Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Pranayama in the Emergency Room

Last night I spent an unusually long time in an emergency room.  This happens to me a lot.  Pretty much any time that I call a doctor and the words “chest pain” and “prior heart surgery" come out, they send me right to the ER.  So when I called my GP and asked if someone could just give me a quick listen as I was having some unusual chest pain (and the reality is that I have pretty much constant chest pain), they insisted that I head right to the hospital.  Unfortunately I got to the ER in the middle of a flu outbreak and days after New Year’s resolutions started, so the place was filled to the gills with sneezers, coughers, and people retching their way through detox.

Throughout it all, I remained calm.  Funny how yoga does that to you.

When other people were raging “I’ve been here for two hours!  Where’s the fucking doctor!”, I would follow up with triage and say, “Excuse me, I told myself I would only check in every 90 minutes or so, but would you be able to tell me where I am on the list?  Another few hours to go?  Thank you very much”.  I spent roughly seven hours in the waiting room, with one paperback book (The Man Who Never Missed, a kung-fu & yoga filled sci-fi novel) and a half-charged Itouch.  Between chapters I spent a lot of time practicing pranayama.  A lot.  Seriously, hours and hours of controlled breathing, each breath in taking four heartbeats, each breath out four heartbeats.  Since I have a mechanical aortic valve each beat carries an audible tick that I can always hear, so I learned over the hours to time my breath to the four beats.  Once in an examine room I switched to meditation, and kept the breath practice between x-rays and blood tests.  Around 3am they sent me home with a couple of Tylenol. 

Today I went to my standard Tuesday night yoga practice, which involved a little less movement than usual and a lot of holding strong poses.  After half an hour or so I noticed that there was change in the way I held poses.  It was the breathing.  The four beats in, four beats out rhythm that I established to pass the time in the ER was the same breath that I used throughout my practice. 

Sometimes adversity is just an opportunity to learn.  Namaste.

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