How do you do it?

by Christina on December 7, 2010

“Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul the work of the soul, and good for either the work of the other.” 

~Henry David Thoreau

I recently met a fellow ashtangi who is also a first year medical student in New York. She asked for advice on keeping up a yoga practice during medical school… and I need help coming up with a good answer.
How does ANYONE keep up a yoga practice through sleep deprivation, stress, exhaustion, emotional highs and lows (be it from graduate school, a demanding job, a break-up, new motherhood, etc)? It’s during these times that we especially need to make time for a daily practice. 
Here are some things that helped me maintain some sort of yoga practice over the past few years… it’s a list I’ll have to keep adding to as I have to figure it out all over again next year as an intern:
  • Get up in the early morning for a home practice. No matter how early! If you have to be at the hospital at 5:30, get up at 3:30… you may be tired at first but it will transform the rest of the day.
  • Make a little cup of coffee before practice. After such sleep deprivation I would honestly not have been able to practice without this.
  • Do a long practice at a studio on your days off. This makes all the difference! A home practice is really hard to maintain and having a weekly “tune-up” with a teacher/ yoga community is key.
  • Find like-minded friends. It may take a while to find them but they are out there! Crank up the heat and practice together at home (especially when the studio is closed). Do “partner yoga” sessions and experiment with new things.
  • Listen to your body and do the practice you need. Some days just sit, some days focus on second series, some days do more backbends or inversions… know what you need.
  • Take staycations. When you do get some precious vacation days, spend some time at home doing yoga, sleeping, eating well. Staycations are the best vacations 🙂
  • Do weekend workshops when possible. Take advantage of teachers when they come to you (you can learn a lot during one intense weekend).
  • Don’t hide your yoga practice from your other worlds. This is what I did for the first couple years of medical school (not sure where this came from – I guess I was afraid of what people would think), but by my 3rd year I stopped hiding it. I realized there are LOTS of people out there who do yoga or want to do yoga… so keep writing, talking, sharing, and build up the yoga community around you! 
That’s all I have for now, but I really want to hear what’s on your list… how do you do it?

Home practice with Caitlin (medicine intern) and Mariana (soon to be medical student!)

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

lilasvb December 7, 2010 at 4:50 pm

i love to read this, i do talk about yoga but it is recent, i wake upe earlier days when i am too busy

some days i do all my serie and some days only salutations and sit in breathing

and i alowed myself to rest one or 2 days in the week
living in a small island does not alowed me to take classes, only when i travel i can have this chance and mysore is my favorite, i do appreciate to read on blog like in your blog


ashtangi December 7, 2010 at 7:07 pm

love your advice, christina!


Christina December 8, 2010 at 7:59 pm

hey julia, love hearing from you on this 🙂 have you been going to Yoga Sutra in new york before morning classes at school?


Sara December 12, 2010 at 2:59 am

The best thing I've done to practice more regularly is to follow Manorma's advice and 'do something'. I start my practice and listen to what I should do. Some days it's just the standing series, a backward bend and a twist followed by legs up the wall. Sometimes I fit in a real full practice. And days where I just can't do anything I practice yin yoga and let t.v. play in the background to keep me there for at least an hour. Thank you so much for this post. It is just what I needed.


Christina December 13, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Hey Sara! I love Monorama's advice to just "do something." Thank you for sharing that 🙂 How do you like Portland and where do you practice? I was there a few weeks ago and went to Casey Palmer's place and loved it… unfortunately didn't have time to explore any other yoga there though.


Satkirin February 20, 2011 at 3:05 pm

I realized two things without practice-
1) I was still tired
2) I was less centered, maybe a little more ‘grouchy’

With practice, early rising:
1) I was tired to begin, but yay for coffee! Different kind of tired from getting less sleep, and practicing. Maybe cause of #2)….
2) I was centered, less ‘grouchy’.

It’s worse in residency, especially if you have to round on 12 surgical patients before 6am. And you actually document more than just their I/O’s…..

Post-call may work for some. Was a bust for me.
I was the Weekend Warrior. If only one day off, took two classes that day. If whole weekend off- would get in 2-4 classes. I couldn’t practice solo during residency. Period.
But everyone is different.


Christina February 20, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Satkirin – I loved reading this – thank you for sharing! I have a really hard time practicing alone also, and think this would be especially hard during residency… hopefully I can find a good yoga community wherever I end up! Love the idea of being a weekend warrior 🙂


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