Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
This is a must-read for anyone who is interested in improving the quality of their life. It is essentially a book about how to create more meaningful experiences by accessing a state of ‘flow’, or complete absorption, with what one is doing in any given moment.
Csikszentmihalyi’s research suggests that our happiest moments in life are those in which we are completely present and immersed in what we are doing. Moments where the demands of the task in front of us are perfectly matched to our capabilities, and all sense of time and self-consciousness recede into the background.
I love this book, because I feel it beautifully encapsulates the experience we try to create when we step onto the yoga mat – the breath, sensations and movements of the body all working to bring us into the immediacy of the moment. Although not a yoga book per se, it is a lovely reminder of how we might bring the yogic qualities of mindfulness, attention and intention into the greater context of our lives.
The Stress Solution by Dr Rangan Chatterjee.
We know that stress is one of the biggest issues when it comes to undermining our physical and mental health. It is an oft-reported fact that up to 80% of doctor’s visits are related to the negative physiological and psychological effects of stress.
Dr Chatterjee has written a wonderfully practical book, packed full of tips about how to reduce your own stress levels. What I find particularly inspiring and encouraging is his emphasis on the often overlooked but incredibly important emotional side to stress management. How we manage our stress can depend a lot on how strong our levels of social support are, or whether we have a strong sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. These two factors alone can help us us to re-frame potentially stressful events, putting them into better perspective thereby reducing their insidious negative impact.
Ancient Wisdom for Modern Health by Mark Bunn
This is such a lovely, practical, common-sense guide to optimal health and wellbeing. The fact it’s written by an Australian ex-AFL player somehow makes it even more appealing!
Working in the health and wellness sector, I know how easy it is to become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information about health. Amidst the noise, I think we often forget that many of the keys to good health are both simple, common-sense and timeless. He offers simple guidance around the importance of eating real food, getting enough sunlight and fresh air, prioritising rest and finding ways of moving that you enjoy.
Every time I read this I feel like a huge burden is lifted. We already intuitively know the answers to what makes us feel like we’re functioning at our best. We just need to get quiet enough to listen, trust, and ultimately reconnect with what we already know.
Bringing Yoga to Life by Donna Farhi
Probably one of my favourite yoga books judging by the amount of underlining and annotations throughout it!
Donna Farhi’s considerable experience and passion shines through every page. This is a yoga book about bringing the wisdom and learnings gained from our yoga practice off the mat and into our lives.
Farhi explores the yamas and niyamas – philosophical tenets that are designed to act as a framework for good living. She also discusses the inevitable ups and downs of any long-term spiritual endeavour like yoga. It’s a beautifully written, honest book that you’ll definitely want to read a few times through.
The Slow Down Diet by Mac David
This is a love letter for anyone who has ever struggled with their weight, food-related issues and/or just sheer confusion about what it means to eat for health and happiness.
This and Marc David’s other great book Nourishing Wisdom is about the yoga of eating well – putting pleasure and mindfulness at the heart of decisions we make about what, how and when to eat. It’s a beautiful, gentle exploration into how we can be kinder and more intuitive towards ourselves in relationship to food.
What I particularly like is the avoidance of any dietary dogma and instead lots of suggestions for developing greater self-confidence in trusting your body and finding out what works for you.