It’s been a really long time since I’ve read a yoga book front to back, page to page, in an I-can’t-put-this-down- fervor. I usually flip to a section that speaks to me, or read something that I want to know more about, especially if it is a yoga resource book.
Until, “Yoga as Medicine” by Timothy McCall.
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and would recommend it to everyone who is doing yoga to improve their mind, body and spirit.
For me, yoga has always been more that just a physical practice. I would describe it more as a mind/spirit practice that has a positive effect on the body! What I love so much about this book is that McCall describes the far-reaching benefits of yoga in regards to all three (mind/body and spirit) so clearly and succinctly that yoga don’t view any of them as separate or distinct. You learn about yoga as an absolutely integrated practice, which is what it has always been, and is exactly where its deep benefits are found.
Yoga as Medicine begins with introducing yoga as a form of healing, and as an approach to medicine that is used to benefit the healthy as well as the sick. McCall compares the integrated practice of yoga to the western approach to medicine, and states that it is yoga’s different view that makes it so effective. McCall is an MD, and has seen the benefit of integrating a holistic practice like yoga to complement conventional medical care.
McCall’s take on yoga is one that is about “optimizing the function of every system in your body from the muscles to digestion, circulation and immunity. It is about emotional well-being, spiritual resilience, and buoyancy, even joy. Yoga teaches that only when these elements are aligned can you maximize your chance for health and healing” (page 4).
There are many things that I love about this book, but to be more specific, I especially love:
1. How McCall is not partial to one style of yoga. He starts to book by describing many different styles of yoga from Iyengar to viniyoga to hot yoga –all with their pros and cons, but more importantly, stressing that no one yoga practice can be prescribed for an entire population. For example, there is not one yoga style or pose that everyone with back pain should do. It is completely dependent on the person, their injury/illness or need, and an educated assessment as to how to maximize function and benefit and minimize risk of injury. I love how individualized and person-centered McCall’s writing is, and his broad understanding of yoga.
2. McCall writes about yoga from a “multi-limbed” perspective in a way that is easy to read and easy to understand. Throughout yoga as medicine, McCall discusses the benefit of yoga from more than just the physical practice. He, of course, outlines physical poses that could be beneficial, but also consistently talks about the need to see yoga as a practice of many “limbs” – including breath work, self-study, ethical and moral observances, concentration and meditation.
3. Experience and Research. Throughout the book, McCall outlines research studies that have taken place that have looked at the effect of yoga on various illnesses/injuries including, cancer, arthritis, back pain, chronic fatigue, insomnia, high blood pressure and many more. He also has case studies in each section, which take a real life example of someone who has practiced yoga as a method of healing with their real-life accounts of the effect it has had. I appreciate this combination of research and experience, as it seems to make a stronger case for the benefit, especially in our culture where we are so scientifically orientated and research based.
If you are interested in having a yoga book in your library that is a resource manual for understanding yoga as a multi-facetted practice that has healing benefit this is your book. Whether or not you have any of the conditions listed in the index, this book is an invaluable resource to understanding the subtleties of yoga as a mind/body/spirit practice.
I have this book in my Yoga for Grief Support store. From the “resource page,” scroll down until you see the store. Timothy McCall’s Yoga as Medicine can be found there.
Further, Timothy McCall has a great website - you can read more about him and his work here.
Readers, I would love to hear your thoughts on how yoga has been medicine for you...