Recovery Yoga Reviews
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A Practical Guide for Chronically Ill, Injured,
Post-Operative and Aging Yoga Students

Ann Garrison Roswell, NM

When I retired, I decided at age 60 to try a little yoga. Even when I was young I was not flexible, so I am forever amazed at how much more flexible and balanced I now am. Over the past five years, my progress has been slow but steady. I am even more delighted about how much better I feel when I do yoga! 

Yoga is really for everyone, not just younger, more flexible people. Every week I get to see what yoga can do for older people, including myself, and people with a variety of health problems.

Thursday afternoon I volunteer to teach a yoga class for Senior Circle. This class has about 20 students in it each week. The youngest person in the class is about 62 and the oldest in her eighties. The average age is, I estimate, about 76. What impresses me most about the students is their willingness to try and the resilient spirits of these students. What surprised me most at first was the progress the students were able to make. 

Since the class is not taught in a yoga studio with props, I use chairs as the main prop. Since several of the students are not able to get down on the floor, the chair and the wall give me a variety of options. As a result, we do standing poses using chairs and the wall and poses sitting in chairs. 

“Recovery Yoga” by Sam Dworkis has been a teaching tool that I rely on each week. The asanas/poses in the book are gentle and effective. The teaching tips and cautions give information dealing with the important aspects to stress and safety limits to observe. 

In the three Iyengar-based classes that I teach for the city where I live, I rely a great deal on three things from Dworkis' book. They include practice tips, safety limits, and the range of possible poses that people with more than a little life experience and a handful of health problems can do.

In the classes I teach for the city, the students' ages vary from the twenties to the eighties. With this range of ages comes a range of abilities too. Whenever we start an asana, I demonstrate/instruct the students how the pose can be done, based on "where the student's body is" in its abilities. Again, I rely on the information from “Recovery Yoga” for some of the students to use and the philosophy for all of the students to follow. 

Yoga is for everyone, including you. Give it a try! Oh, yes, I do have one regret. I should have taken pictures of my students to show the progress they have made.

Penny Spokes, The Chicago Booklist

The body is designed to move; and it stays healthier doing so. However, traditional exercise is often not an option for the injured or chronically ill, the bedridden, or those with otherwise limited mobility or reduced energy levels. Dworkis, a yoga teacher who has worked extensively with the ill and injured is struggling with chronic disease himself. For this specific audience, he provides detailed instruction to the core of yoga: body awareness, breath management, coordination of breathing with body exercises, and progressive relaxation. The body positions required range from lying down to sitting on a chair, kneeling on the floor, and finally to standing supported at the kitchen counter. Shaded boxes throughout provide warnings, reminders, and tips to clarify techniques, give variations to reduce pain or difficulty, or suggest props for extra support. Numerous well-placed line drawings illustrate each technique.

Dworkis' program is founded on deep, smooth diaphragmatic breathing which slows the heartbeat, relaxes the mid and body, and ultimately helps the individual deal more effectively with the emotional aspects of disability or illness.

Joan Budilovsky, author:
The Complete Idiot's Guide to YOGA"

Sam Dworkis writes a personal and educational approach to managing chronic physical problems through the study and application of yoga techniques. It is simply and beautifully written. If you are looking to increase your sensitivity, understanding, and application of hatha yoga, I highly encourage you to read this book.

Romana Prokopiw, book review for The Yoga Centre of Calgary

Sam Dworkis is a practitioner and teacher of yoga who was diagnosed with MS in his forties. He "knows how you feel," and he uses this knowledge to the great enhancement of the exercise program outlined in this book. The exercises are simple stretching and strengthening poses such as legs up the wall, side rolling, cat-and-cow, neck and shoulder stretches, hip and leg stretches, pose of the child, and twists, whose listing and description is in itself excellent, if you were in any doubt which asana were the best for injured or chronically ill bodies. But the true strength of this book lies in 1) Dworkis's extreme sensitivity to, and sensible expression of, the difficulties, both physical and emotional, of ill bodies; and 2) Dworkis's advanced understanding of and ability to explain the true kernel of yogic exercise.

The beauty of yoga is that it works for bodies at every different level of fitness and experience. It is an inner-directed physical practice, as Dworkis explains so nicely (contrasting it with western exercise and traditional physical therapy): "it is exercise done with no specific goal other than the exercise itself and the wish to stay aware during the exercise." Dworkis explains this yogic approach early on in the book and gives compassionate advice such as "Feel free to stop at any time and continue later on;" "Measure your success by how you feel, not by how much you can do;" and "What matters is the attention that you place on each and every exercise you are able to practice at any given time." His tone throughout the book is kind, direct, practical, personal, supportive, and encouraging. He never forgets that his readers have difficulties and frustrations with their bodies.

It is not assumed that anything is too obvious to explain or illustrate. Instructions for each exercise are systematic and crystal clear. The drawings are simple and specific. Practice tips and reminders are set off from the main text in boxes, as are other details which appear occasionally as appropriate. His advice is supportive, realistic, and undaunting. Everything is presented in manageable, bite-size pieces without being condescending.

A true yogi, Dworkis maintains that breath is the key. The book begins with three chapters of breathing exercises, taking the student carefully and attentively from basic inhaling and exhaling through to very simple exercises in which the breath and the body's movements are coordinated. These exercises are basic and exquisitely right, but Dworkis never fails to attend to the fact that people who are injured or chronically ill may have few positive experiences with body responsiveness and awareness. He is sympathetic to frustration and boredom, giving advice about what to do in the case of either.

The book progresses with exercises to do while lying down, sitting on a chair, crouching on the floor, and standing supported by a counter. There is of course a chapter on relaxation, including a text which can be read into a tape for use during the relaxation session. Appendices explain some of the 'why's of chronic illness - why the body behaves so badly when one is ill, and how particular exercises are especially helpful. Wow.

Although this book is directed at the injured or ill person seeking renewed harmony in the body, it is an excellent model for yoga teachers in dealing with the issues of pain, injury, the need to compete, and the sense of failure: issues that all western students bring to class. I recommend it highly also for any yoga students who would like to share the benefits of their practice with friends or family who seem to need it most.

Christine Mayor, Switzerland

I just would like to tell you that a few weeks after my breast operation, I started working through your "Recovery Yoga" book and I was so glad to be able to do a lot of its exercises. The Recovery book gave me the opportunity to do the exercises in detail, and to better understand things you told us during the lessons. By the way, your Website is great. I hope you are doing fine. Maybe I'll be back for a month or so in April and come for some lessons if possible.

A personal note from Sam:

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