hoping to increase your strength and flexibility, the best yoga books for beginners can help you develop a deeply rewarding practice. Ranging from detailed step-by-step guides that teach you the physical poses, to insightful resources that delve into the history and philosophy of this ancient tradition, the best yoga books for beginners can help expand your understanding of the fundamentals as you embark on your journey.
Susanna Barkataki, M.Ed, is the Founder and Director of Education at Ignite Institute for Yogic Studies and Social Change, as well as the author of Embrace Yoga’s Roots: Courageous Ways To Deepen Your Yoga Practice. She’s also an E-RYT 500 Yoga Alliance-certified instructor and yoga culture advocate focused on shifting the paradigm of what yoga looks like in the West.
Steph Ball-Mitchell is an E-RYT 500 Yoga Alliance-certified yoga instructor, as well as the founder and lead trainer of Yoga and Ayurveda Center and Online Yoga School. She has trained and certified thousands of yoga teachers internationally.
What To Consider When Shopping For Yoga Books For Beginners
Yoga Practice & Context
There’s a chance that when you think of yoga, you think of an intense workout that strengthens and stretches the body through physical poses like “downward-facing dog” and “cobra.” These poses are known as asanas — but they weren’t originally designed as a physical fitness pursuit. As author and yoga culture advocate Susanna Barkataki explains, yoga is an eight-limb spiritual practice with a set of ethical codes (known as yamas and niyamas) that help cultivate “a life of truth, compassion, generosity, and peace.” She elaborates that the postures “prepare the body for comfortable seated meditation” and also help “stretch the body after long periods of seated meditation.” In other words, yoga poses were meant to complement a holistic spiritual journey, not simply as a way to build muscle and flexibility.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with approaching yoga primarily as exercise. But as you start out, you may want to consider learning about the full practice of yoga as a way to respect the tradition and increase your understanding of its significance. Whether you pick a beginner yoga book with a standalone chapter, or one dedicated entirely to a specific school or yoga philosophy, there is an abundance of resources for learning about yoga’s 5,000-year history, which traces back to northern India.
Learning Asanas: Step-By-Step Instructions & Modification Options
When learning yoga’s asanas, certified yoga teacher Steph Ball-Mitchell notes that it’s important to have written step-by-step instructions on how to move into each pose. Some books also offer pose modifications, which can be helpful if you have any physical limitations or need some time to ease into more challenging postures. Ball-Mitchell elaborates: “Yoga poses are not one-size-fits-all. In fact, they’re quite the opposite. The postures should be adapted to our individual bodies, and it’s important that books offer lots of modifications and accessibility options for beginners.”
Many great yoga books for beginners offer a menu of yoga routines that can help you hone in on a specific area of focus or length of time, so you can further customize it to your needs when you’re on the mat.
Good yoga books for beginners will also offer visual cues in the form of illustrations or photography. Where you might otherwise need to observe a teacher’s fleeting pose in a class to fully understand a specific asana, having an image to refer to can help you grasp the asana on your own timeline. However, Barkataki cautions not to get hung up on achieving a flawless posture, saying, “Deep peace and inner harmony are the real reasons for practicing yoga – not getting the perfect body or having the best-looking yoga poses – that thinking takes away from its power.”
Many of the picks you’ll find here focus on yoga as a mindful workout, but you’ll also find a guide for restorative yoga if you’re looking for a way to unwind and release muscle tension. I’ve also included options that explore yoga’s history and eight-limb philosophy, and some have sections that focus on diet, meditation, and other modalities to help you bring your practice full circle.
Of course, it’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen — especially considering the fact that yoga challenges you to bend your body in new ways. (You may also want to think of these books as complementary resources while seeking the guidance of professional yoga instructors who can help you learn each pose safely.)
Barkataki offers a final reminder: “Compassion, nurturing the self, and deep inquiry are all part of the true yoga experience.”
No matter how early on you are in your journey, the best yoga books for beginners will introduce you to the basics.
