How many times a day do you focus just on your body for your self-care routine? How many times a week do you check in with each muscle and joint? How often do you tell yourself to relax your jaw, your shoulders, your back or any of the other many body parts where we tend to carry stress? In the busy world of college, it’s hard to find time to be mindful both physically or mentally. As students, we also spend a good deal of time bent over computer screens, phone screens, books or over desks taking notes. Take a minute, right now, and straighten your back. Sit up as straight as possible. How does it feel?
Let your mind go blank
Now, this isn’t yoga class, but hopefully that gave you a taste of what it could be like. Yoga can be much more than just some difficult stretching and sounds of om. Yoga can be an allotted period of time during our busy schedules to stop, breathe and be mindful of our bodies. We often run around without feeling and listening to our bodies, we deprive it of sleep, water and food, sometimes without even realizing it. Being a college student can often feel like a 24-hour job, but an hour of yoga can be an hour of putting everything else weighing on your conscious aside and, *gasp*, letting your mind go blank.
So, you may be thinking, ok I’m intrigued but what are the actual health benefits of yoga? According to Yogajournal.com, there are thirty-eight scientifically proven health benefits of yoga. That’s a lot, and some are pretty important. As previously alluded to, yoga can greatly improve your posture. The average head weighs around 11 pounds and when it isn’t balanced directly over an erect spine it makes it much harder for your back and neck muscles to support it. Yoga improves your posture by not only forcing you into more erect positions and by working those muscles, but by making you more aware, day to day, of how you carry your body.
Like any type of physical exercise, yoga has many of the health benefits that generally come from working out. This includesa self-care routine of improved flexibility, increased muscle strength, stronger blood flow and boosted heart rate. Depending on what yoga you are performing- there’s a practice for just about anything- it can help you lose weight, build muscle, find peace of mind, relieve joint or muscle pain or stave off infection. Yoga is a great way to transition into regular exercise for people who want to ease their way into a more active lifestyle.
A healthy mind
Yoga has also been proven to help manage and maintain a healthy mind as well. Richard Davidson, Ph.D., at the University of Wisconsin found that the left prefrontal cortex of the brain showed heightened activity in meditators, which correlates to greater levels of happiness, while performing yoga regularly. Other studies have found that consistent yoga practice leads to increased serotonin levels and decreased levels of monoamine oxidase (an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters) and cortisol.
According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is the top concern among college students (41.6 percent), closely followed by depression (36.4 percent). Yoga can give you time to address anxiety, stress and to release those feelings of tension from your body.
Try something new
You don’t have to become a yoga enthusiast to participate in the practice either, a little bit truly goes a long way. It can be once a week to start, or once a week for however long you feel like. It can be for an hour in the evening or in the morning, or for fifteen minutes in the middle of your day. It doesn’t matter when and it doesn’t matter for how long, it just matters that your doing it. If you’re looking for a way to release stress and tension in your body, if you’re looking to relieve back or neck pain, if you’re looking for a time for mental meditation and reflection you may have just found it. 2018 is the year of self-care, right? Here’s another tool for your self-care routine tool box.