Interested in delving into conversations that you only scrape the surface of with your students during or after a class?
Start a yoga themed book club at your studio to increase community and create space for important conversations.
I started a yogi book club because I wanted to find an accessible way to introduce yoga philosophy and history to the students at my studio. In North America, yoga has a reputation for its ability to deliver on superficial benefits like increased flexibility and strength but somehow its deeper benefits (like its ability to increase self-awareness and self-compassion) have not made mainstream news.
Many yoga students are unaware that yoga is not solely a physical practice, so as a teacher I was interested in finding a way to make yoga philosophy accessible to students (without lecturing them about the 8-limbed path while they are in Downward Dog).
Often once students have a deep experience in a yoga class they become curious and want to learn more about this tradition’s roots and about what we, as teachers, mean when we talk about “living your yoga off of the mat.” My yoga studio seeks to be responsive to students’ interests and needs—so when students expressed an interest in delving deeper into yoga “off the mat,” the idea for the book club took root.
Why a book club, though?
Books are a natural medium to use to explore ideas and provoke discussion. Each month has a theme that we tie to yoga and the book explores that theme. Book clubs are also fun and accessible (open to anyone and not too expensive).
Since our book club is not dissecting literary concepts it isn’t intimidating—instead, it is like hanging out and shooting the sh*t. Talking through your ideas on life with great company who help you to build or break down your ideas.
After book club I leave feeling expanded and filled up with inspiration, humour, knowledge and love for my community. Plus, many of us love to read but don’t make the time for it in our busy lives. A book club is a way to hold us accountable to reading one book per month, and it is empowering and fulfilling to live up to our goals.
Something to consider when starting your book club is to name your intention (as we sometimes do at the beginning of a yoga class).
What is/are your goal(s)?
For us the intention was to create a stronger sense of community at the studio and to broaden students’ understanding of yoga beyond the physical practice. These intentions guide our discussions and our book choices.
How do you lead a book club?
This was the first time I had ever led a book club so I searched the internet and talked to friends for advice. So, now that I am a book club aficionado of six whole months, here are my words of wisdom for you:
- Start by providing a brief summary of the book as well as some background on the author.
- Draw the parallel(s) that you found between the book and yoga, encourage others to share their thoughts on that topic.
- Prepare some questions to spark discussion.
- Make an effort to keep discussion on track.
- Relate comments back to the book or to a previous comment by another participant.
- There may be some critical reviews of the book online that you could share to spark critique.
1. Yoga and the Quest for the True Self by Stephen Cope
A good first book to introduce yogic philosophy and thus inform future weeks’ discussions
2. Happier or Being Happy by Tal Ben Shahar
3. Start Where You Are by Pema Chodron
4. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
5. The Big Tiny by Dee Williams
6. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
7. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
8. The Great Work of Your Life by Stephen Cope
We have had a great time building up our studio’s book club and savouring the opportunity to discuss each others’ ideas on how to live yoga off of the mat.
Even if you aren’t interested in starting or joining a book club these books are each amazing in their own way. If the “self-help” section of the book store has often beckoned you but turned you off at the same time by its name (you don’t need help, you are already whole) then these books are the perfect starter pack to delve into the realm of personal development.
Whatever you choose to do with this idea, we can agree that the power of a good book and a good conversation cannot be underestimated.
Author: Kate Mason
Assistant Editor: Carlene Kurdziel, Editor: Khara-Jade Warren