“Yoga as Medicine”

is a book authored by Timothy McCall MD and an interesting compilation of yogic techniques.  It has a sub-title “the yogic prescription for health and healing”.

When I first read this book, I remember how it changed my perspective as I was practicing at a place where there was no concept of that – that idea that yoga is medicinal.

While inspiring and beautiful to see what a well trained body is capable of, most of us do not have hours a day to train our body to perform beyond the norm – or willing to, opting rather to take up multitudes of other disciplines (Pilates and Dance comes to mind) … It’s understandable as most of us, instead of spending hours on a yoga mat are working 8+ hours a day using our brain and in postures that may not be the best for our spine nor our internal organs.  We are working as teachers, fire fighters, peace officers, health care providers, builders and contractors, architects, coders, programmers, parenting or studying and training as students – whatever you do off-the-mat, we are trying to find our purpose and make a difference.  While nailing an advance pose gives one a certain high – called ego – especially because as a teacher noted, ah , maybe 3% of the population could do this to the spine, etc, I know the allure as I have experienced it –  our drive to do something difficult and challenging in spite of the pain or costs. We want to achieve a goal in spite of the suffering.  Sometimes, in fact, maybe we want to suffer. Then what you achieve seems so much sweeter.  We are complicated, yes.

Some of these full expression of the pose, can be accomplished by maybe 3, at most 6% of the population ???!!!   This was said by this one yoga master as one of his students took her hands up then back bended all the way for those hands to land to the floor behind her into a “Chakrasana” – a wheel pose.  A teacher is saying this jokingly.  No joke. So I let go.  That ego, I let go.I humbly want the caring yoga for the rest of us – that 97%.

SO jump forward – Yoga for me, is all about the therapeutics.  It’s a physical exercise of course as well …but it’s more.  It’s about …



Yoga Book Club?  Here’s a recommendation 🙂

One of my Yoga Therapist Teacher Training Program’s faculty member, Baxter Bell MD published a book called: Yoga for Healthy Aging.  Subtitled “Guide for Lifelong Well-Being” – Highly recommended for those who seek Yoga from a perspective of therapeutics and REAL fitness.

So I am thrilled to be assisting this master teacher Monday nights !  Not only is he trained in Western Medicine as a Medical Doctor, he’s also trained in the Eastern Medicine as an Acupuncturist and … brings tools of yoga intelligently as a Yoga Therapist. Here’s someone who has studied both Western and Eastern medicine and thus capable of bridging the two and integrating both understanding into a Yoga Therapy protocol – practice – then an offering of this  – group class !. Just the idea of him as a yoga teacher is, to me a representation of this whole yogic philosophy of seeming dualism vs. oneness. East West – Yin Yang – Moon – Sun … we can go on and on about opposites or polar divides and how they come together for that wholeness and balance we all seek.

He teaches a wide range of classes but the particular class I assist is called “Yoga for Back Care” and located right by Kaiser Medical Center off Piedmont Avenue.  It’s a class where teacher knows “everyone’s name”.  Not so big as you’d get lost in the crowd, not so small that communal vibe is amiss.  Quite the teacher (& 2-3 assistants) student ratio for optimal learning and care.

What a honor to get to learn by assisting and observing.  In this day and age – not really surprised to see a teenager and her dad ( in his 30’s? 40’s) in this very class.  A real mixed aged group all seeking spinal health:)  In this age of intense competition in sports and expectations to perform athletically or on the job  – if you drive a lot; sit in front of a screen a lot; travel by air a lot; had a baby and been carrying that baby a lot; many many causes in our modern life style, Yoga for Back Care is probably needed for all generations.  It’s needed if not for specific care (Scoliosis, Spondylosis, Slipped Disc and other more specific conditions require a medical approval and/or advice before starting yoga) for everyone’s spinal pain prevention and maintenance.  We are blessed to have this amazing teacher in the Bay Area.

Have a wonderful 4th of July holiday and for the lucky ones – a vacation week – everyone with postural and breath awareness 🙂


Yoga Mats – what’s what?

I am sure there are many blog posts and articles written up on this very subject as there are yoga mat brands.  That’s exactly the reason why an in-depth review not directly sponsored by the maker is such a valuable resource.

As a yoga teacher and/or practitioner, do you not get an inquiry as to what you use or what you would recommend?  I sometimes do.  This review I link would have been so helpful when asked such question. Sure, when I was starting out, I just got the lower priced and prettiest I can find at any store that sells them, but then, we start caring about the yoga mat when that mat does not really do the job.  Yes, we start caring about the “quality”, especially when that first yoga mat starts spotting, fading, cracking, peeling – just generally not holding up nor does it provide the support or the grip you need. The mat selection should really be driven by the style of yoga one practices and the frequency of use as well. So reminded of these pointers,  walking in with my eco-biodegradable thick recycled mat into a Iyengar yoga studio.  The mat that works so well for morning vinyasa and evening yin flow, in Iyengar studio did not work so well.  In fact, reprimanded by the teacher (that’s their style !) in traditional Iyengar class where they want to use a very thin pliable flappy mats, for example to hurl over yoga chairs for those supported inversions.

Here is that link by Consumer Advocates  !  Is your favorite mat on the list?  Are there a mat brand you had never heard of ?  As we can’t individually try each of these mats, it’s so wonderful that those at Consumers’ Advocates’ researchers spent 250 hours to review 60 mats and broke it down for us based on our budget and needs. Thank goodness !

Thank goodness for those yogis who care at Consumers Advocates as the kind of mats that support your practice does matter – it’s not just a superfluous thing as much as your running shoes are not for that marathon, or even just a quick run around the block.

Shin Rin Ryoku

A creek with lovely water sounds … and a tree stump making a perfect meditation location.  The air is fresh; sounds soothing; colors are vibrant yet relaxing.

My late father would have enjoyed the sounds of water flowing down this creek by the path nicely shaded by groves of 1000 years old redwoods.

Happy Fathers Day !