Have you ever tried yoga before? Some people say it's a breathtaking experience. For me personally, I would agree with that. Yoga, in essence, is a practice of bodily movements where one focuses on breath control and meditation. Widely used for health and relaxation, yoga has many known benefits for people of all ages. So, what does it have to offer college students? I've found some pretty cool and unique benefits that students might just take interest in.
1. Yoga improves strength and tones your muscles.
While it may seem as though nothing can give you results that would compare to weight lifting, yoga has been proven time and time again to greatly improve strength. When holding various poses during a practice, your body is holding its own weight, thereby exercising your muscles and making you stronger. If you're like me and lifting weights isn't your thing, yoga could be the perfect solution to your prayers!
2. Yoga is associated with making better food choices.
Who would have thought of that? Yoga is a practice to strengthen the connections between the mind and body; to really improve health and mindful awareness throughout the body. Researchers from the University of Washington found that people who practiced yoga more frequently made better food choices due to this mindfulness. As students who usually don't eat as healthy as we should, yoga is a great activity to look into if you've been struggling with your eating habits lately.
3. It boosts your immunity.
Wow. Who would have thought of that? This can be a difficult concept to understand in scientific terms, but the general idea is that by improving overall health, your immunity benefits too. Better breathing and movement allows your body to function better in general, which is especially helpful during exam season when everyone gets sick from stress.
4. Yoga is a great way to help relieve stress.
Who wouldn't kill for this during exam season? Yoga's focus on movement and breathing during practice encourages you to focus only on the present moment, temporarily relieving your mind of stress and worries. The bodily movement also helps to discharge tension and ultimately helps you to think more clearly and calmly about anything that's currently causing you stress. If you can ever spare an hour or two over the course of exam season, it's definitely worth it to destress a little and help boost your overall performance.
5. Yoga helps reduce anxiety and depression.
With so many people coping with mental illness nowadays, it's become a common fact that regularly practicing yoga can help reduce the effects of anxiety and depression. The process is similar to that of reducing stress; by encouraging you to only focus on breathing and your body, it takes your mind away from anything else that may be bothering you. If you're struggling with anxiety and/or depression and you'd like to know more about how yoga can help, talk to your doctor. It's not a cure, but I firmly believe that it is definitely worth a try.
6. Yoga increases your flexibility.
Here's the cool thing about yoga: anyone can do it! That means that there are variations of poses for beginners, all the way to poses for advanced yogis. The more advanced a pose, the more it will challenge you in terms of strength, flexibility or both. With regular practice, as you feel yourself getting better, try more advanced poses and notice how much more flexible you've become. We don't always realize it, but flexibility is a key component of how we physically function in our everyday lives. Plus, being flexible is also a lot of fun. Why not give it a try?
7. Yoga improves memory and concentration.
Aren't we always looking for a quick fix to help us learn quickly or memorize content before an exam? In the long term, yoga can improve your memory and concentration by encouraging you to focus better. The idea is that you focus only on breathing and moving during your practice, and then you eventually learn to take that skill with you off the mat and focus on the present moment in your daily life. If you're willing to commit to a regular practice, you'll likely find that concentrating on certain tasks becomes much easier as time goes by.
8. Yoga improves your posture.
Poor posture will cause many of us a lot of pain when we get older, especially with how many hours a day we sit in chairs, either in lectures or at our computers. There are many poses that require you to open your chest and shoulders, lengthen your spine and perfect your balance. All of these contribute to a better posture, so you can counteract all that time spent sitting at your desk.
9. It can help you sleep better.
By reducing stress and tension, yoga can help us sleep deeper, thereby receiving a better quality of sleep. Psychology Today found that yoga was especially helpful for patients with insomnia, by helping them sleep better and reducing their need for medications.
10. Yoga can increase your self-esteem.
We're young, and so many of us are afraid of what others think of us and how they see us. If you've ever struggled with self-esteem, yoga can help you. Yoga teaches us about gratitude, forgiveness and most of all, self-love. A regular practice will help you to become grateful for the amazing things that your body can do, among other things, and after a while, you may find that you've become more appreciative of yourself. I know for a fact that practicing yoga definitely helped me improved my gratitude and appreciation for my body.
All in all, yoga is amazing for your mind and body. If you want to try it but aren't sure how, check athletic centers at your school. They'll likely offer yoga classes for a decent price. If you don't want to spend money on it, you can always check Youtube for some great instructional videos. Personally, I love doing Yoga With Adriene. And if I still haven't won you over on why yoga is amazing for your health, go check out some yogis on social media, such as Yoga Girl! Many of them treat social media as an outlet to document their journeys throughout life. You can find them talking about love, gratitude and how yoga has changed their lives in general.
Have I convinced you to try yoga yet? Awesome. Now go get your namaste on.
Lead Image Credit: Steven Sim via Flickr Creative Commons