By: Sabrina Wang
As a pre-med student, life gets pretty hectic. Between juggling classes, studying for exams, student orgs, volunteering, working, research, and finding time with friends, there really isn’t much time for anything else–except panicking over everything just listed and constantly feeling like you aren’t doing enough, and everything you were doing just wasn’t good enough. At least that’s how it felt for me. My usual stress outlets of sitting in bed watching Netflix and baking were no longer working for me, and actually made me feel guilty and even more stressed that I wasn’t being productive enough.
I had a pretty rough freshman year in college and along with that came the very, very real freshman 15. When I went home for the summer, I vowed to start looking more after my health–mentally and physically. Luckily, I had a few amazing friends with the same mindset and together, we pushed each other to get fit all summer. At first, I was just determined to lose the weight that I had put on. Every time I taped my hands and hit the punching bags with my pink gloves on, I was thinking about how many calories I’m burning and how much I can eat for the rest of the day. But about a month into summer, that wasn’t enough for me. Running and exercising used to be so energizing and fun for me, but now it wasn’t satisfying because I was too focused on the numbers and results. And here, starts my journey with yoga.
My very first hot yoga class was a Bikram class. And let’s just say it was not love at first sweat. I could barely touch my toes, the sweat was dripping into my eyes and melting off my makeup. Did I mention it was 100 degrees? But there was something extremely calming about it. Perhaps it was the lulling music or the soothing voice of the instructor, but I liked it and I came back the next day. And the next. And probably skipped the next but was dragged back by a friend the following day. The first week, I was extremely self-conscious and felt the people around me or the instructor was judging me because I wasn’t as fit as they were. As time passed though, I realized we were all too focused on our practice to care. For the first time in years, I left the house without a drop of foundation on. I sneaked glimpses around me at the other women and men (yes, men!) and I could literally feel their inner peace empowering me. “Let there be rolls!” I thought (cakes are overrated, Marie A.) as I took off my sweat-soaked tank and stood there with everyone else. It was SO empowering to be so vulnerable and just not care. Or rather, just the opposite–to care so much about yourself and your mind and to be willing to dedicate the time to build your strength from the inside. It’s so much more than cheesy Instagram posts of posing on a mountain.
Building my self-confidence was just the beginning of my yoga experience. I love being in a room full of positive vibes and encouraged to think optimistically, especially if that’s how I start or end my day. I continued to do yoga when college started back up again, though not as regularly as I was able to in summer. When I didn’t have time or funds for classes, I picked up meditating and worked on calming my mind that way. Focusing on my thoughts and breath taught me better focus and staying engaged in what I do. I learned to breathe deeply and clear my mind before exams or when my thoughts raced through my head at night. I learned to be more accepting of my shortcomings and that failures, despite what I may think at the time, are not the end of the world. I learned to start and end my days with intention, and to be present in everything I do. Lastly, it helped me stop doing all the time–that it’s okay to take some time off and not feel guilty. Of course, I’m not perfect and I definitely don’t always follow through with everything I’ve learned through yoga thus far. I still over analyze my life and overwork myself but at least it’s a start. And as I finish up my pre-med years and go onto medical school and someday, become the physician I aspire to be, I will keep yoga in my life to slow down, breathe, and rebalance.
Sabrina is AMSA’s Education Development Coordinator. She is a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is currently studying Biology. Have questions for Sabrina? Please comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wellness Wednesday is an AMSA On Call blog series posted by the Wellness & Student Life Action Committee. If you are interested in writing a post, please contact the WSL Chair at email@example.com.