by Cris Pestana
As health professionals we tend to overuse our analytical brains to keep focused on our endless tasks, often taking our minds and bodies to the limit. How do we shift from the chronic overuse of our faculties to being self-aware and existing in balanced harmony? Poses or asanas help take care of the body. Meditation helps look after your mind. And controlling your breathing connects the other two.
Our profession is designed for the “just keep going” mode
You can be operating bladder calculus or trying to extract a foreign body with the endoscope, completely focussed for hours, not even feeling your physical body, running only on adrenaline because your patient’s survival is all that matters.
You can stay hunched over on your knees, checking an epileptic patient’s vitals for as long as it takes, or spend 8 hours or more rushing between consultations, climbing the same stairs or hefting weight from the floor to table dozens of times.
And you know what? Whether you’re working with pets or livestock your attention is always focused externally – on patients, on clients, on co-workers – for long days that turn into weeks, years, decades. You have been trained to do this. But sooner or later this lack of self-awareness will take its toll on your productivity, motivation, overall health, happiness and longevity.
Is Yoga just a funny-looking set of impossible poses or could it be a lot more?
Even though there are eight branches that traditional Yoga is based on, there are three main layers in ancient Yoga that are Asana (regular practice and perfection of poses, Pranayama (breath control) and Dhyana (Meditation).
Asanas can be static or dynamic (with flow and movement), with the main goal of strengthening and adding flexibility to the body. You will be able to see results in your general posture, muscular efficiency, appearance, mobility, and in the absence of pain. Which is great! But poses alone are not much different from other sports.
Unfortunately, most schools that teach Yoga poses do not teach meditation. On the other hand, widespread institutions that do teach meditation techniques (Buddhist meditation, Vipassana or just modern mindfulness) do not integrate the physical part of yoga or effective breathing control. In short, I can tell you first-hand that the benefits of combining all three together are powerful and transformative.
Starting Yoga the right way: slow and steady
I know it’s not easy to think about committing to daily Yoga practise after 12-hour shifts or a 4-hour sleep because you were on call. Don’t add any more pressure to yourself and don’t feel guilty if you miss one or several days of your yoga practice: build up little by little, step by step, pose after pose, starting with as little as ten minutes a day and just grow from there. Or, as the great master K. Pattabhi Jois simplified it: “One by one, slowly you do”.
My advice to get you started doing Yoga and really feeling a difference is fitting a micro yoga routine into your schedule, and figuring out what moment works best for you. But be constant. That will help you best engage in a process where you’ll patiently learn how to synchronize your movement with your breath. Then you can add control of your respiratory rate and vitals with Pranayama techniques to detoxify and find additional physical wellbeing.
Eventually, with a little self-discipline and a more trained self-awareness, you will get to the meditation doors. Check our podcast that introduces you to the underlying scientific findings on meditation and step by step technique here.
So if you think you’re ready to get into Yoga, build your practice slowly but steadily, use the poses to take care of the body, use meditation to look after your mind, and breath control to connect the previous two. It’s a great way to be sure that you’ll be dealing with whatever comes your way by being present, kind and calm…like a true vet yogi. Namaste!
If you wish to contact Cris directly for Yoga online classes or other queries, write us back here