A Day in the Life and Breath of a Busy GP
As published in Om Magazine October 2018
We join our GP in a moment of rest, of sleep; breath is slow, steady fully under the control of the medulla. Suddenly out of nowhere a rude awakening, the loud squawk of the alarm tears her from her slumber, the fight or flight response switched on, heart racing, breath gasping. After a moment of disorientation she comes to her senses turns off the incessant noise making her ears ring, realising it’s time for early morning yoga she moans with a sigh at the early hour. The pressure is on to get everything done in preparation to leave the house - teeth, face, shower and breakfast. Her breath is shallow and short as she struggles to get ready on time, she’s late, she’s late!
“and deepen your inhale, lengthen your exhale” Ahhhhh a long sigh as she arrives on her mat. A deep inhale a reflexive cue for a slowing of the breath, switching to a 5/5 breath instantly the shoulders melt back and down, her heart rate lowers, her belly and chest are engaged in the full yogic breath. Closing her eyes she is here with her breath, with the present moment. Another deep inhale preps the body for an om chant, the breath controlled as it allows the rumble of “aauuooommm” from the upper chest, reverberating in the throat, vibrating in the mouth as the breath is slowly exhaled. The mind is focused with how deep to inhale to hold the vibration, the sound for as long as possible. Voice wobbling as the lungs empty the last little bit of air before a long inhale to replenish. As the body flows into a fast strong vinyasa, the ujjayi breath aiding the steady flow of movement making the practice a moving mediation, the breath switches to kappalachi breaths to aid micro-pulsing in wide leg squats. The mind distracted from the burn with the fast breath and ohh the release with the exhale and fold forward. As the breath releases to a natural breath in Savasana she lets go of the breath, the practice allowing a moment of rest.
The breath returns to the control of the medulla, of habit and reflex as she drives to work attention diverted by thinking about the day ahead, mind is full of things to do, things to remember, things to worry about. The work day starts pressured, there is a queue waiting for her at her office - the receptionist, the practice manager, two patients waiting, 82 letters, 94 results and 31 tasks in her inbox. Automatically her shoulder hunch, her breath is shallow, fast; there is no dedicated full yogic breath that has been lost in the barrage of things to do. Stress levels rise, she kindly asks reception and the practice manager to put their requests in a message which she can put in the pile and shuts the door on the outside world, sits in her chair closes her eyes, stabilising herself for a moment with sama vritti breath. The slowing and focus on the breath instantly relaxes the tension in the shoulders and back. Right ready to start the day, pick up the phone “hello this is the doctor from the surgery how can we help today?”
Her third patient has anxiety and stress at work; she desperately wants more time to guide them to yoga, to mindfulness, to meditation. To extol the virtues of all the above but they’ve already gone over their allotted time and she needs to give them something she knows that can help, she runs through the use of the double time breath and arranges follow up in 2 weeks to see how they are doing, it is all a work in progress.
Lunch comes and goes sat at her desk, she cannot leave the computer as every time she does another 10 calls get put on the triage list, it is like an avalanche and she is trying to stop it with a wall made of feathers. She is on high alert, Defcon 1, she has lost her breath somewhere between the child with a meningococcal rash and the staff member walking out saying they are not coming back! She has another 5 hours to go, tired, frazzled but must soldier on. She takes 5 breaths of Nadi Shodhanam breath to balance, her mind empties as she focuses on which finger is on which nostril and which nostril she should be breathing in or out of, aware of a mild congestion on the left as she lets out a mucousy exhale. Ahh right, where was she…
The afternoon fares better for patient numbers but not for morale with a patient shouting on the phone when she is unable to see him in an urgent same day appointment for the corn he has had on his toe for 6 months! Her sympathetic nervous system kicks in as he raises his voice threatening to complain or go to A+E. Adrenaline rises her voice is sharp and short in response, with a racing heart and shallow breath she tries to reign in her breath to control her own reflexive reaction to a perceived threat.
Finally finish the day with a sigh of relief, at home, sinking into a hot bath allowing everything in the day to melt away as her breath returns to its normal steady slow controlled resting rhythm.
Tucked up in bed, her mind is whirling, struggling to turn off, desperately tired and in need of rest. Cue double time breathing until eventually she drifts off to sleep.
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! as the alarm goes off for another morning, another day, another breath…