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Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing Paperback – July 31, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Western-trained internist and Yoga Journal medical editor McCall has practiced Iyengar yoga for a decade. In 2002, he traveled to India, where most scientific research on yoga's medical benefits has been conducted. The results of that visit and McCall's subsequent study of yoga therapy and ayurveda (India's ancient medical system) are presented here, translated into Western medical terms. For example, McCall demystifies such concepts as samskaras (unconscious patterns that negatively affect behavior and health); scientists, McCall says, explain these patterns as repeated firings of neurons that change the brain's wiring. Although McCall's focus is on yoga therapy, he includes material that will be helpful to most students. For readers challenged by illness, he provides an overview of popular yoga styles and their suitability for various degrees of fitness; steps to finding a yoga therapist; and what to expect from a session. Twenty chapters feature noted yoga instructors describing their approaches to specific conditions—panic attacks, carpal tunnel syndrome, depression, infertility, cancer, etc. They offer advice, rather than fixed protocols, based on their tradition and experience. This might frustrate readers seeking a formula, but those willing to experiment have access to many diverse tools and practices. No doubt McCall's fine articulation of yoga's healing potential will appeal to a large audience of instructors, students, physicians and their patients. (July)
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"Yoga as Medicine is a powerfully clear, accessible and practical guide to creating a vibrantly healthy body, mind, and spirit. What a tremendous contribution to healing and human potential!"—Joan Borysenko, PhD, author of Minding the Body, Mending the Mind
“Read this to find out why we teach our patients YOGA.”—Mehmet Oz, MD, author of YOU: The Owner’s Manual and Professor and Vice Chairman, NY Presbyterian/ Columbia University Hospital
“Self-administered yoga therapy, taking your cues from a book or magazine, can be a tricky, even risky business. But Yoga as Medicine is the next best thing to having the doctor right there beside you. An instant classic.”—Richard Rosen, Contributing Editor, Yoga Journal and Director, Piedmont Yoga Studio
“Yoga as Medicine is beautifully organized and presented, making it instantly readable and practical for anyone desiring better health or immediate help with a particular problem.”—Christiane Northrup, MD, author of Mother-Daughter Wisdom, The Wisdom of Menopause, and Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom
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The book consists of three parts. Part 1: "Yoga as Medicine", makes a succinct presentation of the scientific basis of yoga and its contributions to health care. Part 2: " The Practice of Yoga", has numerous tips on how to establish a safe practice, how to choose a safe yoga style, and how to select a teacher. Part 3 " Yoga Therapy in Action", has 20 chapters devoted to a large array of conditions (arthritis, asthma, back pain, cancer, depression, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and many others). Dr. McCall, with information provided by leading yoga therapists, offers a brief overview of each condition, discusses in detail the scientific evidence of the contribution made by yoga to the treatment of the condition, and concludes with a series of recommended exercises appropriate for each condition, highlighting the benefits and the contraindications of each exercise. An appendix is devoted to the prevention of yoga injuries.
This book offers an unusual view of yoga. Dr. McCall uses crisp and clear language, his book is lucid and easy to understand, and scientific proofs are fully documented. Being both a competent physician and a skilled yoga practitioner who has explored many yoga traditions, Dr. McCall has the authority to disregard false claims from both sides and insists that a correct perspective is to recognize the complementarities of both approaches. He insists that yoga therapy is not a "magic bullet", but asserts that the characteristics of such therapy (being holistic, with increased effects over time, positive side effects, requiring patient's participation, major emphasis on prevention, etc.) makes yoga therapy ideal for the treatment of some chronic problems, such as diabetes, or arthritis. Dr. McCall is not hesitant to use many of the classical yoga terms (asanas, Pranayama, nadis, etc.), but he alerts us by affirming: "If notions like chakras and prana turn you off, just think of them as metaphors. We use this kind of metaphorical thinking in the West all the time... Good metaphors can help us understand, as yogis put it, 'what is' ". Many people remember his sense of humour from the video, Yoga Unveiled, which has a section on "Yoga as Therapy"; he mentions that on one occasion he was asked: "Will smoke get in the way of yoga?" and he replied "No, but if you are a smoker, yoga might get in the way of smoking."
The book is a treasure of information. It contains photographs of the exercises recommended for each condition. It has a comprehensive index, a list of Sanskrit words and names for the asanas, and a comprehensive list of sources of information, including the web sites of yoga therapists and institutions. This work is the best of its kind and it is the principal source of reference for those interested in discovering the therapeutic value of yoga. On the front cover of the book you will see the opinion of Dr. Mehmet Oz, Director of the Cardiovascular Institute of the New York Presbyterian Hospital: "Read this to find out why we teach our patients YOGA".
Although the poses may be basic or known to those whom practice, understanding which poses assist for what health issue and the particular sequence is important to helping the problem being addressed. There is much written information, but the layout of the book makes it easy to go directly to the ailment you wish to deal with; by following the pictures one can quickly asses the poses that can help.
A great reference for yoga instructors, personal trainers, physical therapists and those that have practiced yoga. It may be a bit confusing and overwhelming for those that are beginners or have previously not tried yoga.