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The Positive Power of Study Breaks in Med School

I used to think that the key to studying was how many hours you could put into it, but I have come to realize just how wrong that is, at least for me. Since starting medical school I have learned something that I wish I knew earlier when it comes to studying: quality is much more important than quantity. What this means is that study breaks are very important!

I also used to think yoga was just a bunch of stretching. The phrases Namaste and downward dog really didn’t mean anything to me, and being someone who could barely touch his toes, I always wrote off the practice of yoga entirely. That is until I decided to take advantage of the free, weekly classes that UMMS provides its students at Red Yoga. Without being too dramatic, I would say that taking up yoga has made such a positive impact on my life.

In my short time practicing yoga, I have come to learn a few things:

  • Yoga really is much more than just a bunch of stretching.

It is as much of a mental exercise as it is physical, and that’s why I think it makes for the perfect study break. It offers me the time and space to put down my schoolwork and just focus on me and my breathing. It really is hard to describe, but the feeling I have after class is incredible. When I lay on my mat trying to find stillness I feel relaxed and empowered. Rejuvenated and confident. Sure, I feel tired from the class itself, because yoga is actually incredibly challenging, but overall I feel recharged! It’s quickly become my favorite workout.

  • It’s okay to fail, and in fact, that’s a good thing!

This is something that I think is healthy for everyone, especially medical students. Even at Michigan where we have a wonderful pass/fail curriculum, there aren’t too many components of a medical student’s life where failing feels good. When you push yourself outside of your comfort zone by trying a new pose, holding one for even longer, or reaching for even more flexibility, it means you are challenging yourself and striving for growth. When you can’t hold that pose any longer and you fall, that just means you have the opportunity to get up and try again. When it comes to yoga, there is no good or bad. No 75% passing rate you need to attain by the end of the class. You’re not competing with anyone but yourself. For me, this means leaving the studio feeling better than when I walked in.

All that matters is you set an intention for yourself and you learn from your experiences. Yoga has taught me about the process of self-growth, and I think the positive components of this mindset and practice can be translated to medical school and life in general.

  • It offers you friendship, community, and great music.

Being in the Taubman Health Sciences Library with your classmates for great periods of time serves as a special form of bonding. But, when you have the opportunity to take a fun study break and exercise with your classmates it really fosters that sense of community, which is nice to have in a medical school. You see students from all years and you get to even make friends with the instructors and others from class outside of the medical school. Also, I’d be doing a disservice to all of the amazing instructors at Red if I didn’t mention that they play bomb music during all of their classes. The best part is you don’t have to try and remember any of the lyrics during class to google later, because they are always happy to share their playlists with you, which supplies you with great music for future study sessions. I wouldn’t even know of some of my absolute favorite songs if it wasn’t for starting yoga!

I have come to learn that medical school will push you outside of your comfort zone. It challenges you to work very hard so that one day you have the privilege of working very hard for your patients in order to provide the excellent care that they deserve. With that said, the nice thing about UMMS is they are constantly providing us fun ways to take those much needed and much deserved study breaks. Other than funding medical student yoga at Red, there are so many other fun events such as intramural sports, whirly ball matches, ice cream socials, cookie decorating, apple orchard visits, pumpkin carving, house dinners, CAMP, and of course the M-Home Olympics. These are just a few of the many fun events that UMMS offers its students to promote wellness and the chance to connect with other students and faculty.

UMMS cares about their students and wants to make sure that they are taking time for themselves along their journey. Because of UMMS I’ve found one of my new favorite things to do. One of my best friend’s mother once told them, the best kinds of doctors are relaxed and flexible. As I said, I used to struggle to touch my toes. But now, I have already noticed I am so much more flexible and I feel more relaxed. Here’s to hoping it really does make me a better (future) doctor!

Smiling medical students after a great work out.

A Sunday yoga class that will help fight the Sunday Scaries!