Shop The Best Yoga Books For Beginners
In a hurry? These are the best yoga books for beginners:
- A Classic Yogi Master’s Guide For Beginners & Advanced Practitioners: Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar
- A Comprehensive Guide With 77 Poses: Hatha Yoga Illustrated by Martin Cook, Brook Boon, and Daniel DiTuro
- A Basic Handbook For The Absolute Beginner: Yoga Body & Mind Handbook by Jasmine Tarkeshi
- A Book That Encourages You To Connect With Yoga’s Roots: Embrace Yoga’s Roots by Susanna Barkataki
- A Book With Pose Modifications For Various Body Types & Abilities: Yoga for Everyone by Dianne Bondy
- A Holistic Guide That Also Includes Recipes & Lifestyle Tips: Yoga: Your Home Practice Companion by Sivanananda Yoga Vedanta Center
- An Easy-To-Follow Book With Routines Tailored To Specific Issues: 30 Essential Yoga Poses by Judith Lasater
- A Book Of Gentle Poses For A Restorative Yoga Practice: Restorative Yoga for Beginners by Julia Clarke
- A Book That Simplifies Complex Yoga Theories: The Yoga Mind by Rina Jakubowicz
1. A Classic Yogi Master’s Guide For Beginners & Advanced Practitioners Alike
- Classic book written by one of the foremost yogi gurus
- 600 photographs & detailed descriptions
- Helpful for both beginners & experienced yogis
Embraced by beginners and advanced practitioners alike, Light On Yoga was written by B.K.S. Iyengar, who is commonly credited with bringing yoga to the West and was considered one of the most influential yogis up until his death in 2014. “This is probably my favorite book for beginners because it also includes information on yoga philosophy, proper breathing techniques, and meditation,” says Ball-Mitchell.
Iyengar’s guide serves as an introduction to yoga and its history, and it includes details on the physical aspects of asanas (i.e., poses) and breath work, techniques and tips for getting the most out of the practice, and custom courses by indication or special interest. The instructions are supported by hundreds of photographs as well as modifications to make each asana more accessible. While this highly rated book is appropriate for beginners, it is also a handbook for more experienced practitioners — and reviewers have advised those starting out to steer clear of the more advanced instructions.
According to a reviewer: “This is THE book for an understanding of yoga. What most people associate yoga with is the "asanas" (poses). There is a lot more to it, which Mr. Iyengar outlines in this book. My primary uses are for deeper understanding of the proper alignment of these poses as well as a few pranayama (breath work) methods. Also included are asanas for common ailments and many sequences. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced yogi, this book is a fantastic reference. Mr. Iyengar was a master.”
2. A Comprehensive Guide With 77 Poses
- 77 poses included
- 11 customizable routines
- Alphabetical index makes it easy to navigate the book
Ball-Mitchell recommends Hatha Yoga Illustrated for those starting out as it covers more than 77 asanas, each complemented by a colorful photograph and step-by-step instructions. She also appreciates the addition of variations and accessibility, which means practitioners can work their way up to asanas that are compatible with their bodies. Along with information about yoga philosophy, eleven sample routines are included, each of which can be adjusted to your time and intensity requirements. Last but not least, an alphabetical index lets readers quickly scan the contents for positions and routines.
According to a reviewer: “This book goes through a lot of hatha yoga poses and breaks them down in step-by-step instructions. It also mentions the things to be aware of (contraindications) and the benefits. I think the most useful part of this book is the alphabetical and the grouped-by-type indexes with pictures in the back! It makes it very easy to look up a pose you knew how to do but couldn't remember the name of.”
3. A Basic Handbook For The Absolute Beginner
- Presents a variety of poses in an accessible way
- Step-by-step instructions for complete yoga routines
- Includes guided meditations that encourage mindfulness
Basic yoga poses and meditations form the foundation of this book from yoga teacher Jasmine Tarkeshi, which offers step-by-step instructions and illustrations for individual asanas as well as complete sequences. To help you ease into the practice, modification options are included for each pose. In addition, the book features a brief overview of the tenets of yoga, and walks beginners through guided meditations to help foster mindfulness and healing.
