Ok!! Being a Yoga Anatomy Teacher, I take my yoga anatomy books seriously. Here is a list of books I recommend every teacher read and get familiar with. The list might shock some, as the top five don’t include two of the classics that have been around for a long time. I will include one of them as a worthy mention-able and I will explain why in its description. This list is actually meant to be explored somewhat progressively, meaning that I encourage you to read them in the order that is listed. That is to say, that this top five list isn’t in order of the best anatomy books, but rather books that will help educate you about the body in motion, especially in the context of yoga, in a progressive and intelligent way. We have to work our way up to certain books and these help us get there.
There are a number of other books I’d recommend, some dealing specifically with yoga, others starting to dive more into the realm of anatomy and kineseology text books (one is actually listed at the bottom)… But this is intended as a list to establish you firmly on the path of understanding the body more thoroughly, specifically in the context of yoga.
What books did I miss? Do you recommend other books? I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments below!
(I’ve also linked to all the books if you want to read more about them and/or purchase them)
Anatomy of Exercise & Movement: For the Study of Dance, Pilates, Sports and Yoga
by Jo Ann Staugaard-Jones
I know that Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Mathews tends to be the book in all yoga teacher trainings. I switched to this book by Jo Ann Staugaard-Jones a few year ago and have never looked back. While this book isn’t solely for yoga, what it lacks in it’s yoga emphasis it more than makes up it it’s capacity to educate about the human body, how it works, and help to get the reader to understand ideas and functions, much more than just list information. That to me is key. Many yoga anatomy books are simply reference books, they don’t do a great job of teaching you anything. Read through this book and it will teach you about the human body and how it moves. I highly recommend it for any yoga teacher or teacher in training.
The Body in Motion: It’s Evolution and Design
by Theodore Dimon, Jr.
This one is a quick deviation away from yoga. Why is it so high on this list of importance? Because it tells you a story of the human body in a very accessible and easily digestible way and it helps to explain the WHYS of the human body. Why did we evolve the way we did? What are the consequences of our particular traits of human evolution? We have been specifically designed by nature to do certain tasks really well. What are those tasks? Can we optimize them? This book will give you a treasure trove of understanding that you can then relate BACK to your study of yoga. Great book, short read. Well worth getting slightly side tracked.
The Key Muscles of Yoga
by Ray Long
Wonderful images, concise, and an easy read. This, and all of Ray Longs’ books, are a great addition to any yoga teacher’s library. I’m tempted to inlclude the Key Poses of Yoga, as well as his Mat Companion Series here as well, as they are all fantastic. While the books do explain some basic concepts of anatomy, these are mostly reference books, but great reference books at that. You can’t go wrong with any of Ray’s books.
Functional Anatomy of Yoga
by David Keil
If I was making a top five list in terms of my favorite yoga anatomy books, this would likely by atop the list. It’s further down the list here simply because I don’t think you’ll get as much from the book if its your first read. If you have read the other books above on this list, you will have a broad enough understanding of the body and anatomical terminology that this book will absolutely come alive and really deepen your practice and teaching of yoga. If you could only have one yoga anatomy book, this might be the one to have.
Yoga Fascia Anatomy and Movement
by Joanne Sarah Avison
This book is a little more dense and dry than all those above it. If you picked it up without having gone through the others, it’s likely that it might have you lost after the first chapter or two. That being said, if you have followed the list up to this point, or read similar books, this book will open up an entirely new world to you. I am still finding gems in this book to this day.
Worth Mentionables, in no particular order:
by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Mathews
You can’t have a list like this and NOT include this book. This is THE book on Yoga Anatomy, in terms of exposure and number of copies sold. This book is an essential part of most yoga teacher trainings. Leslie and Amy did a great job updating the second edition to include more information. I don’t think it goes far enough to educate people about the body and its mechanisms, but it is a great reference to what’s happening at specific parts of the body during certain poses. If you don’t know the muscles yet, or are unfamiliar with the body, you might not get a lot from this book (unless you are great a memorization). If you do have a basic understanding of the body and anatomical language, this book will open itself up to you as a great resource.
The Injury Free Yoga Practice
by Steven Weiss
I believe this book is out of print, but it’s well worth tracking down. Many of the drawings in the boo leave a lot to be desired, but it’s still jam packed with great information, all relating specifically to yoga. I’ve gotten plenty of gems and “ah-hah” moments from this book.
by Thomas Myers
Thomas Myers’ work has been ground breaking on so many different levels. He has brought myofascia to the forefront of modern anatomy. His work has radically altered our understanding of the body, and lead to a new stream of study for people in various fields that work with the human body. Not a book for beginners, but it is loaded with amazing information, photos, drawings, etc. A book all yoga teachers should eventually dive into.
Kinesiology: The Skeletal System and Muscle Function
by Joseph Muscolino
Another one that is a bit off the charts in terms of the sheer amount of information. Amazing book, but will likely be inaccessible if you haven’t done your study and work before hand. If you don’t know anatomical language or have a thorough grasp of the body, this book will be a difficult one to get through. On the other hand, once you feel confident in your understanding of the body, this book will take you to a whole new level!