There are some wonderful new books that arrived on my desk in time for gift-giving season. Reading them this month has been a gift I’ve given myself. I’ve been reading books about Yoga and chronic pain, the neuroscience of happiness, and integrating mindfulness into pyschotherapy by new authors, most of them psychologists (and one neurologist) with Yoga and meditation practices. Reviewed below are books by Kelly McGonigal, PhD, Shauna Shapiro, PhD and Linda Carlson, PhD, Rick Hanson, PhD and Richard Mendius, MD.
And I’m delighted to welcome my Yoga colleague from Canada, pain management expert Niel Pearson, who has contributed a review about a book he feels is important for health practitioners and yoga teachers, written by an author who lives with chronic pain.
Along with reviews, you’ll find brief summaries of current research that underscores the potential benefits of applying Yoga therapeutics to a diversity of populations.
I’m happy to let you know that my new CD, LifeForce Yoga Chakra Clearing Meditation for Mood Management is available on-line as of today. More info about this album is featured in the column on the right. Included on this CD is an alternative practice for high states of anxiety and a discussion of the psychological aspects of the chakras. I’ll be leading a workshop based on the CD at the first annual Virtual Yoga Conference in February. More details about this conference will follow when we have them.
By the time you receive this we may be sold out for the LifeForce Yoga Practitioner Training in Tucson (Jan 11 – 17th). If you’ve been waiting and have decided you would like to come, please call Rose right away to see if there’s still space. 520 349-2644. For details about the training, please go to training.html.
Blessings on blessing the waves rolling through the ocean of your life ~ ripples of loss and of abundance, of weakness and of strength, of grief and of joy, and of gratitude without regret this holiday season!
A warm namasté,
RESEARCH: YOGA BREATHING AND MENTAL HEALTH
Yoga Breathing, Meditation, and Longevity
Richard P. Brown and Patricia L. Gerbarg
New York Academy of Sciences
From both an historical and scientific perspective, Drs. Richard Brown and Patricia Gerbarg have written an article that underscores the effectiveness of Yogic breath work, not only for health and well being, and the traditional goal of enlightenment, but they also cite evidence for the treatment of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and for victims of mass disasters. “By inducing stress resilience,” say the authors, “breath work enables us to rapidly and compassionately relieve many forms of suffering.”
For most of the evidence, the authors examine the extensive studies that have been done on the breathing practices taught by the Art of Living Foundation, which include three-stage slow resistance breathing (Ujjayi or Victory Breath), bellows breath, chanting “om,” and Sudarshan Kriya (cyclical breathing). However, by extrapolating from the common elements within the variety of breathing practices taught in Tibetan and Yogic tradition, they are able to suggest that “the study of the separate and combined effects of yoga practices enriches our understanding of the impact of yoga practices on the self-repair and self-regulatory systems that may increase longevity, resilience, and quality of life.”
I highly recommend this article for its depth and understanding of traditionally understood outcomes as well as the scientific implications of pranayama breathing practices.
The article is now available at:
Here is the complete citation;
Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Aug;1172:54-62.
RESEARCH: FOOD EFFECTS MOOD
According to an article in the most recent issue of in the British Journal of Psychiatry, people who eat a diet laden with processed and high-fat foods are significantly more likely to get depressed, according to new research. Nearly 3,500 people participated in the five-year study. Those who reported suffering depressive symptoms were more likely to have a high consumption of sweetened desserts, fried foods, processed meats, refined grains and high-fat dairy products. “Our results suggest that consuming fruits, vegetables and fish may afford protection against the onset of depressive symptoms,” said Dr Tasnime Akbaraly, co-author of the report and a nutritional epidemiologist.
Observing the effect of diet in my own life and the lives of my family members and students, I have drawn similar conclusions. I’ve watched people I love be propelled into manic episodes by low-carb, high protein diets, and episodes of major depression after binges on sweets and processed carbs. This is just one reason I’ve invited my friend Jack Challem, author of The Food Mood Solution, to teach with me at Kripalu in April.
RESEARCH: ANXIETY & MORTALITY
Dutch researchers report in the current issue of the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology on a 10-year follow-up study of over 5,000 healthy women aged 46-54. Anxiety was associated with a 77% increase in mortality rate from all causes. This important finding truly underscores the importance of addressing high anxiety levels. Some anxiety is normal really. We’ve evolved to be vigilant about self-protection. But according to this study, our hyper-vigilance can kill us. Yogic practices, including various forms of meditation, relaxation and yogic sleep, can be the natural antidote, and may therefore, extend our lives, certainly making them more meaningful, while we’re still on the planet.
