Three Most Important Benefits of Yoga for College Students

If You're A Stressed Out College Student, Yoga is Your Solution

yoga is a way to say no to the outside world for a moment's time and say 'om' to what may be beyond it.

'Yoga' tends to be a word most college students associate exclusively with their favorite lounge pants; however, when put into practice, it is much more than just the ‘downward dog.’ A path to enlightenment that dates back 5,000 years in its native India, yoga has powerful benefits of providing an emotional and physical refuge to even the most stressed-out individuals: college students. From balancing pressures to avoiding the freshman fifteen to finding time to sleep amidst keeping grades and going out can quickly wear any student down. It is not easy to find one solution to all of these challenges; however, yoga enables college students to learn tools to combat the most pressing problems in their everyday life.

Stressed? Yoga is Like a Non-pharmacological Xanax

Students face constant crippling academic and social pressures. Hours spent sitting in lecture halls or slumped over a computer screen only heightens the stress from the piles of tests and quizzes. Not to mention the added pressure from balancing boyfriends to best friends, a daily call to mom and dad, and independent finances can undoubtedly take a toll on the health of a college student.

A study from the National Institute of Health found that yoga has positive effects on a psychophysiological level that leads to less stress in college students. Students need an outlet, and yoga provides a solution. Yoga trains the counter-stress response system, the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the amount of relaxation felt in the body. According to Psychology Today, a regular yoga practice can lower chronic daytime stress hormone levels significantly. Instead, students often turn to drugs to relieve stress. A study funded by the National Institute of Health shows that many students use ADHD medication to help focus and Xanax to aid anxiety, even if not prescribed. Instead of taking these medications, students should focus their energy on natural forms of stress reduction.

Shannon Lucas, a mental health counselor and fitness instructor at Core Power Yoga, says, "yoga teaches you how to calm your mind and racing thoughts, anxious tendencies, enabling you to be more resilient and handle day to day stress better.”

Just like exercise, the more students practice yoga, the greater the advantages received. Mayo Clinic recommends students practice sixty minutes each day; however, if a hectic schedule does not permit, numerous benefits can be received from a daily ten-minute session.

Afraid of the Freshman 15? Yoga Keeps You Fit.

In 2018, the National Institute of Health reported that 40 to 50 percent of college students were physically inactive, making the ‘freshman fifteen’ all too familiar. Luckily, one can begin their yoga practice without ever leaving the confines of their dorm as the only requirement is a yoga mat.

As an inexpensive and convenient workout for a college student, yoga has wide-ranging benefits. Contrary to popular belief that to be truly fit, one needs to combine yoga with an activity like running or weightlifting; according to a study in the Yoga Journal, fitness trainers and psychologists confirm that “yoga is all you need for a fit mind and body.” Yoga provides benefits well beyond flexibility and relaxation, such as improving strength, aerobic capacity, and lung function. A study by the University of California at Davis tested the impact of yoga on college students, and the results showed that after eight weeks of classes, their muscular strength increased by 31 percent, muscular endurance by 57 percent, and flexibility by 188 percent.

There are many studios located near college campuses for students to begin their practice, as well as easily accessible online classes such as Glo or Yogi Approved. Core Power, an SMU favorite yoga studio, offers a free week trial period as well as various student discounts.

Is Yoga the New Melatonin?

Between pulling all-nighters cramming for exams or partying until the break of dawn, sleep seems unattainable for the average college student. College students represent one of the most sleep-deprived segments of the population, says Dr. Robert Stickgold, a professor of psychiatry and a sleep researcher at Harvard University. With the numerous stimulants college students encounter like social media and homework, it makes it difficult to calm the mind before bed because their brains are running on overdrive for most of the day.

According to Dr. Wei, author of The Harvard Medical School Guide to Yoga, the practice is a restorative way to wind the brain and body down from the day. In fact, a survey from the Center for Complementary and Integrative Health found that 55 percent of people who did yoga said it helped them sleep significantly better. Dr. Wei says that breathing techniques are an essential aspect of the yoga practice because "as the breath slows, so does body movement; the speed of the breath enables the mind to slow down and become more spacious to fall into a restful state." The breathing techniques calm the body and soothe the mind, enabling the body to fall into a healthy sleep cycle. Practicing yoga poses such as Feet on Wall or Ocean Breath for three to five minutes before bed helps prompt restful sleep, which can be beneficial to college students and easy to implement into any bedtime routine.

Moral of the Story...

The percentage of stressed-out college students is on the rise, which is no surprise when looking at the academic and social pressures. In this age of hyper-connectivity, college proves to be stressful and emotionally draining. The practice of yoga provides tools to cope with stress, keeps the body physically fit, and allows for a more restful sleep, some of the most common issues college students experience. For many, yoga serves as a life raft, providing mental and emotional balance admits hormonal chaos, enabling students to focus on what truly matters to them. If anything, yoga is a way to say no to the outside world for a moment's time and say 'om' to what may be beyond it.

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