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Review of "Yoga as Medicine"

By Timothy McCall
Bantam, 2007
Review by Beth T. Cholette, Ph.D. on Oct 16th 2007
Yoga as Medicine

Timothy McCall, a Western-trained physician and medical editor of Yoga Journal, has put together an excellent book detailing the use of yoga as part of a holistic approach towards health and wellness.  McCall begins by sharing his own history with yoga, from taking his first yoga class in middle age to the enormous benefits he experienced when he began to incorporate a daily yoga practice into his life.  His enthusiasm about the positive benefits which can be derived from yoga is strongly persuasive, and he encourages the reader to come to yoga with an open mind.  Given his medical training, however, McCall makes a real effort to lay a scientific foundation for the efficacy of yoga, with an entire chapter devoted to yoga's healing powers.  The first part of the book further focuses on familiarizing the reader with yoga through the use of simple experiential exercises.  McCall also provides a brief overview of the eight limbs of yoga as well as discusses other important yogic concepts.  In the second part of the book, McCall introduces the actual practice of yoga.  He talks about how to begin a yoga practice, from finding a yoga class to deciding on a school of yoga to choosing a yoga teacher, even going into specifics such as what to wear when practicing.  Some of this might seem unnecessary to those who have prior yoga experience, but those new to yoga will appreciate the level of detail McCall provides as well as his accessible, straight-forward writing style.

The heart of Yoga as Medicine lies in Part 3, "Yoga Therapy in Action."  In this section, McCall addresses twenty specific health conditions and concerns, ranging from Anxiety and Panic Attacks to Overweight and Obesity.  For each chapter, McCall has chosen a yoga expert to present a potential approach to that condition.  Many of the teachers he has selected are well-known names, including Judith Hanson Lasatar for Back Pain, Gary Kraftsow for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Rodney Yee for Headaches.  However, McCall also features the valuable perspectives from some less familiar instructors, such as Sandra Summerfield Kozak on Diabetes and Sam Dworkis on Fibromyalgia.  McCall makes the specific point that the posture sequences included in each chapter are descriptive, not prescriptive.  This means that, using case examples, each teacher offers a glimpse into how they applied their method of yoga therapy to one particular student, but the same routine or approach might not necessarily be appropriate for all students who share that condition.  Rather, McCall suggests that chapters can potentially provide helpful information in personalizing the reader's own yoga therapy experience.  In addition to the featured instructor, every chapter also includes "Other Yogic Ideas," which range from insights by other yoga instructors to supplementary yoga tools, and "A Holistic Approach," a boxed and bulleted segment which talks about combining yoga practice with various other factors in managing the conditions (featuring information such as behavioral strategies, medication and supplement suggestions, and recommended alternative therapies).

McCall concludes his book with several helpful appendices; these address the future of yoga as medicine, provide tips for avoiding common yoga injuries, offer a basic overview of the Sanskrit language, and present resources for more information.  Overall, this is an exceptional, extremely well-done book which provides a compelling argument for integrating yoga into a holistic approach towards health and wellness.

© 2007 Beth Cholette

Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students at SUNY Geneseo.  She is also a Top 100 Reviewer at Amazon.com and the official yoga media reviewer for iHanuman.com.

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