BOOK REVIEW: Yogic Management of Common Diseases by Dr. Swami Karmananda

Yogic Management Of Common DiseasesYogic Management Of Common Diseases by Satyananda Saraswati

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon page

The title of this book gives one a nutshell description. It’s a book that discusses what yoga practices are beneficial for various common ailments. These practices include not only asana (postures), but also pranayama (breathing exercises), shatkarma (cleansing practices), yoganidra (a relaxation technique), meditational practices, and dietary and other yogic lifestyle practices. The book also discusses both the medical and yogic explanations of various diseases, and provides enough background on the relevant anatomy and physiology to give a layperson an understanding of the basic causes of each disease (if known.)

The book covers about 37 classes of disease, and is arranged into seven parts by bodily system (head and neck, cardiovascular system, respiratory system, gastro-intestinal tract, joints and musculo-skeletal system, urogenital system, and a miscellaneous ailments section that deals with skin diseases and varicose veins.) Some chapters deal specifically with one disease, while others cover two or more related ailments (e.g. Bronchitis and Eosinophilia, Sinusitis and Hay Fever, or skin diseases.)

This book has a number of strengths. First, it’s grounded in a scientific view of these ailments and isn’t selling yoga as a panacea. As suggested above, the title was carefully chosen. It’s “Yogic Management of Common Diseases.” The word “Management” is a critical one. If you’re looking for a book about how yoga can single-handedly cure your Stage IV lung cancer, this isn’t the book for you. If you’re looking for a book on how yoga can help you live a better life if you have arthritis, diabetes, or are hernia prone—possibly in conjunction with medication or other medical treatments—this may be the book for you.

Second, the diseases covered seem to have been carefully chosen. The selection of common ailments is not just to appeal to a broad audience. Many of these ailments are caused by common lifestyle problems that offer relatively easy fixes. Other diseases may not offer any fix per se, and, therefore, the ability to live a high quality of life with the affliction may be valuable. Also, I know a number of the diseases covered are particularly promising candidates for a yogic solution / mitigation.

Having given the strong points, I will say there are a couple of weaknesses to the book as well. First, it’s not illustrated in any way. Given that there is a lot of discussion of biology and anatomy, there are places where a picture might be worth a thousand words. I will note that this isn’t a book for a yoga newbie. It uses Sanskrit names for practices without so much as a glossary. That said, yoga teachers and intermediate/advanced students will probably not find this much of a problem because they will have built an appropriate vocabulary or have the necessary reference close at hand. I didn’t deduct for the lack of explanation, because the book is clearly intended for established practitioners (the Introduction warns as much.)

The second weakness is that there’s no explanation of why the listed practices should work particularly well for the given disease. I think the book does a great job of explaining the nature of the disease for a non-expert reader. However, then it just lists practices by type (asana, pranayama, relaxation, diet, etc.) In some cases, the reader can easily make the connection, but in others it’s not so clear why one should do practice “X” for disease “Y.” I do realize that drawing these connections could be space-intensive and technical. The book is a nice slim 245 pages, and it could rapidly grow to an untenable length. However, I’m concerned that some of the recommendations might not be rooted in experience and observation.

I would recommend this book for yoga teachers and intermediate / advanced practitioners who are interested in yoga as a component of building a healthy body. If you are new to yoga, you will probably want to first familiarize yourself with many of the classic asana, pranayama, and shatkarma practices of yoga—otherwise you’ll have to look up terminology constantly.

It should be noted that this book is put out by the Bihar School (of Swami Satyananda Saraswati fame), and the same publisher has put out a number of books that delve much more deeply into specific ailments. (At least some of these are written by the same author, Dr. Swami Karmananda.) Also, let me say that while the school self-publishes through its Yoga Publications Trust, it puts out books on a large-scale, of high-quality, and they appear to be available globally through Amazon and the like. (Swami Satyananda Saraswati alone was extremely prolific and wrote the APMB, which is one of the seminal reference works on yoga.)

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