As a first-year resident at a major New York City hospital, I have struggled with finding the time and language to help my patients find consciousness around their health. Luckily, my medical practice is informed by my yoga practice, which reminds me to find flow and keep it simple. The following five rules for approaching health are universal and apply to anyone, whether you think of yourself as a yogi or not.
1. Stop, stay, and listen. If something in your body bothers you, pause and ask what is really wrong rather than reflexively taking a medication or making an assumption. So often the real cause of an ailment is something other than what you’re blaming.
2. Know your body – its triggers, sensitivities, and injuries. Your insight into you is infinitely more powerful than any doctor’s diagnostics. We order tests based on what you describe, so if you get what's wrong, together we are a leg up.
3. Know your medications. If you take medicines regularly -- be it the birth control pill or ten different heart medications -- know what they are called and the doses. You open your mouth and swallow them every day. It is essential for you to know what you are taking and what it is for.
4. Choose your poison. Maybe it’s wine at a party or the occasional fast food splurge, but understand that a lifetime of repetitive toxic choices only leads to a drawer full of medications and doctors with no solutions other than another prescription. If you have toxicity in your life, modulate it with a dose of health and nourishment rather than more toxins. For you that may mean a massage, a yoga class, or a bowl of kale – choose your antidote.
5. Get excited about your health. No medicine can do for your body what your enthusiasm for treating your body well through daily choices can. For me, those choices come down to eating lots of greens and whole grains, sweating on a regular basis, and finding a way to laugh about my problems.
An asana is a posture, and every posture is a perspective. These five perspectives are inspired by some of the basic principles of yoga: stillness, awareness, conscious action, and non-violence toward self. Apply these to your life and you may never need a doctor.