I am a newly trained Teen Yoga & Mindfulness teacher and I also love books (I quite fancy leading a weekly yoga & book club one day — a girl can dream!)
I thoroughly enjoy expanding my knowledge in subjects I’m passionate about so after my Teen yoga teacher training I really wanted to delve deeper into the mindset of being a Teen, tapping into my own memories of being a young adult and so I read numerous YA novels, published journals and yoga books specific to Teens that could be brought into a Teen class as part of a theme or as recommendations to pupils who also loved to read and may benefit from a particular book or if there are Teen Yogis who read Bad Yogi Magazine!
From all the research and reading I’ve done, here are my top 12 young adult books I recommend. There’s no overarching genre- my top 12 are beautifully diverse, for variety is the spice of life! There is truly something for everyone in this list, whether that reader enjoys things quirky and magical, extra-yogic, wild, funny or delves into more serious topics like self-discovery, sexuality and mental health.
(Parents please check the age guidelines for some of the books and decide whether they are appropriate for your teen to read as you know them better than me.)
Yoga for Teens by Shawna Schenk
This book helped me remember my teenage days so that I may relate better to my students and it offers some great lessons that we may sometimes forget after our teacher training and as we continue living in the adult world. This is a great teaching tool for me but it’s also a wonderful guide for teens to read themselves too. Yoga for teens is so invaluable to the development of the mind and body of a young individual. This book is something I want all of our newer generations to read and apply to their life. It is a great tool for anyone wanting to build self-confidence, being a role model for other teens and it helps teens (it could help all of us) be honest about our emotions and explore our energy, feelings, and personalities in sincere, heart-felt exercises. Awesome book!!
For ages 13+
Buy the Book here: Yoga for Teens
We are Okay by Nina LaCour
This is a slow, quiet YA novel about a young woman named Marin who is going through an array of emotions as she grieves over the death of her grandfather, struggling with feelings of depression whilst contemplating her sexuality and first love. These are pretty heavy topics yet written in such a poignant and poetic way as though Marin is thinking out loud and revealing how she truly feels and thus what it can feel like to be a young adult being overwhelmed with situations that happen to us in life.
The novel is very character focused and deeply dreamy as though the author is painting memories and thoughts with words. Emotions tumble through the sentences like ocean waves. This is a really short but profound read that focuses on forgiveness, hope, and coming to terms with the past.
For ages 14-16+
Buy the Book here: We are Okay
Myths of Asanas by Alanna Kaivalya
This is a beautiful collection of mythic stories drawing from Hindu and Buddhist traditions, and the asana postures that are inspired by and named after them.
While many know that hanumanasana is named for the deity Hanuman, few understand the reasons why. Behind each asana and its corresponding movements is an ancient story about a god, sage, or sacred animal, much like Greek mythology or Grimm’s fairytales. This book is a brilliant tool to bring into class, perhaps to tell a story about a peak pose your sequence is gearing up for or perhaps for a quieter session of yoga nidra, paired Reiki and journaling? This is a brilliant way of introducing snippets of Yoga Philosophy into a class of teens because telling stories doesn’t feel like learning extra work-especially after a long day of studying at school! Story telling is a wonderful way of making it fun and engaging! The book itself is presented so beautifully. There are really nice illustrations throughout and the pages are so clearly presented.
For ages 13+
Buy the Book here: Myths of Asanas
Dodie and the Secrets for the Mad (Diary) by Dodie Clark
Dodie (Pronounced Doh-Dee) is a British 22-year-old Musician, writer & youtuber. This young woman has a sweet and quirky disposition; she’s not afraid to openly talk about her emotions and her mental health alongside her music & daily life in a very honest yet gentle and personable way, which I find very refreshing. Her writing style in this Memoir Dodie and the Secrets for the Mad flows really easily in a beautiful young adult voice (as oppose to an adult trying to create a teenage character)- it is her voice speaking directly to the reader-her audience who are also around the same again as her (approx. 17-25).