Desert Redemptorist Center
Tucson, AZ (January 11 – 17, 2010)
LifeForce Yoga Practitioner Training for Depression & Anxiety ~ Level 1
This is a certification training for yoga teachers and health professionals. Training Information: www.yogafordepression.com/training.html
Faculty Information: www.yogafordepression.com/faculty.html
Registration Information: www.yogafordepression.com/Training_Registration.html
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ (January 16, 2010)
9th Annual Women’s Mental Health Symposium
Amy will be giving a talk on the benefits of LifeForce Yoga in a clinical setting.
Lenox, MA (January 29 – 3, 2010)
LifeForce Yoga to Manage Your Mood
During this weekend workshop, led by Amy and assisted by LifeForce Yoga Practitioners, you will learn valuable techniques to lift and balance your mood.
St. Petersburg, FL (February 7, 2010)
LifeForce Yoga to Manage Your Mood
10am – 5pm, Amy leads an all day LifeForce Yoga intensive where you will learn tools to lift and balance your mood.
Your Home – Internationally (February 21, 2010)
Yoga Hub 1st Annual Virtual Conference
Amy will be leading a virtual workshop based on the new CD “LifeForce Yoga Chakra Clearing Meditation” called Giving the Mind a Bone: Meditations for Mood Management. Time to be announced.
To receive a special $100 savings use the coupon code AMY219.
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ (March 13 – 14, 2010)
Tucson Festival of Books
Amy will be giving a one hour presentation followed by a book signing, Saturday March 13, 4 – 5:30pm, Chemistry Building (on the Main Mall), Room 134, General Admission is Free.
Divine Yoga Center
Dallas, TX (March 19 – 21, 2010)
LifeForce Yoga to Manage Your Mood
This weekend will help you cultivate the compassionate inner space that allows you to embrace life’s challenges with a peaceful mind and a courageous heart.
2010 Integrative Medicine Mental Health Conference
Phoenix, AZ (March 22 – 24, 2010)
LifeForce Yoga: Empower Your Clients to Manage Their Moods
Amy will be leading a seminar on the application of Yogic techniques in clinical settings.
Psychotherapy Networker Symposium
Washington, DC (March 25 – 28, 2010 )
Amy will be leading an all day program on Thursday: “Embracing Our Polarities-A Day of Yoga,” a clinical presentation during the conference, and will be the LifeForce Yoga® facilitator leading morning yoga and afternoon meditation.
Paradise Island, Nassau Bahamas (March 30 – 31, 2010)
Easter & Passover Symposium on Yoga and Sacred Healing
Amy will be leading a workshop on LifeForce Yoga during this Symposium on the effects of yoga therapy, sound healing, and mind body therapy on your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health.
Paradise Island, Nassau Bahamas (April 1 – 6, 2010)
LifeForce Yoga Practitioner Training for Depression and Anxiety Level 1
This is a certification training for yoga teachers and health professionals. If you are not a yoga teacher or mental health professional, but have taken at least one LifeForce Yoga weekend program, please consult with Amy for permission to attend.
Tucson, AZ (April 17, 2010)
LifeForce Yoga to Manage Your Mood
1:00pm – 5:30pm, Amy will be leading an all day LifeForce Yoga intensive assisted by LifeForce Yoga Practitioners on Yogic techniques that you can use to benefit your mood.
Lenox, MA (April 23 – 25, 2010)
Manage Your Mood with Food and LifeForce Yoga
Amy teaches with well-known nutrition reporter and author of the Food Mood Solution, Jack Challem,
for Amy’s complete calendar of events:
REVIEW: YOGA FOR PAIN RELIEF
Yoga For Pain ReliefYoga for Pain Relief: Simple Practices to Calm Your Mind & Heal Your Chronic Pain (New Harbinger Publications, 2009)
By Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.; Foreword by Timothy McCall, M.D.
Kelly McGonigal has written a bible of a book for anyone suffering from chronic pain and for those who treat them. Yoga for Pain Relief is full of the insight of a yoga teacher-psychologist who has helped many ameliorate their suffering with the wisdom offered here. Drawing upon a holistic foundation of mind-body science, the author shows how the ancient philosophy and the practices of Yoga add a spiritual dimension that can address the imbalances inherent in chronic pain. McGonigal tells the stories of a number of students whose physical pain was moderated and even eliminated by the practices in this book.
