Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014
After running her first marathon in 2008, Trina Chakrabortty decided the time was right to incorporate yoga into her daily exercise routine.
“My father encouraged it,” said Chakrabortty, now a second-year student in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. “Something immediately clicked for me. I noticed I had more energy and my running got better.”
A few years later, she enrolled in a 200-hour teacher certification program so she could share her newfound love with others. Today, Chakrabortty teaches two to six classes a week on the MCV Campus at the Larrick Student Center, as well as several other locations around the city, including the Robinson Theater Community Arts Center in Church Hill.
Many of her students are classmates looking to escape the stresses and demands of medical school.
“Trina is fabulous,” said Kate Waybill, a medical student. “Medical school is all consuming, and Trina understands the stresses we go through. She is so good at helping us let go of everything around us. When I leave, I feel relaxed and rejuvenated.”
For Chakrabortty, the benefits have proven even more life-changing.
“Yoga keeps me sane,” she said. “It’s really all about balance, which is hard to keep in medical school. Yoga has helped me keep it all in perspective. There’s that mental clarity – the clearer and more focused you are, the better able you are to handle stress.”
At 29, Chakrabortty is not your traditional medical student. After graduating from the College of William & Mary in 2006 with a degree in neuroscience, she began to doubt her desire to become a doctor. Her father is a family physician, and Chakrabortty previously had thought that would be her path, too.
“I had to take a detour first to get there,” she said with a laugh.
That change in direction took her west, where she earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Southern California. She worked on campus in university admissions, where her work with prospective students and faculty in the School of Public Policy exposed her to the obstacles within health care and medicine. A short time later she traveled to India, her parents’ home country, and recommitted herself to medicine.
“That trip really opened my eyes,” she said. “There are a lot of parallels to the health care issues in this country – most notably the lack of access to health care in certain settings.”
Detour over. She started prepping for the MCAT, completed a one-year graduate-level certificate program and was accepted into the VCU School of Medicine. Since then, she’s been focusing not only on her studies, but also on her new duties as the School of Medicine Class of 2017’s wellness representative, chosen by her classmates to help them maintain a balanced life.
“Yoga is a great avenue to promote overall health and well-being with my classmates,” she said. “To help them is a real honor. Since I began teaching here, my classes have been packed. Some even ask if I can teach more often. To me, that is very humbling.”
Despite her busy schedule, Chakrabortty finds time to volunteer for Project Yoga Richmond. She also finds ample opportunity to promote health and wellness while assisting with planning the MCV Student Government Association Community Health Fair.
After graduating, Chakrabortty hopes to incorporate both yoga and medicine into her career.
“If I am going to tell patients to manage their lifestyle well, I need to do that myself,” she said. “To me, teaching people about good health at any level is what it is all about. Yoga has done a lot to enrich my life, so it only makes sense that I empower others to enrich their own.”
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