The benefits of becoming a back-to-school yogi
By Kate Vincent, Contributor
As the sun begins to set earlier and the socially-distanced patio parties slow down, students are anticipating the unexpected. We have new professors to meet, course outlines pouring in and schedule changes to navigate. This could pose the question: who on earth would suggest that students spend any of their valuable time on anything else but preparing for this semester? Especially on something as indulgent as yoga?
In this age of Instagram yogis posting glamorous pictures adorned with an inspirational quote, it can be hard to imagine how contorting our bodies into these wild poses (and paying a pretty penny to do so) could benefit our ability to study, write or pay attention to online lectures. Yet, study after study shows the incredible ability yoga has — not only to make us physically strong, but to alter our internal states in a way that can change how we respond to external stress.
Recent research shows yoga decreases stress, anxiety and depression by regulating cortisol (big, mean stress hormone) and activating the parasympathetic nervous system (think the opposite of fight or flight). A regular yoga practice increases delta and alpha activity in your brain and improves mental performance (another 10-page research essay? Bring it). Kids are able to pay attention and focus for longer periods of time and regulate their emotions more efficiently. So, why are so many students not doing it?
I started asking people who don’t do yoga what their biggest hesitations were, and it all came down to time, money and a fear that they would be “bad” at yoga.
The word yoga is a Sanskrit word that means “to yoke” mind, body and spirit. That being said, to do anything with attention could be considered yoga, whether it is tying a shoelace, cooking a meal or taking 10 minutes of your day to sit and watch your breath.
As a fellow university student, I hear you on the money front, and yes, studio classes tend to run on the pricey side. Fortunately, the amount of free yoga and meditation classes available online is almost overwhelming — simply by searching for it on Google or Youtube. A good resource is “Yoga with Adriene”.
Lastly, I am pleased to tell you that there is no such thing as being “good” at yoga. It is a never ending, non-linear and completely unique person-to-person practice that some days might feel great and other days might feel more similar to a fish out of water. However, I assure you, even if you simply spend 10 minutes a day flopping around on the floor — doing your best to notice your breath and how you feel without any expectation or judgement — you will become a master yogi, a productive student and a pretty chill human being.