Drop the tub of Ben & Jerry’s. An alternative exists to alleviating your college stress. Spoiler Alert: It doesn’t include binge eating ice cream and drowning in your tears. Wait for it—exercise. But not just any type of exercise—yoga. I see the skepticism and disappointment in your eyes through the computer screen, but hear me out. Practicing yoga kills two birds with one stone: You build up your strength and flexibility while also releasing all your stress. (It also makes for cool Insta-pics, but that’s beside the point.) But we’ve all heard this before. So, why will yoga practically help us college students when we face another quarter mid-life crisis meltdown?
Yoga: The OG Exercise
The benefits of yoga top the number of Kim Kardashian’s selfies. This might be a slight exaggeration, but did you know that yoga helps with digestion, sleep problems and overall feelings of fatigue? If that doesn’t describe a college student’s struggles to a T, I don’t know what does. With mediocre diner food, countless all-nighters and loud dorms, college students desperately need a solution. TG, yoga offers a solution and more. Yoga opens up tissues and lengthens and stretches muscles that support your back and spine, leaving you loose and relieved after a long day of slouching in uncomfortable desks.
Some people even use yoga as their main source of exercise because it works so many different muscles in the body. “Yoga is a singularly beneficial practice because of its potential to be inclusive,” yoga instructor Eva Dawson said. “The physical benefits are endless and the application of yoga can adapt to meet a vast breadth of physical needs and conditions.”
Become One With Yo’self
When practicing yoga, you focus your mind on your body. Wait, what? Literally, you practice concentrating your mind on the movements, aches and sensations that your body constantly throws at you. We so often ignore these signals because of the millions of thoughts about school and life crowding up our brain.
Saying “amm” for five full minutes may feel awkward and pointless, but your instructor has a purpose. “When we breathe deeply, invert the body or do any kind of restorative work we cue the parasympathetic nervous system or the ‘rest and digest’ aspect of the nervous system,” Dawson said. “The benefits of this include healthy digestion, deep sleep and generally more at ease mental state.” Again, it’s like yoga was designed specifically for college students.
Way Up, I’m Feelin’ De-Stressed
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your relationships, workload or college life in general? That was a rhetorical question; of course you do! You’re a 20-something college student still figuring out how many days (or weeks TBH) you can wear a pair of jeans before they’re considered dirty. The myths ring true: Yoga reduces your stress. Even on the day when every assignment falls on the same due date, yoga provides a way to feel grounded and focused.
“I find that when my attention is spread thinly over a lot of responsibilities and work, I become anxious and less able to pour sustainable energy into that work,” Dawson said. “Yoga was a way for me to connect with a deeper, more stable part of myself in college. I found that I cleared space during my practice that was needed to absorb more information and to invest in work that I cared about.” Raise your hand if you can relate *all readers raise their hands.* “When you learn how to reduce your stress, you have more access to your fine thinking and other intelligences, and challenging situations are less of a struggle,” Forrest Yoga Guardian teacher Colleen Millen said. 10/10 would recommend yoga.
Young Grasshopper, You Are Now A Yogi
Yoga does more than provide an exercise regimen for hippies. It can leave lasting positive affects on your physical, mental and overall health. “I have learned to harness my breath when I’m anxious, how to ground myself when I’m restless but should be in bed, [and] how to get blood flowing to my brain when I don’t want to get out of bed,” Dawson said. “I know how to take care of myself and how to be sensitive to my own needs in large part because of yoga.”
You don’t need some fancy studio or prior experience to begin practicing yoga. Put a towel down on your dorm room floor, look up a YouTube video and you’re good to go—or simply close your eyes and take in some deep breaths. “Even taking 10 minutes to lie on the back and breathe into the belly will help calm down a busy mind and you’re doing yoga,” Dawson said. “There’s always a few extra minutes even on the craziest of days to pause and take five deep breaths.”
Yoga is an exercise that focuses on breathing…breathing. And I know you all can breathe. So, who’s with me? Yogis unite!