practicing hatha yoga while being on call

parley: yoga & the crisis worker

I’ve had two new things enter my life recently, the first being yoga and the second being on-call for mental health crises. Quite opposite, I know. I’ve been ramping up my yoga practice to “as frequently as I can go” mode in order to compensate for the stress, anxiety, and fear inherent in crisis work.

In the four short months I have been regularly practicing, I have already experienced the high from regular practice and simultaneous management of a chaotic life, down to wondering why I’m not managing as well, and then realizing I haven’t been to a yoga class in two weeks. After my wonderment about how positively yoga had impacted my life, I quickly picked it back up.

Now, being on call is also a new experience. The 12 hour shifts are a combination of freedom and captivity; where you can do what you want so long as you are available at a moments notice. Cranking a jack-in-the-box for 12 hours, if you will. This past Saturday I decided that I would try something different; going to a class while on call.

I rolled out my mat, changed from my business casual clothes, and set my silenced pager next to my mat. I noticed my anxiety creeping up. I was already wondering how I would be able to focus, let alone worrying about worrying about being focused. But this was a challenge, and class was starting. Shavasana. 

Behind closed eyes my mind was flying. I hope I make it more than 10 minutes! I wonder how quickly I’ll be able to reach the pager if it goes off? Am I being rude? This pager makes me feel sort-of important. “Wow,” I thought. “This is going terribly. What can I do to fix this?”


Putting my trust in mindful, focused breath and movement worked me through my anxiety about being called, ability to focus, and fellow yogis. Virabhadrasana; Parivrtta Anjaneyasana; Plank; Adho Mukha Svasana. Breathe. I found myself in that calm, content place. Even as I got paged 30 minutes in to my practice I calmly waited through 3 poses, came out of downward facing dog, and excused myself to make a call.

Happily I was able to return and finish class, more easily slipping back into a mindful state than the first time. Discovering that I had the ability to let go under pressure has reinforced that yoga is applicable to my life outside the studio, that it is more than a workout. I find myself using the mind-space of Shavasana, and kundalini -breath of fire- to let go of frustrations. I am happy about the two new things in my life, and am excited to see the ways in which my roles as crisis worker and yogi continue to parley. 

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