Fahad K.

Yoga techniques can help me develop my inner voice and strengthen my outer voice and my communication skills.

I found yoga by Googling “How can I get more flexible?” I’d recently completed my residency and fellowship training and was getting back in shape after the intense focus of my post–medical school training. Part of that was experimenting with the best ways to approach diet and fitness, and my personal trainer had told me I had limited mobility in my hips and shoulders. I started taking yoga (I also had to Google “What do guys wear to do yoga?” before my first class) and it worked—I was getting more flexible and able to lift heavier weight. And, without having intended to, I was also being exposed to yoga philosophy, pranayama, and meditation. I was intrigued enough to take a 200-hour teacher training at my local studio, and then to enroll for my 500-hour certification at Kripalu.

As an anesthesiologist at New York University School of Medicine, with a subspecialty in pain medicine, I see people dealing with back, neck, and shoulder pain, and I typically treat them with injections or minimally invasive surgery. But a lot of people I was seeing were just not getting better with injections, surgery, pills, or even physical therapy, so I started recommending yoga. Many of them have been able to get off their medications once they develop a regular practice. The possibilities are really inspiring. I’m particularly interested in yoga research and its ramifications; I’m working with a medical student on a systematic review of clinical research on yoga for low-back pain. Every single one of my patients could benefit from yoga.

I’m also realizing how important yoga is for my own health and self-care, both physically and mentally. One of the biggest procedures I do is implanting spinal cord stimulators, which takes several hours and requires a big team of surgical assistants, technicians, and nurses. If I take 30 seconds to get centered beforehand, I’m more focused and better able to stay calm if the unexpected happens. Yoga techniques can help me develop my inner voice and strengthen my outer voice and my communication skills. I’ve also found myself bringing yoga into the procedure room—for example, asking patients to take deep breaths to help them relax. Yoga is making me a better doctor.