Dodie’s writing is very lyrical, just like her songs. Although the stories are very personal, they’re also so relatable, so many of them are things that we’ve all gone through and what many adolescents & young adults are currently going through too like: struggles with depression and anxiety, to body image, eating disorders, and self-hate. Plus notes on crushes, first loves, sexuality and heartbreak.
The book also includes very cute illustrations, recipes, photos and poems- it’s so beautifully put together and so inspiring- what a gorgeous way to encourage young adults to start their own journals to help them mindfully regulate their emotions!
For ages 17+
Buy the Book here: Dodie and the Secrets for the Mad
Leave This Song Behind: Teen Poetry at its Best by Teen Ink
Leave This Song Behind is a collection of poems that depicts different life situations teens experiences: such as depression, problems with parents, sexuality and love issues, to name a few. There is so much emotion within each poem and gives the reader a glimpse into the mind of a teenager, these poems is also relatable to young adults too. The submissions are categorized under common themes, senses, and emotions, but there is still an array of voices and tones in each category. There is variety throughout and some excellent ones to share in class, or perhaps create an entire workshop that celebrates yoga and poetry writing? Why not? Some of these poems were so poignant and full of experience that I kept forgetting teenagers wrote them. But I shouldn’t be surprised. Adolescent voices have always been strong, just never listened to. I can’t help but wonder if my poetry was this good when I was a teenage…probably not.
For ages 14+
Buy the book here: Leave this song behind
Wide Awake: A Buddhist Guide For Teens by Diana Winston
This book offers a clear, direct explanation of Buddhist concepts without oversimplification, (Hard to do, right?). The content explains suffering, ethics, and meditation in a teenage world, but doesn’t spoon-feed or promise quick solutions. Wide Awake should be compelling to teens because of its honesty and because it puts the teenager at the center of the struggle, the decisions, and the life that gets formed and re-formed around an adolescent. At the same time, the examples all worked for me as an adult. (Generally, how to deal with impulses of all kinds while trying not to hurt oneself or others.)
The author did a wonderful job of making a philosophical topic an interesting and insightful read. Buddhism can seem like a drawl topic, especially to a teen, but Winston changes that completely! You couldn’t do better for an introduction to Buddhism at any age, but for a teen–wow.
For ages 13+
Buy the Book here: Wide awake: a Buddhist guide for Teens
The Self-Compassion Workbook for Teens: Mindfulness and Compassion Skills to Overcome Self-Criticism and Embrace Who You Are by Karen Bluth
Growing up, we are taught to be kind and compassionate toward others yet nobody ever teaches us these crucial skills to be kind and compassionate toward ourselves! Further still, no one needs more kindness and gentleness than today’s teens. So here is a wonderful workbook that provides proven, practical tools to help teens navigate their increasingly challenging and stressful world. The content layout is logical, providing the life issue up front to assist teens in understanding why this issue is important to them. It is a very honest and direct, yet gentle approach in aiding teens to discover for themselves what mindfulness is and how to utilize it in their daily lives.
Most importantly though, this workbook speaks directly to teens in language they understand, and helps them navigate experiences they are having. The comments from other teens throughout the book will help teen readers hear from their peers, who they trust more than adults. This is an effective, engaging book and I recommend using it in a teen yoga class!
For ages 13+
Buy the book here: The Self-Compassion Workbook for Teens
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin
This is a wonderful Teen/YA novel by Gabrielle Zevin. The characters come alive on the first page and find a place in the reader’s heart. It is a love story without being a “love story.” This book is not your standard YA novel with first love and boys and kissing. But the root of the story is of a girl who loses and then finds a piece of herself.
Naomi forgets 4 years of her life and is forced (in a way) to get to know herself. She gets an opportunity to reinvent her persona when she finds out that her former self wasn’t that great and some of her life choices are questionable. We follow our heroine on her journey of self-discovery until the moment her old and new personalities finally come together, and a new, wiser and happier Naomi emerges. The Author does a great job of portraying a person who is lost and directionless in life and who is trying to get a grip on her own self. But what is the most impressive is the realness of all characters. They are flawed, they are damaged, but ultimately very real. This is a teen story about self-discovery and exploring your identity.