The physical movements are adapted for both chair and floor and are illustrated with clear pictures and simple, easy to follow instructions. But this is far from being simply a book about asana, pranayama and meditation, all of which are covered in clear and lyrical prose. The reader is drawn by Kelly’s engaging voice, the evidence she provides and the stories she tells, to read this book from cover to cover. Included are guidelines for reflection, self-inquiry, and simple ways to approach pain with a friendly curiosity, that can not only lessen physical symptoms, but lead to greater self-awareness. The lessons provided have application to all the ways in which we suffer, including anxiety and depression.
Even Yoga teachers can be guilty of ignoring their aches and pains. Through one of the many exercises in self-inquiry, this one called “Forgiving Your Pain,” I learned to “befriend” my right hip and my pain diminished. It is clear that McGonigal is a gifted and compassionate teacher. Chapter by chapter, I found myself loving this book, this teacher, and my own body a little more.
Click here to order
Review: The Art and Science of Mindfulness
The Art and Science of MindfulnessThe Art and Science of Mindfulness: Integrating Mindfulness into Psychology and the Helping Professions
By Shauna L. Shapiro and Linda E. Carlson, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn (American Psychological Association, 2009)
“Heart and mind are the same word in Asian languages. Therefore, perhaps a more accurate translation of mindfulness …is heartfulness, which underlines the importance of including “heart” qualities in the attentional practice of mindfulness.” The Art and Science of Mindfulness has within it a treasure trove of such “ah-ha” moments for the reader. Whether you currently integrate mindfulness into your personal or professional life, this book will inspire and support your practice, both with your clients and for your own self-care. The insights arise from the hundreds of research studies referenced here, the Nondual wisdom of Buddhism, and the wisdom inherent in those who walk their talk, as the authors clearly do. In language that is both poetic and clear, Shapiro and Carlson, renowned researchers and clinically trained psychologists who direct academic programs and mindfulness trainings in the United States and Canada, outline the benefits and application of mindfulness meditation practice in a number of clinical applications.
The scope of the book is broad, including case studies, the most current scientific data on the effects of mindfulness practice on mental cognition, emotional regulation and physical wellbeing, the application of mindfulness in a multitude of therapeutic modalities for a variety of diagnostic categories, pauses for the reader’s own self-inquiry and reflection, and a walk-through of the practices themselves. The authors have developed a mindfulness model for self and others composed of three basic elements-intention, attention and attitude-and provide the tools so that the reader grasps with ease how the three “are interwoven aspects if a single cyclical process…informing and feeding back on each other.” This is a must-read for anyone who works as a healing professional with individuals and wants to support them mindfully-“by paying attention on purpose and with acceptance.” (J. Kabat Zinn, 1990, quoted in The Art and Science of Mindfulness.)
Click here to order.
Review: Buddha’s Brain
Buddha’s BrainBuddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom (New Harbinger Publications, 2009)
By Rick Hanson, Ph.D. and Richard Mendius, MD
Foreword by Daniel J, Siegel, MD
Preface by Jack Kornfield, Ph.D.
Appendix by Jan Hanson, L.Ac.
Learning from contemplatives, both lay and monastic, whose brains are now the subject of laboratory study, the authors build a case for sustaining happiness through meditative practice. Consider this: If we can get our left prefrontal cortex to light up with gamma waves the way a Tibetan monk’s brain shines in Richard Davidson’s laboratory at the University of Wisconsin, without spending a lifetime in a monastery, then following the prescriptions in the second half of this book could boost our happiness and save a lot of money on antidepressants. This is the basic premise of Buddha’s Brain, and the authors set the foundation by teaching us a bit of neuroscience 101. In fact, as a non-medically-trained reader with an avid interest in the brain, I’ve perused a number of books on brain science, and Buddha’s Brain is the best I’ve found. With excellent diagrams and simple, clear, prose the authors explain how the choices we make, not only effect our minds, but can actually change our brains.
Hanson and Mendius suggest evidence-based practices that activate and stabilize “brain states that underlie wholesome mental states.” The aim of this book is not only to stabilize wholesome mental states, through evidence-based practices, but to help the reader use brain science to “travel far and well…upon the path of awakening.” This doesn’t mean that the authors think we need to be fixed, but rather that awakening is twofold. It’s both “transforming the mind/brain (…by gradually building new neuronal structures…) and uncovering the wonderful true nature that was there all along.”
