Books by â€œwounded healersâ€ fascinate me. Someone who has suffered a physical or mental illness and has not only survived, but thrived to the point of helping others, is someone I pay close attention to, such as author Amy Weintraub. Her book, Yoga for Depression, is a combination of how yoga released her from depression and what other yoga teachers are also doing to help people suffering from depression. A well-researched book, Amy not only talks about her practice and what poses or postures (called asanas in yoga-talk) she uses to help her students, but also whatâ€™s happening in the field of yoga that addresses this dreadful “dis-ease.”
The opening sentence of the Preface by Dr. Richard Brown, an associate professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University and author of his own book on depression, notes the seriousness of depression: â€œDepressionâ€¦.is the leading illness in adults and often occurs with other serious illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, and arthritisâ€¦..Women and older people have an increased risk of depression.â€ (As a woman and an older person who has experienced serious depression, this statement sounded an alarm for me and motivated me to read the book. ellensue)
Amy takes us from her sessions with her therapist, who told her she would always have â€œempty pockets,â€ to her first yoga class at Kripalu Center in Lenox, Massachusetts. (I have been there two or three times and it is worth looking into for yoga and other healing workshops: www.kripalu.org) Her empty pockets became a positive concept, because in her first yoga session, the teacher told the class to fill their hearts with light and stay empty. At that â€œAha!â€ moment, Amy reframed her empty pockets from being a curse to being a blessing, because now, as she writes: â€œI had more room for the divine inside.â€
Her chapters progress in a logical fashion, moving from her empty pockets to ways in which we suffer, why yoga works, the principles of yoga, the many ways to practice yoga, breathing, meditation, releasing trauma, and yoga on and off the mat. In the last chapter, Amy emphasizes the importance of finding the appropriate style of yoga (there are many) as well as a teacher with whom you feel comfortable. Each chapter also contains photos of Amy doing yoga poses that she describes in that chapter. These are quite helpful, especially if you are new to yoga.
This is a very personal book, as well as a seriously researched book, on the importance of yoga and how it can heal. The authorâ€™s list of books, her â€œcompanionsâ€ as she calls them, include not only books on yoga practice books, but also those on the spiritual journey, meditation, the breath, positive mental health, and poetry. Weintraub also lists videos and DVDs on yoga, including her own Yoga to Beat the Blues; CDs and audiotapes, chanting CDs, Body-Oriented Therapies, Yoga and Meditation Retreat Centers, Yoga Web Sites, and Meditation Web Sites. Finally, she lists three items as natural treatments for Depression: Omega-3 Fish Oil, Rosavin (Siberian rhodiola rosea), and Sam-E.
Amy Weintraub, the author, feels that the medical model is not the entire answer, because it does not â€œmeet our suffering at its source.â€ Rather, she notes that the road to recovery may be a combination of medication, talk therapy, and a style of yoga that fits your needs. This is in contrast to Jeanne Siphronâ€™s statement that the drug lithium saved her life.( See this monthâ€™s Profiles for her story.) I think each person needs to find his/her own balance in the healing process. Jeanne found hers in lithium; Amy found hers in yoga.
Yoga for Depression is an inspirational memoir on healing, as well as resource for anyone suffering from depression and looking for alternative solutions to this illness. According to Amy Weintraubâ€™s research, suicide from depression is the fourth leading cause of death worldwide, which seems to echo the quote by Dr. Brown, noted in the second paragraph above. This is a scary statistic from the World Health Organization, so if you or anyone you love is suffering from depression, I highly recommend this book. Published in 2004 by Broadway Books, the soft cover costs $14.95, well worth its price.