Yoga: The Answer to Everything

I’m going to shoot straight with you: my wonderful assistant just quit last week and I’m overwhelmed. I’d love to describe how my summer vacation is off to a wonderful start, how my meditation has never been better, how patient I am with my kids… but the honest truth is that I’m having a really hard time.

Her last day was 10 days ago. I’m trying to write a book. I’m trying to be on vacation, to give my adrenals a rest. I’m trying to plan carefully my next move with my integrative medical practice. But I checked my work inbox yesterday and I’ve got 182 emails stacked up since she left. I feel stressed. My cortisol, the main stress hormone, is high – I can feel it. It’s uncomfortable. It gives me a wired, anxious feeling. It’s unsettling.

I want to be grounded, energized, present, but really I’m trying to figure out: What Next? Should I hire another assistant? Should I be more virtual in my practice? What can I automate? How can I consciously set and maintain clear boundaries so that I’m not overwhelmed by patient emails, phone calls and the like? How can I deliver my gift, my Great Purpose, which I believe is guiding women toward juicier vitality, and minimize the busyness that doesn’t suit me – the responsibilities that come with prescriptions, the frantic phone calls, the emails with 7 bullet items.

Fortunately, I know from 20+ years of managing overwhelm that one thing always helps: YOGA. A friend texted me last night to go to class this morning, and I realized, “Ah, that is exactly what I need.”

Hard class. Puddles of sweat. My shoulders felt crunchy and geriatric from months of a more yin-style home practice. My hips were tight. But just when I started to spin into my “WHAT-SHOULD-I-DO-WITH-MY-MEDICAL-PRACTICE?” during class, the teacher said just the right thing: “Asana Jail. It’s when you come into your asana and stop breathing.”

Right. Keep breathing. Stay in the Parasympathetic Tone; that is, rest and digest, rather than spiralling into Sympathetic Tone, a.k.a. fight or flight.

Break this process down into asanas. Modules.

Module 1 = Step up my virtual assistant help so I have more freedom from the old narrative. The old narrative is my previous way of practicing medicine, which no longer serves me. Find the eye in the storm.

Module 2 = Dream about what I most want. Paint the picture. Don’t worry about “the how” – linger in “the what.”

Module 3 = Add some reflection. Where do I feel restricted today? What is the impact? Who has restricted me today? Why? How did I let myself feel restricted today?

Small changes. Big impact. Yoga helps everything. Stay out of asana jail. Right.


  1. Jude on July 31, 2011 at 8:19 am

    Amazing how the simplest things are often so easy to forget…like breathing! Worrying makes me hold my breath, but if I “Don’t worry about the HOW” and “Linger in the WHAT,” I can always exhale a big sigh of relief. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Sara Gottfried MD on July 31, 2011 at 2:27 pm

      Exhaling right there with you, Jude!

  2. Lisa on July 31, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Yes, Yes…can so relate to the growing pains of transition, of work/purpose bearing more reach and weight in the world…of needing the in breath in equal measure to the out breath. Beautiful reminders.

  3. Anna Guest-Jelley on July 31, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Right there with you. I always find it amazing how easy it is for me to forget how incredible yoga is for times of overwhelm despite over a decade of practice, but eventually I remember, hop on my mat and find some stillness in my body. From that place of stillness, I usually find a way through — or at least more clarity with which to look at what’s going on. Thanks for the lovely post!

  4. shayla on May 21, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    Sara, i love this post. it’s a great reminder. i especially needed to hear (read) the parts about asana jail and about, “don’t worry about the ‘how,’ linger in the ‘what’.” you’re always full of good advice!