November 17, 2021

This is MIT: Sabbi Lall

This is MIT: Sabbi Lall empowers students mentally and physically through yoga practice

Dr. Sabbi Lall has an established history in researching biochemical and molecular biology, but those around the MIT Recreation community may recognize her for a more zen practice.

Lall teaches the Wednesday morning Virtual Wake-Up and Stretch Yoga group exercise class, which focuses on gentle stretching postures and sun salutations to get you focused and ready for the day. In the spring of 2020, the class was moved online when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the MIT campus facilities.

“We wanted to start classes that could bring the MIT community together no matter where they were in the world,” Lall says. “Whether people were new to yoga or had many years of practice, I wanted to create a place where the MIT community could come together.”

Finding that community and fostering connections between her and her students is all part of the process, Lall says.

“I love that I see the same students and hear about the amazing events in their lives and progress in their practice,” explains Lall.

Lall joined MIT Recreation as a group exercise instructor after participating in a Bootcamp class and becoming enthralled by the group instruction dynamic. Lall explains that she would pop over to the Alumni Wang facility on her lunch breaks where she fell in love with the community and instructors at MIT Recreation.

Outside of MIT, Lall also instructs yoga and meditation at Down Under School of Yoga in Brookline, Massachusetts. Her approach to both places of instruction is all about empowerment and allowing her students to make their own paths through their yoga journeys.

“My major approach is ‘this is your practice.’ I want to empower students to develop their own practice,” says Lall. “I’m definitely no guru, but I want to give people the tools and a community where they feel supported and empowered on the mat and in their lives, both physically and mentally.”

While the physical challenge of her yoga practice is clear, its the mental element that sets Lall apart. With her background in biochemistry and her recent experience as the director of scientific planning at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Lall’s approach to yoga instruction is embedded with higher-level questions about the self and one’s purpose.

“I think some of the biggest questions in life are “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” Lall explains. “Molecular biology, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience are advancing our understanding of these questions. But stages in ancient India wondered about this too and came up with philosophical and experiential approaches. When I’m on the mat or meditating there are moments of clarity and insight that, for me, complement the knowledge that comes from science.”

Connecting the dots between the concrete science of life and the larger questions that we ask as humans is second nature to Lall, who spent nearly 7 years as the editor-in-chief of Cell Press, a publisher of biomedical journals, and 5 years as a senior editor at Springer Nature, a world-leading academic research publisher.

Lall’s morning Virtual Wake-Up and Stretch Yoga class takes place every Wednesday at 7:30 AM on Zoom. Those interested in signing up can do so by visiting the MIT Recreation Group Exercise page.

Interviewed and written by:

Maddy Jackson