Yoga classes have been popping up more and more around college campuses partly due to the unhealthy amount of stress students face on a daily basis. Chronic anxiety takes a toxic toll on the body and mind and yoga provides an outlet. Although I am far from a yoga aficionado, I am always happy when the semester starts back up and I can try out the plethora of yoga classes Bucknell’s KLARC center offers. I always feel the benefits of attending even just one class a week. Yoga allows me to release my stresses, embrace the present moment, and appreciate myself and my surroundings. Yoga’s benefits also extend into my hours and even days after the class. Here are some compelling reasons to attend a class:
Reduce Anxiety and Manage Stress
According to the American Yoga Association, anxiety increases when we don’t exercise because our muscles build tension, our breathing becomes constricted, and our mind undergoes a state of restlessness. By performing the practice, we regulate our breath while relaxing our body, and by doing so, we release muscle tension and flush fresh blood, oxygen, and other nutrients throughout our brain and body. Additionally, by concentrating simply on inhale and exhale, we recenter our awareness to our essential being: our breath.1
Increase Focus and Brain Function
Concentrating on one’s inner self and breath while reducing anxiety and stress leads to impressive cognitive results. In 2013, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that people who did hatha-style yoga for 20 minutes performed better on brain tests that measured focus and working memory than people who walked or ran on a treadmill for the same length of time. Study lead Neha Gothe, a professor of kinesiology, health and sport studies at Wayne State University in Detroit, observed:
“It appears that following yoga practice, the participants were better able to focus their mental resources, process information quickly, more accurately and also learn, hold and update pieces of information more effectively than after performing an aerobic exercise bout….The breathing and meditative exercises aim at calming the mind and body and keeping distracting thoughts away while you focus on your body, posture or breath. Maybe these processes translate beyond yoga practice when you try to perform mental tasks or day-to-day activities.” 2
Improve Sleep Quality
Between balancing academics, extracurricular activities, and a social life, sometimes sleep isn’t our first priority. According to a study conducted at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, “70 percent of college students receive less than the eight recommended hours of sleep.”3 Yet sleep is vital for a person’s health and well-being. The most important component to falling asleep is having a calm mind when you hit the pillow. Yoga can aid in this. The International Journal of Yoga has found that the slowing of breath and focus on the present shifts the “balance from sympathetic nervous system and the flight-or-fight response to the parasympathetic system and the relaxation response,” and as a result, lowers heart rate. Thus lowered heart rate creates tranquility, a greater sense of well-being, and less anxiety. By converting what we learned in yoga into our mindset as we wind down for the night, we have the power to normalize our sleep cycle. Asanas, pranayama, and yoganidre all relieve any stress, tension, and fatigue you may be feeling, providing you the power you need to fall asleep and creating a more restful slumber.4
Additionally, substantial evidence concludes that sleep plays an essential role in learning and memory processes. Scientists have recently been able to manipulate sleep to reach such conclusions. Many studies have found the absence of sleep impairs neurocognitive processes (among other processes), thus resulting in worsened school performance. By sleeping more, we can actually study less.5
Appreciate Yourself and Feel Powerful
Yoga has taught me to not be so hard on myself but rather thankful for myself. I realize that I don’t need to stress the small stuff and, by doing so, I develop a new perspective of problems I am facing. Certain poses, such as the warrior II pose, awaken my own power. By working every muscle and releasing tensions, I feel the connection, both mentally and physically, between relaxation and strength. As I search for stillness of body, I end up discovering stillness of mind. I also feel better about myself because even the simple act of attending a yoga class adds balance to my life and achieving a balanced life is essential for my personal effectiveness and happiness.
Other benefits of practicing yoga include boosting immunity, perfecting posture, lowering blood sugar, building awareness, improving relationships, and encouraging self-care . It’s no wonder that a study by the Yoga Journal found that 20 million people in the US practice yoga. If you haven’t yet joined the yoga revolution, here is your chance. Namaste.
Yoga teachers (and my house mates!) Heather and Chloe strike a yoga pose after a successful and sweat inducing yoga class.
KLARC Yoga schedule:
9-10: Vinyasa Yoga with Keri (will begin in Oct)
3:30-4:30: Yoga with Chloe
6:30-7:30: Restorative Yoga with Taylor
9-10: Yoga with Lisa
4:30-5:30: Power Vinyasawith Heather
9-10: Vinyasa Yoga with Keri (will begin in Oct)
9-10: Yoga with Lisa
3:30-4:30: Power Vinyasa with Heather
7:30-8:30: Yoga with Chloe
4:30-5:30: Yoga with Staci
1. “How Yoga Helps Reduce Anxiety and Manage Stress.” American Yoga Association. American Yoga Association, n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2015.
2. Castillo, Michelle. “Yoga May Improve Focus, Ability to Remember New Things.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 10 June 2013. Web. 02 Sept. 2015.
3. Shragge, Rebecca. “Sleep Deprivation Soars among College Students.” The Aggie. The California Aggie, 17 Feb. 2010. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <http://www.theaggie.org/2010/02/17/sleep-deprivation-soars-among-college-students/>
4. “Yoga.org.nz/members-preview.” Yoga and Insomnia. Yoga.org, 5 Aug. 2008. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. http://yoga.org.nz/benefits/physiological_benefits/yoga_insomnia.htm
5. Woodyard, Catherine. “Abstract.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 30 Dec. 0005. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193654/>.
- “How Yoga Helps Reduce Anxiety and Manage Stress.” American Yoga Association. American Yoga Association, n.d. Web. 02 Sept. 2015. ↩
- Castillo, Michelle. “Yoga May Improve Focus, Ability to Remember New Things.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 10 June 2013. Web. 02 Sept. 2015. ↩
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