Iyengar is something of an ambassador of yoga. Even though he has died, he continues to educate and influence those curious about yoga’s practice and precepts. Personally, I first started reading Iyengar because he was on the reading list of Yoga with Adriene’s Adriene Mishler. The Tree of Yoga is the short and nourishing title on Adriene’s list, and that was the first one I read. This book is longer (around 300 pages) and still dense. However, while other books may be better introductions to yogic philosophy, don’t let that scare you. This is dense the way a sacred text or poetry or a textbook is dense. It’s not meant to be grasped all at once. If you’re a religious type, it’s almost like each little section is food for contemplation in a daily devotion.
Whereas the Tree of Yoga uses the illustration of a…tree…of yoga…this book primarily uses flower petals of yoga as its through-line for its non-fictional narrative:
“There are eight petals of yoga that reveal themselves progressively to the practitioner. These are external, ethical disciplines (yama), internal ethical observances (niyama), poses (asana), breath control (pranayama), sensory control and withdrawal (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana), and blissful absorption (samadhi). We call these the petals of yoga as they join together.”
The book essentially zooms in on each petal from the external to the internal. That in itself is a nice example of yogic philosophy. The outward practices can lead to inward change, cleanliness, strength, and right action.
If you’re interested in reading more on yoga, I would say start with Adriene’s list first, including The Tree of Yoga. Next I’m going to read some Patanjali or Paramahansa Yogananda.