I walk into the Campus Recreation Center to attend one of the many free fitness classes offered. As I’m walking in, I’m worried about my article that’s due in a few days, my midterm for a class I’m struggling in, a class debate the next day that I feel poorly prepared for all while I’m asking myself how the heck I’m going to make time to eat and breathe this week. An hour later, I walk out with a clear head, my inner gym junkie is pleased and a huge brick of stress is lifted off my chest.
The next day, my stress is back as I walk into another fitness class. My mind is all over the place because I’m thinking about assignments, that same test from the day before and I also start classes at 8:30 a.m and don’t end until 8:50 p.m. I walk out an hour later with the stress melted away, able to sense my body in one present moment and a huge smile on my face.
What’s the magic coping mechanism hidden in the recreation center? Free yoga and meditation classes.
There is a lack of research on yoga, but the information gathered indicates that yoga can have multiple health benefits, according to the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
One of the top three disorders addressed at yoga interventions is mental health. Everyone’s idea of mental health is different, whether it means feeling stress once in a while or having a mental health disorder such as an eating disorder or schizophrenia. The World Health Organization defines mental health as, “. . . a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
Instead of thinking of mental health as just a list of disorders and negativity, we need to find a way to cope and, most importantly, take care of ourselves.
Senior linguistics major Jimmy Friedman has been teaching yoga at the Campus Rec Center for two years and uses his practices in his daily routine. “Yoga is integral to basically all of my life. Since yoga isn’t just a physical practice, but a lifestyle, I can incorporate the principles of discipline, restraint, compassion, and openness in all activities and relationships,” he said. “I often do a bit of yoga/meditation before bed to fall asleep quicker and sleep better.”
Some of the benefits of adding yoga to your daily life include, of course, improving mental health and relieving stress, as well as physical benefits such as strengthening balance and flexibility.
A big aspect of yoga is being mindful to your body and yourself. If you can’t do a difficult pose or stretch as far as the person next to you, you shouldn’t push yourself. It is recommended you do the instructions to the best of your ability and make sure your mind and body are comfortable. Don’t get me wrong, yoga can be strenuous. For example, when you’re struggling to balance in poses such as Lord of the Dance. This serves as a workout — but also allows your mind to concentrate on other things besides stress, worries and anxiety.
The mind needs to stay positive even if you’re wobbling through a pose. In addition, it needs to be aware of your physical and mental limitations. For me, the part of my yoga routine that makes me the most mindful to my body is concluding my routine with Savasana. Savasana translates to “corpse pose” which is when you lay down on your back with your hands open like a corpse. Here, you meditate and relax the mind. Ending my routine with this helps me relax my body from all the stretching I have done and clear my mind of any forms of negative energy attacking it.
If you can’t make it to the classes, there are short breathing videos on YouTube where you can get your daily dose of kindness for your body. Even just meditating a few minutes per day can make a big difference in the way you take care of yourself.
Yoga and meditation are beautiful ways of exercising the mind and body. Be kind to your mind and health. Just breathe.