As one of hundreds of yoga teachers across the US who has experienced workshops with Eric Small, I am thrilled at the publication of his and Dr. Loren Fishman's long-awaited book.
Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 55 years ago at age 22, Eric holds a senior intermediate level certificate from BKS Iyengar. A master in making accessible the art of yoga to those with individual needs, limited mobility and neurological conditions, including MS, Eric teaches how to adapt and practice classical postures, using wheelchairs or chairs.
Loren is an Assistant Clinical Professor in Rehabilitation at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. A longtime student of BKS Iyengar, he has used yoga in his medical practice for more than 25 years, adapting yoga to all sorts of patients and analyzing the physiological means by which yoga is helpful.
To have their 80+ years of experience and mastery distilled between the covers of a single book is an exceptional educational opportunity.
Eric writes: "In the mid-1960's I began to hear of BKS Iyengar and his unique approach to yoga. I obtained his book, Light On Yoga, and was fascinated with the application of his vast knowledge to various symptoms and diseases. I became Iyengar's student, followed his recommendations, and was thrilled to notice the improvements in the symptoms I was displaying at that time. After 10 years of study, I became certified to be one of his teachers. It was then that he suggested I begin to teach others like myself. I took up the challenge and my life unfolded to its true potential."
He adds, "I am not cured. Iyengar yoga has become the tool with which I handle the day-to-day contingencies of living with MS."
Yoga and Multiple Sclerosis addresses the needs of people experiencing symptoms, from mild to severe, across the MS spectrum, describing how yoga works in terms that novice practitioners - and their doctors --can easily understand. This book is fully illustrated with photographs taken from various angles, demonstrating optimal use of props. A variety of modifications are given for each asana, so that people at most levels of mobility can safely access yoga's benefits. Photographs and descriptions clearly show and explain the effects, advantages, and contraindications of each pose. A preface introduces the reader to yoga philosophy, placing the practice of yoga for MS within the larger context of yoga as a whole. The purpose of this book is how to experience a full and joyful yoga practice.
The cause of MS is not known, nor is there any known cure. The authors state: "It is impossible to say whether yoga directly addresses MS's pathogenic factors or the process of the illness. Yet there are many examples and some valid studies demonstrating that yoga can be of salutary benefit in each type of MS. It appears that the practice of yoga sets up an antagonistic process that is often more powerful than the degenerative effects of the disease."
They continue: "Yoga is valuable to people with MS for three reasons. First, the practice of yoga reduces functional deficits. Second, it increases self-reliance and fosters independence and can be carried out independently. And third, it is one of the principal aims, in fact the principle aim of yoga, to steady and quiet the mind."
While this book serves as the definitive guide for people with MS, the poses and techniques described here apply to numerous other conditions which limit mobility, such as cerebral palsy, stroke, Parkinson's, head trauma or spinal cord injury.
With this book, chair poses and prop set-ups hastily scribbled in my notebooks from Eric's workshops, are made readily available. Even more importantly, the presentation reflects the deep feeling Eric shows in teaching and in practice. The book, like Eric, sparkles with the joy of yoga.
Of special value are what the authors call "entry level" poses, which enable the physically challenged novice to safely practice and experience the benefit of a yoga posture. Coverage of the infinite potential of yoga shown in Chapter 2, "Wheelchair Series" and 3, "Chair Series," is far more ingenious and comprehensive than in any other book I have seen.
I highly recommend this book not only to practitioners, but to yoga teachers, health professionals, parents of children with MS, and those with aging parents. Yoga and Multiple Sclerosis definitely belongs at the top of the list of required reading for Yoga Teacher Training programs worldwide.
I wholeheartedly agree with other reviewers that Yoga and Multiple Sclerosis is destined to be a classic!
Note: The book contains a 20% off coupon code for Eric Small's Yoga video/dvd. For more information visit www.yogams.com.
Suza Francina is author of The New Yoga for People Over 50; Yoga and the Wisdom of Menopause; and The New Yoga for Healthy Aging.
(This new review appears in the Fall/Winter 2007 issue of YOGA VIDYA, Journal of the B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga Association of Southern California.)