March Madness and the Yogic Vasectomy

Yogic positions; vasectomy
You don’t have to go this far, just get the breathing part down! Courtesy: Washington Post photo by Marvin Joseph

It’s time of the year again! A time of tournaments and TV, massive couch potatoing and a general dumbing down of fatherly responsibilities. All in the name of sports.

But men also tend do something very unique during tournament month. They get snipped. A recent health insurance study found that during the first round of the NCAA tournament, 30% more vasectomies were done than any other week of the year. If you just look at the first Friday of NCAA tournament month, 41% more vasectomies are done than on the average Friday.

Anxiety Be Gone

But let’s get more granular. Men still have to show up to a doctor’s office to get their wings clipped before they can enjoy the tourney, and that can stir up a heap of anxiety. Even after I tell them that it’s similar to (and shorter than) a dentist office visit. So when the rubber meets the road, how do we help men get through this?

Distraction, my friends, distraction! Commonly used today, distraction in medicine was an idea popularized by the writer Norman Cousins a couple of decades back when he observed that laughter reduced his medical pain from paralysis.

Medical research has since confirmed this over and over again. A recent paper in the journal Pain (ouch) showed that pain levels among men solving puzzles during a noxious skin procedure were lower than if left on their own and also came pretty close to the lowest pain levels received with numbing cream. Calm from consternation.

Distraction in Action

I applied this principle recently to a typically anxious patient having a vasectomy. He refused a mild sedative before the procedure, thinking he didn’t need it. But at crunch time, those 8 minutes when things start happening, his anxiety rose. Sometime jazz helps, but not here. Conversation helped a little but he needed more. So I asked him to take slow deep breaths… and that made all the difference.

I’m not exactly sure what type of Yogic breathing he used, whether it was kapal bhati, bee breath, bhastrika, nadi shodan or ujjai, but damn did it work! He looked like he had received full-on anesthesia as he surfaced again after the procedure. And with a wide grin, he said “Did we start yet?” I responded, “Yes, and we finished too… Dorothy.” Love those Wizard of Oz references.

So believe me when I say that there really is a method to March Madness. It may not be bad to be, in the words of T.S. Eliot says: “distracted from distraction by distraction.”

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