Long Call, Long Haul (part 2)

May 22, 2012

A three-part series profiling life on the wards… and what you can do about it!


Part 2:  What’s your health-type?

I am labeled, fairly I guess, by many in my intern class as a “health nut.” I bring breakfast – whole grain cereal with almonds in a little plastic bag – and lunch – an avocado sandwich, yoghurt, and a nibble of dark chocolate – from home every day. I won’t touch the cafeteria food or the greasy Chinese served at mid-day report. I live far from the hospital and close to my yoga studio, a deliberate choice, which means a 25-30 minute subway ride downtown rather than a walk across the street to my apartment. I’m vegetarian. I hosted a talk on Ayurvedic medicine for the housestaff. I’m going into integrative medicine. If I am a health nut, it’s not accidental. Continue reading “Long Call, Long Haul (part 2)”

Physician, treat thyself (from time to time)!

March 5, 2012

After having made it through another holiday season of family gatherings and cocktail parties, I thought I had been asked every possible ‘first year of medical school’ question in existence: What kind of doctor do you want to be? Are you interested in what you’re learning? How’s the stress level? Do you like your classmates? – and the like. But over dinner with an old friend last week, I was finally confronted with a new and thought-provoking one: How has learning about the body changed the way you live? Continue reading “Physician, treat thyself (from time to time)!”

living anatome for Better Living & Learning

February 21, 2012

As a first year medical student, I made a promise to try to do yoga at least once a week. Not only did I fail to keep that promise, I think I only did yoga three times that entire year! As I progressed through medical school, I could not help thinking about this ever present question; don’t I deserve to treat my body with the same respect as I would recommend to my patients? Seems like a simple concept, yet surprisingly medical schools around the country do not seem to regard this as important. It’s not necessarily that medical schools lacks the resources or that medical students are unwilling to participate in self-care. Self-care just always seems to end up at the bottom of the to-do list. Continue reading “living anatome for Better Living & Learning”

LA feature: Pilates Style magazine, “Anatomy Lessons”

January 24, 2012

This profile of living anatome in Pilates Style magazine is short, sweet & to the point!

My favorite quote is from Carrie, eloquently stating the LA mantra:  “It’s paradoxical, but there is not much emphasis on self-care in the education of a medical student… But I believe all medical professionals have an obligation to maintain their own health. We can’t communicate with patients effectively about the importance of exercise and eating happens if we can’t practice what we preach!”

Continue reading “LA feature: Pilates Style magazine, “Anatomy Lessons””

Bye-Bye Back Pain!

December 19, 2011

My back’s been bugging me lately. I figure my life is kind of like a doctor’s — I see clients for several hours a day, am constantly on my feet, and have started to feel a tightness in the low back that sometimes aches. Similarly, all my physician friends have been telling me how tight their low backs feel after long shifts at the hospital. This one is for you guys!

Recently, I realized that I have been relieving that compressed-back feeling in the wrong way: I kept arching my low back (think cat-cow from yoga), or twisting side to side in a futile attempt to get the tight, painful feeling to go away.

Then I discovered a little trick for low back decompression that helped immensely:

Stand facing a wall and place your hands on the wall, lower than shoulder height. Walk your feet back a few steps, flex your hips, and lower your back into a flat, “tabletop” position (so that your back is perpendicular to your thighs). If this position is difficult, slightly bend your knees. Think of your ischial tuberosities (sits bones) reaching back toward the wall behind you. Now think of letting those sits bones turn upward towards the ceiling. You will probably feel a lengthening in the hamstrings; you might even feel a stretch of your lumbar spine. Breathe in, and breathe out. As you exhale, think of your femur heads dropping back into the hip socket. Think of space being created between your lumbar verterbrae. Breathe again, and decompress.

Staying in this position, think of your sits bones changing position, from pointing towards the ceiling to reaching toward the floor. In reaching them toward the floor, find a place where your tailbone drops and becomes heavy, forming a tucked position. Breathe deeply and allow your quadratus lumborum to lengthen (remember your QL extends between your iliac crest and your bottom rib).

Now bend your right knee, and let your left sits bone reach long behind you. Then switch, bending your left knee, and letting your right sits bone reach back. Feel the fascia along your back and gluteal muscles release. Breathe deeply and switch back and forth.

Doing this stretch daily should help you feel some relief – enjoy!