For ages 14+
Buy the Book here: Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac
Fire in the Heart: A Spiritual Guide for Teens by Deepak Chopra
“We were born to be the heroes of our own story”
The basic spiritual journey is laid out in this story book. It’s a good introduction to inner wisdom and listening to ‘the still small voice within’. There is a lot of value in this book to a young person just starting out to discover their purpose in life.
The story is about a fifteen-year-old boy walking through a swirling fog on his way to school when he meets an old sage with a white beard. The old man sends the boy through some soul training with tricks, riddles, parables, twists and turns he must decipher, these lessons encourage the boy to question the meaning of life, what is a soul and what is the supreme force in the universe?
These are big existential and philosophical questions however the story is easy to follow and the metaphors that are used throughout are not hard to understand, making it accessible to a young adult audience. This book is a great tool to use when introducing philosophic ideas and mindfulness to a class of teens.
For ages 13+
Buy the Book here: Fire in the Heart: A Spiritual Guide for Teens
Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
This novel is a very sweet and original story about two girls figuring out their sexuality. In love with another girl, Astrid struggles with honesty in a small conservative town, where eyes are everywhere and gossip is at the epicenter of the small community. Astrid is a well-developed, relatable character- she is awkward, indecisive about her life, quirky and very down to earth. She enjoys learning about philosophy and ponders about life. In her free time she likes to help her father build birdhouses and has a habit of talking to anonymous airplane passengers about her life or current thoughts but she also sends them her love as the plane soars across the sky. A.S. King enriched the novel by adding in snippets of the lives of random airplane passengers and tying Astrid’s questions that she throws up into the sky into their lives. It was extremely clever and also something that I didn’t expect but enjoyed hugely because it reminds you that we’re all connected somehow in this vast pool of consciousness.
This is a beautiful story of self-discovery.
For ages 14+
Buy the Book here: Ask the Passengers
The Girl of Ink & Stars by Kiran Millwood
The Girl of Ink and Stars is a Tween/Teen novel about a young girl called Isabella who is a mapmaker’s daughter, embarking on a magical adventure on the island she grew up on. This fantasy novel had beautiful magical realism elements woven into the story and at times I felt like I had been transported to a dream world or perhaps a fairytale.
The Girl of Ink and Stars is one of those rare treasures that is as gorgeous on the inside as it is on the outside. The book cover is simply beautiful as are the lyrical words and sentences throughout. This book is absolutely stunning from beginning to end. Set in a beautifully imagined parallel world, The Girl of Ink and Stars is Isabella’s tale. She is such a strong and fierce character and I’m sure that she will be an inspiration to many young girls. This is truly a tale of inner strength and love of friends and family entwined with myth and legend and a heavy emphasis on female empowerment, courage and never giving up hope regardless of the sadness of losing loved ones and the chaos around us.
For ages 13+
Buy the Book here: The Girl of Ink and Stars
Um, Like…OM: A Girl Goddess’s Guide to Yoga by Evan Cooper
Here is an inspiring, contemporary and accessible guidebook for girls between the ages 12 to 17, but I’ve known some adults to enjoy it too. This book offers stress-relieving insight to living a powerful life as a woman. It also offers funny tips and advice on how to deal with stress, self-confidence and body positivity.
Um, like…OM, A Girl Goddess’s Guide to Yoga is a breezy read which accomplishes what all good teachers do best: Imparting with vivid good humor the wisdoms of processes taken beyond the classroom. Being bright, fun, and “cool” while explaining the theory, practice, and results of a disciplined approach to yoga. This book is jam packed with tons of poses, mantras, and breathing exercises, some specified for focus (like while doing homework) energy (before a night out) or cramp relief during your period. It’s also full of great life advice about boys, stress, family, friends and self-love, it also contains some real life stories from teens and their thoughts on the benefits they’ve received from their practices of yoga which I thought was a lovely addition to this sweet little guide.
For ages 13+
Buy the Book here: Um, Like…Om: A Girl Goddess guide to Yoga
Have you read any of these books? If so, what was your opinion? Can you suggest any other good books for Teens and Young Adults? Comment below and Happy Reading!