As the co-founder and director of Laughing Lotus Centers in San Francisco and New York City, Tarkeshi brings more than 20 years of yoga experience to her approachable, easy-to-understand guide, which one reviewer noted is a good option for the “absolute beginner.”
According to a reviewer: “The book gave great information on gaining knowledge with poses and how to execute them. Illustrations and intro piece were perfect for the newbie. Overall, great beginners guide!!!”
4. A Book That Encourages You To Connect With Yoga’s Roots
- Details yogic philosophy as a holistic practice beyond physical poses
- Supports whole-person growth through yoga’s ancient teachings
- Encourages an ethical practice that’s mindful of yoga’s deep history
If you want a more complete view of yogic philosophy and lifestyle, Embrace Yoga’s Roots is a great place to start. Besides delving into yoga’s 5,000-year history, author Susanna Barkataki guides readers into a practice that goes beyond the physical and incorporates ancient teachings, while encouraging an honorable, ethical practice that supports personal and social growth. She also helps readers identify ways they may be unknowingly appropriating Indian culture or perpetuating a colonized view of yoga. Note that this pick isn’t designed to get into the nitty gritty of the physical poses, but rather is meant to strengthen your connection to the yoga tradition as a whole.
According to a reviewer: “Susanna hit the nail on the head with this one. From educating her readers on why yoga was originally cultivated, to listing fundamental ways we can actively practice yoga in the most effective and respectful manner, this book is a much needed push to go deeper and amplify yoga’s true meaning, Unity. Something we could all practice to deter us away from our struggles. Even if you don’t practice yoga, this book can still spark you to self reflect on numerous ways we may cause harm to others, without us even knowing.”
5. A Book With Pose Modifications For Various Body Types & Abilities
- Focuses on yoga as a practice for various body types and abilities
- 50 photographed poses included
- 3+ modifications are included for each pose
Barkataki says, “Yoga is a practice of liberation for everyone. You don’t need to look a certain way, own anything in particular, or be a certain type of person to do yoga.” In that spirit, Yoga for Everyone offers photographs of 50 asanas as performed by people of various body types and abilities, with a focus on making the pose work for you — as opposed to “perfecting” the pose. Each asana is accompanied by a minimum of three modifications to make them more accessible to any reader. Ten sequences help you put the postures together for a seamless yoga session. Along the way, you’ll learn some tips on yoga science and anatomy to get the most of each asana.
According to a reviewer: “This book is full of amazing photos of people who are all kinds of abled. The images and the stories clearly show that yoga is for everyone and not just those who are already fit, flexible, furiously devoted to their practice. There is room for everyone in yoga. One of the beauties of this books is that it has photos of real people doing real yoga. I find this much more accessible and inspirational than line drawings because after all, it is easy to twist a line drawing into a pose but not so easy to twist a person into a pose.”
6. A Holistic Guide That Also Includes Recipes & Lifestyle Tips
- Teaches the 12 classic asanas (poses)
- Options for 20-, 40-, and 60-minute programs
- Plant-based recipes included
One of the best yoga and meditation books for beginners, this guide integrates the 12 classic asanas, mindfulness practices, and breath-work exercises. But it doesn’t stop there — it also provides 40 plant-based recipes for readers interested in embracing vegetarianism — a diet some practitioners posit as one of the cornerstones of yogic philosophy. It was written by teachers at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres, an internationally recognized organization that teaches classical yoga, with an emphasis on exercise, proper breathing, relaxation, diet, and meditation. Aimed at recharging energy levels and reducing stress, the book includes step-by-step instructions with illustrations and modification options, as well as 20-, 40-, and 60-minute programs.
