Have you ever had one of those days where you wake up dragging your sorry yoga teacher butt, wishing you could order a transfusion of inspiration along with your morning tea?
And then you’ve gotta teach.
And so you have to figure out just where exactly in your dried up or sleep-deprived soul, your inspiration is going to come from – for yourself, but mostly for your students who rely on you to help them feel like the world is actually a friendlier place than they may be currently experiencing.
Back in the day, when I was teaching 10-12 classes a week, I sometimes felt completely wrung dry of anything inspirational to say other than, “breathe and let go” (which, BTW, is often good enough. . . but still).
So that’s when I’d go to my book shelf and try to find something to make me ponder, smile, feel grateful, or all three.
I’ve used many books over the years – but some I’ve relied on more consistently than others for a spiritual shot on the arm. And, personally, I always enjoy sharing bits from actual yoga texts, rather than inspirational stories or readings from self-help books – nothing wrong with the latter, just, as a yoga teacher, I like to stick to the yogaverse as much as possible.
So, here are three books that have been helpful for me over the years that I thought I’d share, with the hope that they may give you a little inspiration too:
- The Secret Power of Yoga by Nischala Joy Devi
This is definitely an “interpetation” rather than a “translation” of the Yoga Sutras. Which makes me love it even more. Nishcala Joy Devi is a total rebel when it comes to the sutras interpreting them through the lens of love of and devotion rather than some of the other ascetic, academic, and/or *yawn* let’s say “dry” translations that are out there. This book is simply beautiful. It’s filled with exercises, meditations, and lovely things to read to a class.
Here’s a little taste as she unveils her take on the Brahmaviharas:
To preserve openness of heart and calmness of mind, nurture these attitudes:
Kindness to those who are happy.
Compassion for those who are less fortunate
Honor for those who embody nobel qualities
Equanimity to those whose actions oppose your values.
- The Upanishads: Translated for the Modern Reader by Eknath Easwaran
I was in college when I watched Bill Murray in The Razor’s Edge being lectured by a wise old coal miner to read the Upanishads because they contained the most sublime spiritual truths. I had no idea what the Upanishads were but I thought they sounded fascinating and like something I should read at some point.
I got around to it a few years later when I was traveling in India. This version by Eknath Easwaran has has turned out to be one of my favorite translations (It’s not comprehensive). The Upanishads are central texts of the Vedic tradition. They helped me gain a deeper appreciation, understanding, and reverence for the theological soil in which yoga was planted.
The Shvetashvatara remains my favorite and this is probably my favorite verse from it:
The Self is hidden in the hearts of all.
As butter lies hidden in cream. Realize
The Self in the depths of meditation –
The Lord of Love, supreme Reality,
Who is the goal of all knowledge.
This is the highest mystical teaching;
This is the highest mystical teaching.
- The Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche
And, since I’m a shameless sucker for sappy prose, I have to include this book on my top 3 list. It’s a interpretation of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra and espouses the teachings of Shiva and Shakti. It’s a gorgeous interpretation of this text full of juicy and slightly sexy prose.
Open to just about any page and find passages like this:
Into this body
As a nectar of the gods.
Every breath is a whisper
Of the Goddess:
“Here is the ritual I ask of you –
Be the cup
Into which I pour this bliss
The elixir of immortal peace.”
I hope that gives you a few ideas for new (or revisited) reading.
Feel free to share your faves in the comments below! It’s always nice to get the hivemind on topics like this. 🙏❤️
Please check out my free class, Yoga for Greater Nervous System Resilience and Brain Function here.
This is awesome. Thank you! I am always wondering where my inspiration will come from, especially as my life, my kids and so many aspects of my everyday life seem to be culmination into something less then inspiring.
I wonder, after all my teaching and years of practicing yoga, why I can’t rise to the occasion. Teaching sometimes feels so difficult when feeling to responsibility to be and inspiration. I’ve totally let that go and trying to be authentic and honest with my own pain.
I’ve been following you posts and have purchased all your classes, of which I love!!! I just had to reach out and respond to this post because…. I feel it!
I feel your pain Janet – you gotta fill up the cup as much as you can – particularly when it gets so drained so often from so many different directions.
Loving your items, but I can’t afford to sign up just now.
Like you, I value ‘going back to the sourc ‘ for authentic inspiration. Yama and Dharana, by Susan Lodge, are books which present complete yoga courses based in the Yoga Sūtra of Patanjali. Full of practical ideas for asana, pranayama and contemplation, relevant quotes and ‘off the mat practices’. 😊
Yes! I needed this inspiration. Thank you for sharing these beautiful words. ❤️ I’m always looking for new inspiration.
Thanks or this… I will be checking out the first two books. I have had the Radiance Sutras for the past five or so years, and often use this as my inspirational boost to share in yoga classes. Another book I often refer to is TKV Desikachar’s ‘Heart of Yoga’. I’ve got dozens of yoga-related books on my shelves, but this is one I often find inspiration in. His interpretation/translation/whatever of the Yoga Sutra is also inspirational and useful.
On another note… I LOVE your blog posts, their short pithy nature that also target such ‘ouch’ and ‘ahhhh’ points in this ever-evolving world of yoga teaching and practice. Thanks for putting them out there.
I Love, Love, Love the Secret Power of Yoga. The words in those pages work for me every time I open it up. It doesn’t matter what page or chapter. It’s all good, from the beginning to the end.
Last night, my middle age body did not want to rest. I woke this morning dizzy, sleep deprived and wondering where in the world I would find the inspiration to teach. This afternoon, you email so aptly arrives describing exactly how I felt. Thank you for sharing the books and your wisdom!!
I hear you Margaret – I’ve had many middle aged sleep-deprived mornings myself. 😫 Take good care!