I am happy to be joining my friends Nina, Baxter, and Brad on the Yoga for Healthy Aging blog! They’ve been doing fantastic work, and it’s great to become part of it. Since many of you may not know me or know me well, they’ve asked me to write a brief introduction with some information about my background and what I’m interested in.
Like Baxter I’m an M.D. who practices and teaches yoga. The focus of my teaching and my writing is yoga therapy, that is, using various yogic tools, including postures (asana), breathing practices, meditation, chanting, visualization and even philosophical ideas to help prevent and treat a variety of health conditions. I was trained in conventional internal medicine and practiced for about a dozen years in the Boston area before devoting myself full time to writing and researching the scientific basis of yoga and yoga therapy, starting in the year 2000.
|Chives in Flower by Michele Macartney-Filgate|
It was at one of those workshops Patricia and I did at a Yoga Journal conference in Estes Park, Colorado, where I first met Nina Zolotow. Nina went on to help me in numerous ways as I was in the final stages of writing my book Yoga as Medicine, including orchestrating the photo shoot (not an easy job)! Another year at that same Yoga Journal conference I met Dr. Baxter Bell. Bax and I became friends when I moved to the SF Bay area in 2006, and he ended up being one of the yoga models for Yoga as Medicine.
Yoga is, in my opinion, an ideal tool for those looking maintain or even improve their health and well-being as they get older. Yoga is a close to one-stop shopping as you can find. The practice can make you stronger, more flexible and better balanced—both mentally and physically. It can boost your mood, improve your immune function, improve cardiovascular fitness, and help you sleep better. It can teach you how to relax and concentrate in ways far deeper than what most people mean when they use those words.
If you have a serious illness, yoga can be a wonderful complement to conventional medical care, one that can render its treatments more effective and that is less likely to cause debilitating side effects. To cite just a single example of that, studies are now finding that those who do yoga while undergoing chemotherapy and other cancer treatments have less fatigue and better mood than cancer patients who don’t do yoga.
|Pink and Green DO Go Together by Michele|
In additional to yoga, in recent years, I’ve also been studying Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of ancient India, and I’ll undoubtedly be bringing an Ayurvedic perspective to some of my upcoming blog posts. Ayurveda is a natural complement to yoga, and I believe that even a basic understanding of it can help you better personalize your own yoga routine or practices you recommend to others.
The foundation of Ayurveda is in using simple dietary and lifestyle habits to keep yourself in balance. It’s natural, incredibly safe, and like yoga, surprisingly effective for a wide range of healthy conditions. And like yoga therapy it’s strong medicine but slow medicine. I’ve personally been following some of its dietary and lifestyle advice, and doing twice-weekly oil massages for half a dozen years, and feel it’s made a tremendous difference in my both my yoga practice and in my overall health and well-being.
Ayurveda is all about living in alignment with nature’s cycles: daily, seasonal, and time of life. Yoga for healthy aging is in part about adapting your yoga practice to meet your changing needs as you get older. Thus, a practice that may have suited you well at age 25 or 35 may no longer be appropriate at 55 or 65. Indeed many yoga injuries happen as a result of people doing practices or classes that no longer are—and sometimes never were—ideal for their bodies. That doesn’t mean that your practice can’t be strong and vital as you get older, only that you need to be wise about what you do and how you do it. And that is something I’m looking forward to writing about in the months ahead!