Posted by Tanya Goodman Bailey on Sunday, August 24, 2014
Aug 23 at 7:02 PM
Whilst trying to cope with the grim maelstrom that is now the everyday reality of working as a GP in the NHS I discovered Tanya's Yin Yoga class by accident. But there's no such thing as an accident. My discovery happened because I was late arriving at the previous open yoga class and was turned away. Through gritted teeth I went home determined to return for whatever the next class was going to be. It was Yin Yoga. I haven't looked back and every wednesday afternoon that I can possibly get there, I do. It is the perfect antidote to what my insane working life has become.
A year on and my sister was suddenly facing serious illness. I tried to be there for her, supporting her in the grip of the paralysis of terror she found herself, whilst also trying to hold it together running a small GP practice. Weeks rolled into months of waiting for test results and operations. My GP Partner meanwhile was becoming more depressed by the day at what our working lives have become under the regimen of "reform" (the Government's efforts to save the NHS by piling on more and more responsibility to GPs, whilst simultaneously forcing the NHS to save billions of pounds, and blaming GPs when things go wrong). I was running around like a headless chicken and whilst aware our Practice was struggling, could do little else but carry on supporting both of them, simultaneously trying to keep patients safe. My own reserves of health were wearing thin. I introduced my sister to Yin Yoga. She too became a convert. We were were both in "survival mode" for different reasons.
My gut went into "fast transit" - the first real symptom I get when stressed. I stopped feeling hungry, stopped digesting, had loose stools every day and started to lose weight. I'm the first to talk to my patients about mind/body connections. Much of what I see in my surgery falls into the category of psychosomatic in some way. I am no exception. My body tells me when I'm not happy or thriving, usually before I'll admit it to myself, and it's my gut that has the loudest voice. When I'm in "transition" I can experience overwhelming fear and anxiety, on top of everything else. I know that I can trace that particular pattern to my own birth - five days of exhausting and terrifying labour for my mother, who on some unconscious level didn't really want me to come out. Eventually I arrived in the world, but only after being bathed in adrenaline soaked amniotic fluid for almost a week. Not surprisingly, I was born a week later than everyone expected.
My weekly dose of Yin led first my sister, and then me, to Tanya's digestive health workshop. I signed up - not with my doctor's hat on - but with my "human being in need of support" hat firmly on my head. I enjoyed working in the group, I engaged with the restorative yoga exercises and I started to listen to the advice that was being shared frankly about nutrition and food to help with specific digestive issues. That's not something I know very much about - nutrition wasn't on the medical school curriculum in my day. Afterwards I remembered some of the restorative methods in Tanya's Belly Love programme, and I reminded myself about others from the worksheets. I lie on my bed at home some mornings doing my left leg circles, and liver breathing, and "lend myself a hand" to apply 25 point finger pressure to my belly. It's a grounding way to start the day.
But what's been really surprising, is the benefit I've enjoyed quite quickly from making a real effort to follow the dietary advice. Despite the ongoing anxiety of being in the middle of transition, and not quite knowing how things will work out, nor where we'll all be in the future, I've been downing litres of coconut water to rehydrate, and taken to eating short grain brown rice, buckwheat salads and roasted carrots with cumin and maple syrup. I'm back to passing properly formed stools, sleeping better and my breathing is much calmer. I'm feeling hungry again and my weight has stabilised. I still have waves of real anxiety, but I seem to have uncoupled my emotional mindset from my gut in a surprising - and healthier - way.
Tags: worksheets "gp pracitce" "loose stools" mind/body "lend yourself a hand" "sleeping better" nhs "serious illness" anxiety overwhelm "yin yoga" "digestive health workshop" "25point finger pressure" "coconut water" buckwheat "gut health"