Here you will find the best books on health and healing that our ThaiVedic Teachers have been exposed to over their long and devoted careers. Reviews are unbiased personal evaluations and include what makes them different from other books on the topic.
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Ayurveda: The Science of Self Healing: A Practical Guide
By Dr Vasant Lad
This is a classic introductory book recommended by many Ayurvedic practitioners. Dr. Lad is an inspiration to many, and his school in America is part of the reason Ayurveda has spread so widely across the world.
I particularly like this book for its diagrams and pictures throughout. They make it easier for visual learners to absorb the concepts and make a complex subject able to be a flick read if one wants. The section on diagnosis is particularly interesting to many students with great pictures of the tongue, eyes, nails and more.
The strength of this book is its ability to compress so much Ayurvedic wisdom into just 170 small pages. This same strength is its weakness too; as some students find it a little hard to read and apply, sometimes leading to a misconception of a principle because of such a small explanation.
All in all a great introductory book on Ayurveda, especially for those who know they are visual learners. However if you are completely new to Ayurveda and are not strictly a visual learner, I would recommend Prakriti or Perfect Health (both listed below) as the first step because of their writing style, which is easy to read and assimilate.
Prakriti: Your Ayurvedic Constitution (Your Ayurvedic Constitution)
By Dr. Robert Svoboda
This was the very first book on Ayurveda I was exposed to, and one of the reasons I became so passionate about this Science. Dr. Svoboda was also the very first westerner to graduate with a degree in Ayurveda from India, and he completed his degree at Tilak Ayurveda College in 1980, before I was even born. This college is one of the most respected Ayurvedic colleges in India and the same school that I studied at in 2010.
I like this book most for Svoboda’s way of writing and the way he unfolds the deeper esoteric meanings of Ayurveda. It’s a perfect choice for those who already have a tiny bit of knowledge on Ayurveda, and want to know more about your own specific constitution. As an introduction book it is very thorough and covers topics from diet and lifestyle to specific diseases and rejuvenation programs.
If you are just starting with Ayurveda this is one of my highlight recommendations because it covers many areas of Ayurveda, is truly traditional and authentic, and fairly easy to read.
Perfect Health: The Complete Mind Body Guide
By Deepak Chopra
Perfect Health provides a complete step-by-step program of mind/body medicine tailored to individual needs. A quiz identifies the reader’s mind/body type: thin, restless Vata; enterprising, efficient Pitta; tranquil, steady Kapha; or any combination of these three. This body type becomes the basis for a specific Ayurvedic program of diet, stress reduction, neuromuscular integration, exercise, and daily routines. The result is a total plan, tailor-made for each individual, to re-establish the body’s essential balance with nature; to strengthen the mind/body connection; and to use the power of quantum healing to transcend the ordinary limitations of disease and ageing and for achieving Perfect Health.
Yoga Anatomy: Your Illustrated Guide to Postures, Movements and Breathing Techniques
By Leslie Kaminoff
This is best selling Yoga and Anatomy book of all time. I first read it in 2009 when I participated in my first 200hr YTT and loved it. Even after all these years it is still a great book and something I refer to.
Leslie was a student of Desikachar and is considered a leading expert in yoga therapy and breath anatomy. He has created the anatomy curriculum for many yoga schools across America.
The illustrator, Sharon Ellis, has worked as a medical illustrator for more than 30 years. Her contribution makes the anatomy drawings highly accurate, easy to learn from, and visually engaging.
The book is easy to use as a reference because it categorises the most common poses according to their grouped type and has an asana index in both Sanskrit and English names.
For every pose it outlines: the Sanskrit name and how to pronounce it; the key structures and ways to keep them in ideal alignment; joint actions from a physiological point of view; all the muscles involved in the pose including which muscles are predominantly working and which muscles are predominantly lengthening; focus of the breath in the pose; and common obstacles to performing the pose.
A special highlight of this book is the chapter on breathing anatomy and it’s accessory muscles. The detail Leslie goes into is truly amazing. Great for the true anatomy geeks!
Yoga for your Type: An Ayurvedic Approach to Your Asana Practice
By Dr. David Frawley
Frawley is one of my favourite authors on Ayurveda. He has written so many books and I truly admire them all. This book co-authored with Sandra Summerfield, is no exception, and something I refer to regularly.
It focuses on the parts of Yoga which are more energy related, and uses the Ayurvedic system to understand the actions of each pose on your body and mind. It gives ways to modify the poses to suit individual doshas including: the time each pose should be held for; breath styles; where to place your focus; movement areas to focus on.
The introduction is great for people who are new to Ayurveda; outlining the relationship between movement therapies and balancing each Dosha. The back of the book has example sequences which can be used to balance each Dosha.