About the author

Priti Radhakrishnan is a Pilates teacher at Kinected, in New York city. In addition to her journey as a Pilates teacher, Priti has worked for nearly a decade as an attorney fighting for access to affordable medicines for patients living in poverty in the developing world. She loves to combine therapeutic Pilates with her experience working in clinical and low-income settings: her dream is to ensure that Pilates is available to everyone, regardless of economic status.

Watch your back!

November 21, 2011

“Let’s face it”, I told my sister earlier this year. “At the rate your shoulders have been elevating, they will be past your ears by graduation.”

“Not fair”, she retaliated. “I’ve been working hard. Med school is no cakewalk!”

No one says that the path to becoming a doctor is easy. So those of us who work in the movement world often worry about our friends in the medical arena. As Matt McCulloch, a Master Pilates Trainer in New York City, says: Watching students progress through medical school calls to mind a “reverse evolution,” as their thoracic spines become increasingly rounded and the students subsequently lose a few centimeters in height (and he should know, he met his wife while she was in med school!). Between studying, heavy pockets on white coats, and leaning over hospital beds, White Coat Kyphosis has become today’s norm.

There is a solution: watch your back.

I put this solution to the test earlier this year. I gave my sister 3 simple tasks to do to ensure that her spine remained erect, and that her shoulders stopped rising like lava bubbling out of a volcano. The tasks involved paying attention to 3 parts of the body: Continue reading “Watch your back!”

How Dr. X got his groove back

October 31, 2011

I have a friend. Let’s call him Dr. X. And like many of my other close friends and family members, as he went through medical school and residency, he lost his core.

Before Dr. X became an M.D., homeboy had it goin’ on! He was fit, he played all kinds of sports regularly, went to the gym often, and even let it drop to the ladies that his six-pack was in fiiiine shape. But with the long study hours, the all-consuming focus on medicine, and the insane hours of lectures, rotations, and residency, everything changed. And he started to notice changes around his middle, as his rectus abdominis slackened and (gasp) love handles started to appear. His low back had even started to hurt.

He was determined to get his groove back. He called me up and bemoaned the physical changes, asking for advice. Talking to the ladies was not feeling the same. He still had at least six years left of residency and fellowship – what to do?

Continue reading “How Dr. X got his groove back”

3 Conscious Breaths: The 20-Second Meditation

August 30, 2011

As a medical student, you may currently be in one of the most demanding phases of your life.  Meeting academic challenges, taking care of patients’ needs, dealing with hectic schedules, and trying to have a personal life, could easily exhaust you.  Achieving all of this requires a calm, focused mind and a strong sense of center.  In order to expend your energy in so many different directions successfully, you have to operate from the deep, calm core of who you are.  This way, everything you do will be much more effective and seemingly effortless.

Meditation increases your ability to stay calm and focused.   It’s not as mysterious as some may think.   Continue reading “3 Conscious Breaths: The 20-Second Meditation”

Calm your mind with the Wei

August 17, 2011

You’re not done studying for the shelf exam, you still have a power point presentation to work on, and—even though you’re exhausted–you’d really like to be prepared for rounds tomorrow morning. Sigh. With so much to do, you’re not even sure where to begin. If only your mind were calm, you could do more and enjoy life more while in med school.

Enter flower essences.

Allow me to explain: Flower essences are aqueous infusions of flowers that elevate your state of mind through the acupuncture meridians. Flower essences are therefore like acupuncture without the needles. Continue reading “Calm your mind with the Wei”

Bring your anatome to life!

June 20, 2011

Spinalis, longissimus, iliocostalis.  Months after the end of Gross Anatomy, these terms (names of the muscles essential for back extension) had trickled from the center of my consciousness to its edges—barely held onto by my sieve-of-a-memory that was already sifting through new material.  Yet on April 1st, I attended a living anatome class: a yoga-Pilates hybrid emphasizing the functional movements of muscles and bones.  Through movement, the class made true to its promise, emphasizing the living aspect of muscles and bones that Grey’s Anatomy just doesn’t quite capture with its diagrams on a page.  Not only did the class bring these muscles back into consciousness (even adding some new ones—the multifidus muscles were judged unimportant by my professor) but it solidified my understanding of my spinalis, longissimus, and iliocostalis.  Even now, when these terms should have surely fled my mind, I still think of stretching my back as extending my erector spinae. I would highly recommend the classes to any medical student interested in understanding not only anatomy—but their own bodies—better.


About the author

Steven A. McDonald is currently finishing his first year of medical school at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, where he is a wellness representative for his class.