Book Recommendations

Looking for some quality reading material? I’ve got some recommendations; books I’ve read more than once, and refer to frequently. Books I recommend to my students, and wish everyone would read.

First off, Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. Yes, it may be a mass-market book by now, but it is a compelling story of a person in transition; dealing with radical spiritual and emotional shifts; AND it involves yoga, travel and food. No downside here; totally clicked with me. I suggest reading it once a year – I’ve read it cover to cover four times; loaned out my original copy; bought it again; loaned that one out, too. Get it. Now.

Feng Shui Your Life, by Jayme Barratt. This book may have pretty pictures, but it is not just about re-arranging your furniture, painting your kitchen, or buying a Buddha statute. It is a book that can give you specific objectives and concrete ways to make inner and outer shifts that will improve your life. The pictures are pretty – but most of us aren’t living that Pottery Barn existence. But with the life you have, you can still use this book to help organize, clean up, clear out and straighten out both your inner and outer self. Great book.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Because eating these days is complicated; Mr. Pollan cuts through the confusion; or adds to it, depending on your point of view. But seriously; if you’ve not devoted some time to thinking about what you eat and/or where it came from – it’s time. This book will help you to make wise choices – which is more difficult than you might think.

Moving Toward Balance, Eight Weeks of Yoga with Rodney Yee, by Rodney Yee with Nina Zolotow. Okay, you’re looking for a yoga book – about poses (asana); something that will show you “how to,” give you sequences; help you to develop a home practice. This is my favorite go-to book. Beautiful, detailed photographs; each pose has three variations, depending on your level of expertise, and uses props when needed; and then, of course, there is the beautiful Rodney Yee. His alignment is perfect, and he’s a gorgeous man. Win, win.

Happy Yoga, by Steve Ross. Steve Ross is my original guru; I discovered yoga through Steve Ross on the Oxygen network, with his 6:00 am class called “Inhale.” Sitting on the couch, half-asleep, nursing a baby. Looking at beautiful, happy, flexible people. One day I taped the show; got my butt off the couch; and it completely changed my life. His book is easy to read; accessible; and very easy to skip around as you choose what you are interested in, and pass over what doesn’t yet click with your mind. Great book, light read, fun stories; and plenty of things that will make you think.

The Spiritual Science of Kriya Yoga, Goswami Kriyananda. Complete disclosure here, Kriyanandaji is my spiritual grandfather; just the sound of his voice puts me in my happy place. This is the book to choose when you are ready to look beyond yoga as a physical practice. Yes, asana will change your life. Ready to embrace the entire eight-limb system? Start here. Brilliant chapters on the yamas and niyamas; great information on pranayama and meditation; get past the initial chapters on cleansing techniques (some sound scary!) and you’ll be on your way.

Jivamukti Yoga, Sharon Gannon and David Life. Nobody makes loving God and living a holy, spiritual life seem more hip and current than Jivamukti yoga founders Sharon Gannon and David Life. Great information here for those of you looking for a unique and modern spiritual path.

Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda. Another disclosure here ; Yoganandaji is also my lineage. And I find the complex, formal English that he uses a little tough to wade through – but it is worth it. Follow him as he grows from boy to man to yoga master, living the Kriya yoga tradition. Through success and failure, confusion and certainty, this book is full of inspirational passages, and fascinating glimpses of what it is like to experience the path of the yogi living in the ashram; beautiful tales of life in India; as well as a vision of the beautiful path of the householder. It has earned its place as a classic. Very worthwhile.

The Essential Edgar Cayce, by Mark Thurston, Ph.D. If you at all connect to Jesus Christ, you will be fascinated by the psychic readings of Edgar Cayce. This book gives the basic concepts of the nature of reality, keys to health and healing, and some insights to mystic Christianity as given through the readings of Edgar Cayce. A great launching point into the Cayce material that will help you to discover your interests, and lead you into a deeper understanding.

The Astrology Bible, by Judy Hall. I have a lot of astrology books. And astrology is a deep, multi-layered science. This book is small, easy to read and very complete. Great for beginners, but also offers much to the experienced student of astrology. Concise; attractive; detailed enough, but not overwhelming. Great starting point for your astrology studies.