The focus of this book is Yoga and Ayurveda in relation to asana. There is no treatment of specific conditions, meditation or mantra practices for the doshas, or movement therapies related to the elements. For those areas you will need to refer to ThaiVedic manuals or Frawley’s other books.
Acupressure’s Potent Points: A Guide to Self-Care for Common Ailments
By Michael Reed Gach
Michael Reed Gach, is the founder and director of the Acupressure Institute of America and has been teaching for more than 25 years.
I consider this the best introductory book for learning the location of acupressure points and for what conditions they may be useful. It is especially good for a beginner because it demonstrates how to press the points on yourself, giving you the ability to gain experience with self-practice before trying on others.
This book can be used by professionals and beginners with easy to follow instructions and diagrams for all the points. It is best as a reference book because it is organised according to ailments and symptoms. Covering more than 40 ailments, it outlines simple techniques that enable you to relieve headaches, arthritis, colds and flu, insomnia, backaches, hiccups, leg pain, hot flashes, depression, and more, using the power and sensitivity of your own hands.
I highly recommend this book for every practitioner or family’s library. It allows you to have some great self-care techniques and increases connection and touch in communities.
Seven Peppercorns: Traditional Thai Medical Theory For Bodyworkers
By Nephyr Jacobsen
Seven Peppercorns covers the vast scope of traditional Thai medicine practices including: Thai element theory, physical therapies, medical Buddhism, herbal medicine for massage, divinatory practices, and spirit medicine; all held within the context of a Thai bodyworker’s instructional manual. This is not another step by step Thai massage photographic sequence book, but rather an in-depth training in the theory behind the steps, with instruction in a wide range of esoteric Thai physical therapies; designed to bring practical understanding of Thai bodywork as it is practiced by traditional doctors in Thailand.
The Ayurvedic Cookbook
By Amadea Morningstar, M.A
The Ayurvedic Cookbook is one of my favourite cookbooks of all time. Partly because I love Indian food (it has delicious Indian recipes), and also because of its great introductory chapters that explain individualised healing with food.
Amadea Morningstar, M.A., a western trained Nutritionist, and Urmila Desai, a superb Indian cook, are both well-versed in a variety of healing traditions. Their wisdom and experience shine through in this all-time classic. It includes an in-depth discussion of Ayurvedic nutrition, tridoshic perspectives and ways to make dietary changes that last. She also gives great information on different food groups such as dairy and how it is digested, carbohydrates and their Ayurvedic benefits, and full food lists showing the doshic affect of each food. There are over 250 taste-tested recipes specifically designed to balance each constitution, with an emphasis on simplicity, ease and sound nutrition.
“This is not just another recipe book, but a unique health manual that if applied with proper understanding can lead to a whole new dimension, in the enhancement of health.” – Yogi Amrit Desai.
“One of the most useful parts of this book is the outline of menus; different Ayurvedic constitutions are considered as well as a specific menu that is safe for all constitutions” – Dr David Frawley, Author of Ayurvedic Healing: A Comprehensive Guide.
If people have a passion for holistic cooking then I often recommend The Ayurvedic Cookbook as the first book to start with. Partly because of its balance between Ayurvedic nutritional theory and self-examination, alongside inspiring recipes and meal plans which make the learning more experiential and practical. For those more interested in cooking western foods; her secondary book Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners (listed below) is an ideal companion to this, with more focus on western recipes and understanding their relationship to Ayurvedic principles.
Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners: Familiar Western Food Prepared with Ayurvedic Principles
By Amadea Morningstar
This is a great Recipe book for Western Ayurvedic Cooking. It is unique and ground-breaking in many ways, by categorising modern western foods and recipes with the timeless wisdoms of Ayurveda. This book educates you on the Ayurvedic qualities within each recipe or food group, allowing easy understanding of what Western recipes may be healing for your dominant dosha.
Armadea Morningstar has been practicing Ayurvedic Cooking for more than 36 years. Her experience is completely obvious in both of her books on this subject - The Ayurvedic Cookbook and Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners. This book is extremely well written and full of great recipes and healthy cooking tips regardless of whether you are a beginner or an expert of healing with food. It covers all aspects of dieting with easy, tasty, simple recipes for Western-style fresh food prepared with Ayurvedic principle. Containing more than 230 recipes such as pesto, veggie sushi, veggie burgers, and yeast-free pizza; everyone will find something that inspires them. Her recipes are simple and easy to follow, using ingredients that will be more familiar to a western market.
“We are happy to know there is now an Ayurvedic Cookbook written completely for westerners. Highly Recommended” – Drs. Sunil and Shalmali Joshi , Ayurvedic Physicians and Teachers from India.
