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Yoga for nurses: we need to care for ourselves first.
Yoga’s amazing benefits for physical and mental health are well documented. The Mayo clinic has stated that “yoga helps reduce stress, lower blood pressure and lower your heart rate” among several other benefits.
Every nurse knows that the stress from patient care over a 12 hour shift can be exponential. Yet many nurses aren’t giving themselves the tender loving kindness we give to our patients! (I have written before about why nurses need to practice yoga if you are interested in reading).
Yoga is more then just exercise. It offers caregivers a way to give themselves more self care (ahem, nurses). It helps us take even better care of our families, our patients and ourselves.
1. Stress management
Nurses have a high workload in many hospital wards. The stress is compounded by managing patient healthcare needs and treatments, daily occupational stressors and even the many frequent changes in technology.
A study published in the National Institute of Biotechnology Information investigated the effects of yoga on stress coping strategies of ICU nurses. After only 8 weeks of yoga the results showed that the participating ICU nurses had significantly better focus coping strategies and a major reduction in perceived mental pressure. If that is what can happen after only 8 weeks, imagine the impact a regular, permanent yoga practice could have on stress management levels.
2. Prevent or eliminate chronic low back pain
Chronic back pain in the nursing population is a common ailment. An evidenced based review at the Texas Women’s University reported that estimates of chronic low back pain among nurses range from 50%-80%. Fortunately, the review also presented an overwhelming amount of studies that found that regular yoga significantly reduced symptoms associated with chronic low back pain and greatly improved overall physicality.
Yoga stretching not only increases flexibly, but increases muscle strength and prevents injuries such as chronic lower back pain. In a career as physically demanding as nursing, the more physically stable we are, the better care we can give to ourselves and our patients.
3. Prevent burnout and compassion fatigue
Lack of self-care can easily result in burnout and compassion fatigue in the nursing profession. As much as I hate to admit it, even I have questioned how long I can continue with the immense workload and emotional drain that is required of me as a nurse. Thankfully, I have found a productive way to manage this is through yoga and meditation. They help reignite my passion for encouraging others to take better care of themselves.
A study published in Workplace Health & Safety on yoga for self-care and burnout prevention of nurses found that yoga participants “reported significantly higher self-care as well as less emotional exhaustion upon completion of an 8-week yoga intervention.” While the control group demonstrated no change throughout the course of the study, the yoga group showed a significant improvement in scores for self-care, mindfulness, and emotional exhaustion outcomes.
My yoga prop essentials list to start your yoga journey:
I have practiced yoga pretty religiously for 12 years and have tried many different things along the way. These are a few of the yoga props I use at the studio and at home that are good for anyone starting their yoga journey.
I love this yoga mat. The quality is very good for the price. It is soft with a relatively nice thickness compared to other yoga mats I have tried. In addition, it has nice grooves that keep the mat in place. A Velcro carry strap comes with the yoga mat to keep it rolled up nicely.
2. Yoga Blocks
I love the cork Manduka yoga blocks because I have had mine for 6 years and they still look brand new! Unlike foam blocks, these don’t disintegrate over time due to sweat and regular use. They are also heavier and more sturdy with a trustworthy grip. It is a good idea to purchase 2 because many yoga poses require the need for two blocks.
3. Yoga Strap
This yoga strap is useful for all levels of yoga practice and can provide support, help with alignment and improve posture. This one even comes with a DVD to show several ways you can use the strap.
If you are going to purchase both cork blocks and the strap you can get a little bit of a discount by purchasing them as a bundle.
Yoga makes you feel good!
Don’t we all want to feel good in our own skin? Yoga empowers nurses to create a happier, healthier and more productive work environment by making us the best version of ourselves.
For better or worse, nurses serve as role models in the healthcare community. We need to practice what we preach. Why would a patient listen to our advice on how to life a healthy life if we are not living one ourselves?
Are you a busy nurse or mom who is interested in starting a yoga practice? Do you already have a yoga practice? What are your thoughts? I would love to hear!
Happy yoga practicing!
Sarah, Mother Nurse Love