More than half of all ophthalmologists will report significant neck or back pain over the course of their careers. And many will be forced to stop practicing because of physical injury.
How can you avoid injury and bring wellness into your everyday life? Camille Palma, MD, shares five yoga stretches that you can do anywhere, anytime.
“Nobody will take care of your body but you,” says Dr. Palma, a Chicago-based vitreoretinal surgeon and certified yoga instructor. “And if you don’t take care of your body, you can’t take care of the people in your life – your patients, your family.”
But staying active doesn’t mean you have to change the entire fabric of your everyday life, she added. Yoga is something you can practice anytime you need to de-stress or slow down: in between seeing patients, while you’re waiting for test results, during your lunch break or even as you get out of your car in the morning. Yoga is also an individualistic pursuit. There is no right or wrong way.
“It’s all about being mindful, slowing down and paying attention to your movement,” Dr. Palma says. “You can do a couple of these movements. You can do them all. Just do what you can multiple times a day, and you will keep your body strong and healthy!”
1. Sitting up straight
While sitting in a chair, place both feet on the ground and make your spine long and tall. Avoid arching or curling your back. Instead, pull your tailbone into your chair and lift from the base of your skull. Take three deep breaths — in and out. As you inhale, feel your rib cage expand in all directions. Hold at the top, and then release your breath.
2. Body shake
Stand up and place your feet at hips-width distance. Bend your knees a bit and begin to gently and slowly bounce. Sway side to side. Shift your weight to your toes and then back to your heels. Shake your hands and shake your head. Now put your arms in the air and keep shaking. Lower your arms and then bring them back up – all while continuing to shake. After repeating a few times, bring your arms to your side and find your long, tall spine.
3. Mountain pose to chair pose
With your feet at hips-width distance, ground down through all four corners of your feet. Lift your kneecaps and engage your quads. Tuck your tailbone slightly under. Again find your long, tall spine. Keep your chin tucked in toward your neck – this is the mountain pose. As you exhale, extend your arms upward parallel to your ears and pretend as if you are going to sit down in a chair – but don’t let your bottom touch the chair. While in this position, engage your quads and squeeze your glutes. Look down at your toes. If you can’t see them, shift your weight onto your heels. Inhale, stand back up and repeat.
4. Shoulder rolls
Roll your shoulders upward and backward. Remember to maintain a long, tall spine. Slow down this movement, making it big and exaggerated. As you breathe in, roll your shoulders up to your ears. As you breathe out, roll your shoulders down your back. Repeat three times.
5. Forward fold
Keep your feet at hips-width distance. Slightly bend your knees to protect your lower back. Then take your arms and grab for opposite elbows. Bend over your body, letting your head hang heavy like a bowling ball. Press your chest in toward your thighs, and sway from side to side. You should feel this stretch in your hamstrings and notice a good amount of decompression in your back.
These stretches are an excerpt from Dr. Palma’s five-minute yoga sequence. For a video demonstration of the sequence, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more help on reducing stress and promoting well-being, see the Academy’s resources on individual and practice wellness as well as physician wellness events planned for AAO 2018.
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About the author: Mike Mott is a former assistant editor for EyeNet Magazine and contributing writer for YO Info.