Student Spotlight: Adrienne Phillips
Profession: Hematologist and Medical Oncologist; Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center; Assistant Attending at New York Presbyterian Hospital
I received a free weeklong invitation to try Land Yoga last year as part of a Holiday gift raffle. I didn’t end up trying it until April though as I was pretty committed to my regular exercise at the gym (running, zumba, boot camp classes, etc). I had also tried yoga before- Hatha and Bikram, and it never really stuck. Though I enjoyed Bikram, it was challenging to fit the class into my daily routine. With Hatha, perhaps I never really learned it correctly but I didn’t feel like I was getting an adequate work-out and I always found my mind wandering to other things during the class. After my first week of Ashtanga style yoga with Lara I immediately enjoyed it and felt like I was truly getting a different type of exercise. Learning postures one at a time forced me to perfect them before moving on (key for my perfectionist personality!). Simultaneously incorporating the breathing technique also relaxed me and allowed me to maximize each posture.
Learning Ashtanga also came at a particularly stressful time in my professional career when I was feeling overwhelmed with career decisions and taking care of very sick patients. Starting each day quietly breathing and going through the postures allows me to come into work prepared for any challenge. It’s also helped me during moments of stress during the day as I find myself practicing the breathing technique when feeling overwhelmed or stressed.
Health-wise, it’s also been helpful as my blood pressure had been running high and now it’s better controlled without medications. My first free week turned into a month and now 6 months later, I try to practice at least 4 times a week. I feel stronger, healthier and happier overall and it has really become part of my everyday routine. Next month, I will be hiking Mount Kilimanjaro and I’ve intensified my practice now essentially going daily and jogging to the studio. I particularly feel my core getting stronger which will help with the daypack I will wear on the hike. The breathing technique will also come in handy as just how breathing deeply and focusing more on my breaths helps be position myself just a little bit deeper in the postures, so too will it help me focus on the endurance I will need to reach the summit of the mountain (I hope). My life as a physician can be very chaotic and intense, and in my particular field of oncology I frequently deal with quite sick and at times dying patients. Practicing Ashtanga yoga each morning has grounded me and allowed me to focus better not only on my patients and career but also myself and the simple things that makes life enjoyable.
Regarding advice I would say yoga is a practice and you must enter each class with an open mind and prepared for a challenge. Some days postures come easily and other days they don't but I am patient and enter each class with a clear head and open for whatever experience I will have for the day.