Sooooo . . . no excuses for sitting in front of the television, or blobbing out on Facebook; this is a fascinating, amazing world; there is so much to learn, so much to experience; and you chose to be here.

Hit the library, the bookstore, or

You’ve got some studying to do.



Feng Shui and the Jolly Roger

Over the Summer, a new family moved in next door. There is a flag pole right next to the property line. My previous neighbors had flown the American flag.

I came home one day, and there, flying proudly from the flag pole, and flapping over our fence, is the jolly roger; no kidding – the classic pirate flag; big, ole’ black flag with the skull and crossbones.

Right in the “wealth and prosperity” corner of our backyard, too.

My mother was visiting at the time, and I lamented, “What does it mean to have the jolly roger flying in my backyard?” She wisely observed “It means you have a teenage boy living next door, that’s what.” Aaah, true. Maybe it means no more than that.

There are no accidents, I truly believe this. And when something (or someone) comes into your life, into your Universe, as it were, there is a reason.

Last year, for weeks, I kept seeing men with canes. I would pass at least two on the way into the Studio to teach every morning, and then also see them randomly throughout my day, EVERY day. A man with a cane waiting for a bus; a man with a cane walking down the street. Even had one walk directly out into the street in front of me, so that I had to stop the car and let him pass. So, I kept thinking “what is going on?” What is God trying to tell me with these men with canes?

I knew there was a message; the language of the Universe, of the subconscious mind, is not English, or Spanish, or even Sanskrit. It is symbols; that is why dreams are important, symbolic events are important; and if you happen to see three or more men with canes EVERY SINGLE DAY for a month, there is some meaning there.

During this period, I also kept thinking – getting the message in my mind — that I should spend more time reading and studying the Bhavagad Gita (literally the “Song of God”). But I wasn’t making time for it. Couldn’t see why I should drop my several other books, and study materials to go back to something I’d already read.

One Saturday morning, I was preparing to teach. It’s about five minutes before class is to begin, and the room is filling with students. Up the (very long) staircase to the Studio, limps a man, using a cane. One of the men I’d seen daily, waiting for the bus.

He was dressed in street clothes, and obviously dependent on the cane. I’m thinking, “How the heck am I going to teach asana to this guy? And isn’t it a little weird that one of my cane guys is HERE?”

One o f my students knew him by name, and greeted him in a reserved manner; this made me a little less nervous, but I was still freaked out. He started walking around, checking the place out, and quizzing me gruffly. “So, what do you teach here?” “Do you teach meditation?” “What about philosophy?” I tried to respond to his questions, as my eyes darted back and forth from him to the clock to my students, realizing that it was time to begin class.

Finally, he turned dramatically toward me, pointed his finger at me and said “Have you read the Gita?” “. . . yes . . .” I answered, none too convincingly. “Sum up the Gita in one word” he commanded. My mind was swimming. “. . . umm . . .” – “This,” I said, circling my hand around my body, “this is the battlefield.” He stopped for a moment. I was holding my breath. “Yes!” he said, and hobbled over to the bench, beginning to put his shoes back on. I wished him farewell, and went in and started teaching the class.

I’m still not sure that is the right answer.

Upon review of my life, I realized that men with canes meant that I was leaning on something. I stopped doing that. I made time to study the Gita. And, the men with canes, they disappeared.

As much as I would prefer that the Universe would drop a scroll from the sky with detailed instructions, or tell me in a booming voice “JILL, DO THIS” or “JILL, DON’T DO THAT,” or even “JILL, ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR HAPPY MIND?” it doesn’t work that way. We have free will; we make choices; but we are being guided towards our highest and best self, if we simply open our eyes, and our minds, to the symbols all around us.

The picture up at the top, I took it out of my kitchen window. I’m still trying to figure out why the view includes a skull and crossbones. Look today out of YOUR kitchen window; look upon the symbols in your life — with fresh eyes and an open mind. You might be surprised by what you see, and what you learn.