February 14, 2020
Yoga Practice Enhances PA Practice for Barb Morrison
How Yoga Helps One PA Remain Focused on Patient Care
March 28, 2018
By Kate Maloney
Barb Morrison, PA-C, always knew she wanted to help people. She studied psychology as an undergraduate, worked in mental health for a few years, and seriously began to consider a career in medicine during this time. She spent time shadowing physicians and meeting other healthcare providers – PAs among them. She decided to go to PA school, as it provided her and her family the flexibility and lifestyle she was looking for.
Morrison has been a practicing PA since 1991 – working in primary care, emergency medicine, family practice, and occupational health. She has been working in internal medicine for 12 years, the last five with Sentara Medical Group in Norfolk, Virginia. She most enjoys “developing relationships over time with patients,” and has found the PA career rewarding and meaningful.
After a family move, and with two young children at home, Morrison attended a yoga class at her local gym. The American Osteopathic Association touts both physical and mental benefits of yoga: increasing flexibility and muscle strength and tone; improving respiration, energy, and athletic performance; creating mental clarity and calmness; relieving chronic stress patterns; and relaxing the mind and centering attention.
Morrison experienced all of these benefits in her own practice: “It helped me to relax, stretch, and stay focused when daily life tried to overwhelm me,” she says. “I loved the graceful ways it helped me move and it allowed my mind to settle.” A full-time PA and a mom, Morrison was grateful for the space yoga created for her in her life; she was hooked.
Morrison practiced yoga for 10 years before she considered training as a teacher herself. Her yoga practice had moved beyond stretching and “had started to work on the deep layers of my consciousness.” She found that “yoga was teaching me perspective and how to keep myself balanced when life swirls around.” Having personally experienced so many benefits from yoga, she wanted to enhance her own practice and help others reap the rewards of yoga. Morrison finished yoga training in 2014, and now teaches two evenings a week. She continues her own daily home practice as well.
Besides her work as a PA and a yoga teacher, Morrison is also passionate about global health, and often travels around the world volunteering her time. She recently returned from Haiti, where she spent a week not only providing women’s health screenings and general medical education, but also evening yoga classes from the hotel rooftop. After long days, the yoga practice served “as a way to process the work we were doing and show gratitude for the beauty around us.”
She sees how her yoga practice benefits her PA work every day. Yoga helps her “learn more skillful ways to navigate the boundaries I need to keep” and avoid burnout. Yoga’s focus on breathing, reflection, and meditation allows Morrison to practice to her best ability. She finds that her daily yoga practice encourages her to “look up and out into the world, see more than my own small cubicle or exam room.”
Morrison implores her fellow healthcare providers to bring some of the tenets of yoga into the exam room. “Let us counter the image of the provider whose head is down, typing,” she says. “Instead, read faces and body language, feel for the space between the sentences. Give patients the time to tell their story and listen respectfully.”
Kate Maloney is AAPA’s senior manager of corporate communications. Contact her at [email protected].