Being a GP gives me the very special privilege of being a fellow traveler for a time in people’s lives. This perspective has allowed me to reflect on the diversity of joy and challenge that life may bring, and that if we choose, there is a place for yoga in all facets of our personal journeys.
I may see you in my consulting room to manage minor ailments, or in your own home when you are brewing appendicitis. In previous incarnations as a junior doctor I will have seen you in hospital clinics to optimize your diabetes and on the wards while you were having dialysis. I have delivered babies and had afternoon tea in nursing homes. When the time comes I may be invited to be there in your final hours. All these places invite yoga. Sometimes it may be the jumpy invigorating energetic kind. Oftentimes it is the more reflective mindful aspect that fits the situation. Nevertheless every health related encounter strikes me as having elements where a perspective of yoga can help.
So this last week, with my patients, I have found myself inquiring “have you considered yoga to help with that?” This line of questioning wasn’t planned. I wondered if asking would seem contrived, but so many situations cried out for the question to be asked. The answers I got have reinforced for me the concept that whether we know it or not, yoga can and should be part of all of our lives. Among many, I asked the question to these people.
The new mum wanting her pelvic floor back and seeking an hours respite from the constant demands of a newborn.
The surgeon in training who is constantly striving to achieve more yet wonders why he feels anxious. In addition he struggles with poor posture and gets back pain when standing for long period in the operating theatre.
The retired university lecturer who has just been diagnosed with a rare blood cancer and is looking for a strategy to help with her sadness and navigate the uncertainties ahead.
If allowed and embraced, yoga can be a constant presence in our lives. The practice itself being resilient to the passage of time, yet subtly changing emphasis depending on the needs of the individual. For me this yoga practice is my time machine. In my younger days the physicality of the postures was to the fore, freeing up my stiff body. Currently the same yoga gives me endurance and commitment to keep me in good shape for the years to come. It is also introducing me to a mindful way of being. I hope that this time machine in the future will have helped to preserve my joints and strength yet also will have given me clarity of thinking when the mind otherwise begins to dim.
The health of the nation is in everyone’s thoughts. The NHS is taking a battering and we are all rightly worried about whether we can afford the looming medical bill as the nation ages. There are always new medical advances to help with particular illnesses. But sometimes the old ways are the best. Yoga can play the role of prevention and alleviation. It is not problem specific, indeed there doesn’t even need to be anything to fix. Yoga can just be a companion, cradle to grave should we choose. Many of you know this about yoga already. If so share the message. Bring a friend to class, encourage family members to try yoga, or revisit your own practice if it has slipped a little. There is nothing to lose and so much to gain.