When you imagine the perfect yoga retreat, you may be dazzled by the lush landscapes and the immense opportunities for adventure. Often the itineraries for retreats are spacious, which allows for plenty of rest, relaxation, personal growth.
Enjoying a good book gives you the opportunity to enrich your perspective and make the most of your time. You can, of course, read any book you want during your trip, but perhaps you're interested in reading something pertinent to the experience you're having. Maybe you've been dying to dig into some awesome books on yoga and meditation, but you haven't had time.
If you aren't sure what to dive into on your next retreat, check out these five mind-bending reads on all things yogic.
1. Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda
Paramhansa Yogananda is one of the key figures responsible for bringing yoga to the West. His autobiography recounts his spiritual journey from childhood through the founding of his Self-Realization Fellowship. Though we often envision Yogananda as he was after reaching sage status, he recounts experiencing many of the struggles that we face today when engaging in mindfulness practices. It's hard to imagine Yogananda struggling to maintain focus during meditation or being misguided by his whims, but he discusses this openly. His experiences with various gurus as he developed his spiritual practice are inspiring, humorous, and engaging.
The author's humility and depth of understanding make this an accessible and fascinating read. Readers will come away with new insights about the practice and a greater understanding of their place in the universe. If you haven't already enjoyed this book, your retreat may give you the perfect opportunity to indulge.
2. Awakening Shakti: The Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga by Sally Kempton
It's not uncommon to hear yoga teachers talk about unlocking your inner goddess or describing someone as a goddess. If you've ever wondered what that actually means, this is the book for you. In Awakening Shakti, Sally Kempton describes the many goddesses of the Hindu pantheon. She talks about their origins, their attributes, and offers meditations and mantras to help you embody the characteristics of these deities.
While this read is sure to appeal to women, guys shouldn't shy away from this book either. Kempton explains:
"As we become more able to recognize that men and women contain both masculine and feminine qualities, it changes the way we honor the Goddess. We start to see the qualities as less gender specific, and more as qualities of consciousness itself."
The concepts in this book are universally relevant. By understanding the goddesses, readers can uncover inner strength they didn't realize they possessed.
3. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan
As you may have noticed, we love food at Mindful Balance Retreats. It's no surprise, then, that at least one of our recommended reading choices would have something to do with how we nourish our bodies.
Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food takes a deep dive into the food industry. He explains how our diet has changed, how nutritional science has affected our perceptions of what we eat, and what we can do to consume mindfully. In particular, he takes issue with our tendency to address foods by their component parts rather than viewing it holistically. (i.e. "This food is high in fat. How many carbs does that have?") This book is a love letter to the all the majesty that is real food. It's well-researched, but written in Pollan's engaging journalistic style. The crux of the manifesto: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
Get inspired, and take advantage of the clean eating opportunities available on retreats to jump-start healthy habits.
4. The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer
Anyone who has ever wrestled to calm themselves for a meditation session could benefit from reading The Untethered Soul. Singer's gift is in being able to describe the complex inner workings of the mind in a way that is accessible to everyone.
When we're trying to meditate teachers often say things like, "Observe the observer." If that cue leaves you scratching your head, Singer's approach might help you. Early in the book he describes the constant stream of thoughts running through your head every day as the inner "roommate." The roommate never leaves, never stops making up stories, and takes its hapless victims down countless rabbit holes. It is only by silencing the inner roommate that we can come to understand our consciousness.
The "inner roommate" is just one of the many gems you'll discover in this book. Whether you're just starting your journey, or you have a strong foundation, there's lots to be gained by adding this to your retreat reading list.
5. Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing by Caroline Myss
"Your biography becomes your biology." This key piece of wisdom from Anatomy of the Spirit is a tenet of Energy Anatomy, and it's at the heart of everything Carolyn Myss conveys in this book. Our story shapes who we become, and it can impact our health. This plays out on your yoga mat every time you practice. If you have a tough day, you may feel stiff or emotionally vulnerable on the mat. Everything that happened that day becomes your physical experience because you carry that energy with you.
Myss argues that carrying certain types of energy with you long enough contributes to wellness or illness. She has a lifetime of education and a rich collection of anecdotes from her work to illustrate that point.
Read this and think about how your own biography has impacted your physical health. Are there things you can change about your story moving forward that will have a positive effect on your health?
These are just a few of our favorites
There are libraries of incredible books on yoga, mindfulness, and healthy eating. May you find the book that will serve you best on your adventure.
Have you read any books that you think would add to someone's retreat experience? Let us know in the comments below.