We learn that a modicum of anxiety is a default mental state for most of us. Certainly running away from large beasts was necessary for survival, or as the authors put it, for “passing on our genes.” The authors remind us that we’re programmed to remember the negative. Again, this is for survival-to avoid the painful. “We’ve evolved,” say the authors, “to pay great attention to unpleasant experiences.” Hanson and Mendius offer a three-step “Internalizing the Positive” process for balancing our brain’s preference for “registering, storing, recalling and reacting to unpleasant experiences.”
The second part of the book provides practical, easily applicable strategies for activating the parasympathetic nervous system, thereby tilting “your body, brain and mind toward inner peace and well being.” It turns out that these strategies can actually increase gray matter in areas of the brain that manage your ability to pay attention with compassionate self-awareness.
Finally, Jan Hanson supplies a useful nutritional appendix for literally feeding your brain with diet and supplements.
Buddha’s Brain offers many useful lessons that extend beyond the meditation cushion for developing and sustaining a happy brain and mind.
Click here to order.
Review: Inside Chronic Pain
Inside Chronic PainInside Chronic Pain: An Intimate and Critical Account
Lous Heshusius; David B. Morris (Foreword); Scott M. Fishman (Clinical Commentary), Cornell Press 2009.
Review by Neil Pearson, MSc, BScPT, RYT500
Inside Chronic Pain is a rare and powerful book that forces us to look deeply into the human aspects of chronic pain.
Heshusius opens the introduction with the line, “How do you put hell on paper?” This sets the tone of this inside view into the experience of injury and pain medicine within the Canadian health care system. Her isolation, loneliness and despair will be shocking to many readers. Heshusius opens to view a wider view of how our well-meaning yet misguided view of pain and people in pain can make their experiences more difficult. She also explains in detail aspects of the (unfortunately few) positive interactions with health care professionals.
Each chapter includes many research citations. Readers with experience in pain medicine will realize that Heshusius’ writing provides a keen insight into not only her pain experience, but that of many people in pain.
The book ends with a Clinical Commentary by Scott Fishman, MD. Here we are provided a clinical perspective of the field of pain medicine. Dr. Fishman is an anesthesiologist and American Pain Foundation president. He discusses how the field of medicine needs to move forward to not only treat the pain and the disease processes, but also care for the person in pain with attention to their quality of life.
I recommend this book to those working in the area of pain science and pain management, as well as the family members and care givers of the patients whom they serve. Heshusius’ writing will help us open our hearts as well as guiding us to question our beliefs and attitudes to people in pain.
Neil Pearson, MSc, BScPT, BA-BPHE, CYT, RYT500, is a physical therapist, yoga therapist and Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia. He is founding Chair of the Canadian Physiotherapy Pain Science Division, and travels internationally teaching health care professionals, people in pain and yoga teachers about pain science and pain management. Neil is about to release the first of three Yoga DVDs to help people with chronic pain – Overcome Pain with Gentle Yoga. www.lifeisnow.ca.
Click here to order.
MEDIA MENTION: Absolute Beginner Yoga (DVD)
by Joanne Spence, ERYT 500, LFYP-2
JoanneJoanne Spence, Executive Director of Yoga in the Schools, a nonprofit corporation that began bringing yoga into the Pittsburgh Public Schools several years ago and now does so nationally, has released a DVD for beginners. It’s divided into short sequences of practice that can be done individually or as an entire flow that begins and ends lying down. The video was shot at Yoga on the Square, the studio she directs in Pittsburgh’s East End, so visuals are of the poses themselves with inserts demonstrating more challenging versions. Joanne’s voice is soothing and her language is engaging and creative. A portion of the proceeds will go to Yoga in the Schools. www.absolutebeginneryoga.com
Two Training Programs of Interest!
INTERNAL FAMILY SYSTEMS
This model of psychotherapy, developed by Richard Schwartz, PhD, works beautifully with the LifeForce Yoga practices. ww.selfleadership.org
January 30-31, 2010
Gita (Jill) Fendelman, a Kripalu-certified Hatha Yoga teacher for over 30 years, who has trained with and been certified by Dr. Madan Kataria, founder of the World Laughter Movement, will be offering a Certified Laughter Yoga Leader Training, January — in Tucson, Arizona.
Here’s what Gita says about the training:
Laughter reduces stress, enhances the immune system, helps manage pain and often relieves depression. Learn the many benefits of laughter, how to make a living teaching Laughter Yoga, market your services, start and run a laughter club.
For more information about this training, or others throughout the US, visit:
(For the past two years, Gita has been a big hit at the Tucson LifeForce Yoga Practitioner Training Level 1. She’s returning to the January, 2010 training to offer a session of Laughter Yoga.)