I wrote a while back about how online dating got me into meditation. While I only went on one date with the yoga-loving woman mentioned in the post, we have established a fairly close friendship over the past year, and after listening to her talk about her love of yoga, I decided it was something I should also do.
I had done yoga before, but only in a once- or twice-a-week, go-months-without-practicing kind of way. Thanks in part to my friend's inspiration, as well as another friend directing me to a fabulous studio, I have now become someone with a regular practice. I look forward to classes more than almost anything else I do, and I am sad that I don't yet have the stamina to go to a class every day - although I set a personal record of 19 classes in August, so I'm getting there.
In all my posts so far about burnout, I haven't yet written much about the role that yoga played, but ironically, I think it was a big part of why I burnt out when I did. Before I started doing yoga, I was living with blinders on, getting through each day by focusing on the work and ignoring how miserable it was making me. In yoga, I spend an hour or more each class inside my own head, and it's really hard to ignore how you're feeling when it's just you and your thoughts*. Being present with my own emotions forced me to acknowledge them and, eventually, to do something about them.
Yoga also, in a very tangible and physical way, forced me to confront the fact that I am limited. Doctors aren't supposed to be - we're taught from the beginning of medical school that we should be able to do any amount of work under any conditions without ever making a mistake. And while I knew intellectually that this was utter nonsense, on an emotional level, this concept of what a physician should be was harder to let go of. In yoga, my limitations are right there and are impossible to ignore. If I go to a hard class one day, my muscles will be sore the next day and I won't be able to do the same poses. I am limited and imperfect. And I need rest.
Now, on what is hopefully the other side of burnout, yoga is a big part of how I'm rebuilding. It's exercise and stress relief and a place that always feels safe. On harder days at work, I take comfort in knowing that I can end my day on my mat, with a bit of calm and a bit of peace. It's my happy place, and I'm incredibly grateful to have found it.
*and an instructor made of nothing but bone and muscle who can bend their body in super-human ways