Making Yogi Doctors

Introducing yoga into high-stress medical school programs is a win for students and for their future patients.

Between long hours spent studying in a highly competitive program and sleep-depriving hospital rotations, few medical students have much time for self-care. In India, that's about to change. The India Times recently reported that the Medical Council of India (MCI) recently instituted a new policy that requires undergraduate medical students participate in sports and extracurricular activities, including yoga, to obtain their medical degrees.

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Four percent—or 78 of the total of 1,880—of curriculum hours in the first two years of their medical school program will now be dedicated to these activities. "We will teach students how they can stay healthy and fit by practising yoga and participating in sports," the article quoted a senior member of MCI as saying.

While mandatory yoga hasn't made it into medical schools in the U.S., more schools, particularly those with integrative medicine programs, offer elective self-care classes in things like yoga and meditation to counter the stressors of their studies. (Depression, burnout, and suicidal thoughts are common among med school students.) And in addition to helping students get through their program, organizers at Boston University's School of Medicine, for example, hope the yoga elective also gives students firsthand experience to the relaxation benefits so they may someday prescribe the practice for their patients, according to a report on WBUR's CommonHealth program.