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Diary of a Yogi PhD

Being a Yogi and engaging in my daily yoga routine had been helping me maintain a physical and mental balance in my everyday life and was something I would look forward to daily. So when I was shifting to Edinburgh for the PhD one of the (many) uncertainties that were running around in my mind was: would it even be feasible to continue my practice? Yoga has been something that’s been a constant part of my life for well over a decade and the fear that I might have to abandon it was something that I was not looking forward to. Fast forward two years into the PhD journey and I’m relieved to say that not only have I been able to continue my practice but it is one of the few things that helps keep me focused, disciplined and mentally sound to navigate the rigours of the PhD journey. While continuing my yogic explorations during my PhD journey, here are a few things that I’ve learnt. 


Embracing the chaos and uncertainty: shifting to a new country and restarting your life is a daunting task in itself; throw in a PhD for good measure and the task seems formidable! In the midst of the chaos of finding a house in the middle of a housing crisis, settling down into the programme, making new friends and getting used to a new culture, seeking out some form of stability and familiarity was something that really helped me find my feet and stay grounded. Yoga was a life saver here, something that I could fall back on to help me provide the comfort of the mundane and habitual amidst the uncertainty.  


Discipline and perseverance: yoga is discipline, there’s no two ways about that! This is something that was drilled into us while doing the yoga course and is something that has (annoyingly, according to my partner and friends!) stayed with me since. I would refuse to compromise on my daily practice digging out time to squeeze in my practice whenever possible, and becoming crabby when I couldn’t. This seems to have seeped into my personality somehow, allowing me to effortlessly buckle down and engage in whatever I need to without any excuses. Conveniently, discipline and perseverance seem to be vital tools in a PhD researcher’s arsenal. Whether it be working long hours into the night or powering through to the weekend to meet a deadline, all of this (at least so far!) seems to be effortlessly doable, which I can attribute a lot to my yoga habit.  


Mental balance and wellbeing: yoga is first and foremost an exercise in maintaining mental balance and wellbeing. It is a common misconception that yoga focuses on physical outcomes; the physical outcomes are a by-product of the true goal of yoga, which is helping an individual achieve inner peace and harmony. Even in the Patanjali Yoga Sutras the seminal text on yoga, the goal or purpose of yoga has been explained by the sutra (i.e. a rule or aphorism in Sanskrit literature): yogah citta vritti nirodaha (PYS: 1.2) (i.e. yoga is the cessation of the modifications or fluctuations of the mind). By removing these fluctuations, one is able to reduce and eventually completely free oneself of any forms of influence on the mind which will allow one to achieve a sense of inner peace and mental wellbeing. Anecdotally speaking, this resonates with me as a deep sense of calm and tranquillity envelopes me as my routine gets underway that is the perfect elixir to get the day up and running. While I am a proponent of exercising or doing yoga in the evening after a stressful day’s work I cannot express enough the impact of a morning yoga routine on the rest of the day. Getting into a tranquil mind space before heading out to the office for a day of PhD-ing has so many benefits related to productively engaging with the day’s tasks that now the day seems incomplete without my morning yoga routine.  

Insights- personal and PhD related: Personal insights are a staple of yoga- heightened awareness both physical and mental- that help an individual grow not only in their yoga journey but in their personal life as well. It’s something I have become accustomed to and actually look forward to while being on the mat, like a personal therapeutic undertaking. However gaining insights into the PhD work I am doing, this was a pleasant surprise! I found out that a lot of the solutions to the problems I face related to my PhD seem to be answered while I am on the mat. Challenges that I may have been struggling with for days are serendipitously overcome while on the mat, either while meditating or while in the flow of the asanas (i.e yogic postures). Rather than focussing on the how and why I have made it a point to keep an audio recorder next to me so every time inspiration hits, I can record it for future use.  


Practicing yoga has had a positive impact on my health and wellbeing during my PhD and, as I mentioned, even the PhD work itself! Although there are times when it can feel like I have too much on my plate, prioritising yoga has helped me to keep my work-life balance in check and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 


Want to try yoga for yourself?

The university offers several affordable avenues to practice yoga, including free yoga sessions on Fridays provided by the chaplaincy! Take a look at the links below:




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