According to a reviewer: “My husband got this book for me because I've been trying to improve my flexibility. Well, surprise! I now love Yoga, not only as a workout but also as a lifestyle. This book provides a fantastic background as well as the philosophy behind it and I have achieved much peace and serenity adopting many of the lifestyle changes suggested by this book.”
7. An Easy-To-Follow Book With Routines Tailored To Specific Issues
- Written by a veteran yoga instructor
- Sequences for specific issues included
- Features glossary of anatomical terms
Written by one of the cofounders of the California Yoga Teachers Association and Yoga Journal, Judith Lasater’s instructional book is a solid guide for anyone starting their yoga journey. One of the most intriguing aspects of this book is the fact that Lasater offers several sequences designed to target specific issues like hamstring tightness, lower back discomfort, and fatigue.
Ball-Mitchell explains that the book is “easy to follow” and includes modifications and variations, as well as step-by step instructions and photographs. Lasater also includes recommendations for “going inward” to get the most from each asana, and a glossary of anatomical terms helps the reader navigate each pose safely.
According to a reviewer: “As an experienced yoga teacher, I recommend this book to beginning students all the time. It is written by a very respected and loved teacher, who is also an excellent physical therapist. Her instructions are clear and safe, and she expresses the deep personal worth of the practice. [...] This book remains an excellent guide for practice for many years, as we are all beginners for a very long time.”
8. A Book Of Gentle Poses For A Restorative Yoga Practice
- Great for those looking for a relaxing practice
- Each pose is labeled with its therapeutic benefits
- Gentle, low-impact sequences can be done any time of day
A restorative practice is the best yoga for beginners looking to reduce mind and body tension, and this helpful guide is a great place to start. Author Julia Clark provides instructions for gentle, low-impact yoga and includes therapeutic poses for newbies or anyone recovering from injury or specific health issues (although you should check in with your doctor before taking on any yoga practice, especially if you have medical concerns). Each of the 36 essential asanas covered in the book are illustrated and labeled with their specific therapeutic benefits, and Clarke includes precautions and modifications for each. Once you’ve gained an understanding of the basics, there are 20 detailed sequences to help you establish a relaxing yoga practice that can be done in the morning or anytime you want a gentle stretch.
The book also offers breathing exercises and meditations, and provides suggestions for props to enhance your practice.
According to a reviewer: “Where most yoga types focus on stretching, flexibility, building muscles, building the core, building up to difficult and bendy poses, restorative yoga focuses on relaxing and undoing all the knots that our daily stresses tie us in. With well over 30 poses that can be mixed and matched, Restorative Yoga for Beginners offers countless possibilities for pain and stress relief. And if you don’t want to come up with your own sequence of poses, Clarke offers up 19 sequences of her own, most from 30 minutes to 80 minutes, that you can use as is to feel better or modify to fit your needs.”
9. A Book That Simplifies Complex Yoga Philosophy
- Focuses on yoga philosophy as opposed to the physical practice
- Good companion book to read alongside classes or another handbook
- Makes yoga philosophy easy to understand
If you’re looking for a book that focuses more on the mental aspect of yoga as opposed the physical aspect, The Yoga Mind is one of the best yoga philosophy books for beginners. Author Rina Jakubowicz has over 20 years of experience teaching yoga and presents yoga’s philosophy in an approachable way to help beginners starting their journeys as well as more intermediate practitioners looking to deepen their practice. The book can be used as a reference manual to help you understand the prevailing themes of yoga, and it contains exercises and guided meditations to help you incorporate yoga into your daily life.
According to a reviewer: “Wonderfully written - easy to read and understand. This book gives you a basic understanding of the many aspects of yoga. [...] This book gives you that and more! She gives you the perfect beginner guide into yoga, with a basic understanding of the origins and the core principles of yoga! I now feel ready to truly delve into and deepen my yoga practice! Thank you Rina! I wish I had had this book a lot sooner, I am truly grateful for it now!!”