“Amadea is a generous and experienced person whose concern for a fundamental wholesomeness in our diets and lives is clearly evident and contagious” – Deborah Madsion, Author of The Green Cookbook and The Savoury Way.
If you are interested in Ayurvedic healing, and have a passion for good food, then I highly recommend Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners by Amadea Morningstar. It contains many wholesome and delicious recipes using ingredients that may be familiar and easy to find in a western market. In my experience it is best used as a companion to her other book, The Ayurvedic Cookbook, which has a more thorough introduction on the doshas and general Ayurvedic Nutrition principles.
Ayurvedic Healing: A Comprehensive Guide
By Dr. David Frawley
Frawley is one of my favourite authors on Ayurveda. He has written so many books and I truly admire them all. Ayurvedic Healing: A Comprehensive Guide, is focused around the topic of using Ayurveda to treat common diseases.
The first 100 pages give a good introduction to the scientific systems in Ayurveda and their way of looking at health and disease. The next section is the part I find most useful as it outlines the treatment of over 80 ailments. The ailments are organised according to western systems making it easy for the westerner to use when ailments arise.
Disorders of the following systems are covered: digestive, large intestine, respiratory, circulatory, urinary, reproductive, miscellaneous conditions, children and elderly, nervous system, Ayurvedic psychology, life-force and pranic healing. For each ailment, he covers a little on the Ayurvedic perspective of how the disease has manifested and ways to treat it.
The focus of treatment for these conditions is primarily herbs and substances. One thing I particularly like is that because Frawley has a background in chinese herbs as well, he includes options from western, chinese and ayurvedic herbs for many conditions.
A great reference book to have on hand for treating specific conditions with an Ayurvedic lens, and learning alternative options for treating with herbs.
Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice
By Sebastian Pole
British practitioner of Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese, and Western Herbal Medicine, Sebastian Pole is a pioneer in the cultivation of organic Ayurvedic herbs in the US and Europe. His extensive hands-on experience with herbs across the world and time spent absorbing the wisdom of Ayurveda in India have lead to the creation of this epic herbal medicine classic.
This brilliant work by Sebastian Pole is a testament among the greatest herbal medicine books of all time. Extensive research and references to many of the great classics of Ayurveda, Ayurvedic Medicine stands on the forefront as the best modern Ayurvedic herbal reference for practitioners and students alike.
The first part of Ayurvedic Medicine is a nicely visual introduction to the scientific basis of Ayurveda. The second part of the book provides a deep and broad understanding of the theory underlying Ayurvedic pharmacology and therapeutics; a practical medical reference of over 80 Ayurvedic plant remedies, each carefully denoted by: its common Indian name, Sanskrit and Latin name, description, colour photographs of the herb in both its prepared and fresh forms, Ayurvedic energetics, phytoconstituents, Ayurvedic and biomedical actions, indications, contraindications, safety issues, possible formulation ideas and dosage.
“…Mr. Sebastian Pole has illuminated ancient Ayurvedic wisdom with his clear explanations of the basic principles of rasa, virya and vipaka and their actions on the doshas and dhatus. Paired with his deep concern for sustainable practices, this book is an excellent guide for practical application of herbs in our daily healing.”- Dr. Vasant Lad, BAMS, MASc. Albaquerque, New Mexico.
Ayurvedic Medicine by Sebastian Pole is the best book I’ve seen for any practitioner or lay person interested in Traditional Ayurvedic Herbalism. The clearly presented, summarised and referenced material will continue to be a desk reference essential of mine for years to come.
Tantra Illuminated: The Philosophy, History, and Practice of a Timeless Tradition
By Christopher D Wallis
When I was first exposed to this book I was thrilled to find my first scholarly book on Tantra. Christopher Wallis is a true Sanskrit scholar who teaches Saiva Tantra based on original Sanskrit texts, and his direct experience growing up among Tantric guru’s from the age of 16.
Christopher’s ability to unpack the tradition from its original texts and roots brings us as close to the authentic Tantra as one can find in an English text. When it comes to Tantric philosophy this is important because I feel more than any other philosophy, there has been an abundance of misinformation over the years.
“Tantra Illuminated is the most accurate and comprehensive portrayal of the Tantrik tradition by any modern scholar. Chrisopher Wallis renders the soul of the Tantric masters with profound intuition and academic poise.” ~ Christopher Tompkins MA, MTS, Sanskrit Scholar, U.C. Berkely.
This books outlines the key teachings of Tantra, the foundational lineages, and specific spiritual practices. The focus is on the philosophical viewpoint of tantra and its history. Yet there is also a section devoted towards having a Tantrik daily practice in the modern world.