Contrary to popular belief, yoga isn’t all about toned women in fancy leggings contorting themselves into awkward shapes in a cloud of incense and soothing music. Yoga is for everyone, and that includes students. No matter what gender you identify as, size of clothing you wear, or level of flexibility you have, yoga can be used to take a break, get some exercise and tend to your body and mind. As Easter has come and gone and exams loom, this is the perfect time to fit some yoga into your routine and use it to help supplement your studies.
Why is yoga so good for students?
Since we spend so much time at our desks, particularly now that classes are all online, it’s no surprise that most of us are starting to get posture issues. Slumping and collapsing in the back is a really common problem among students, as is the stiff neck and shoulders that are an inevitable symptom of desk-work. A little yoga over a number of weeks is a fantastic way to correct your posture, and after you’ve practised for a while you will start to notice yourself sitting up a little straighter.
Physical health aside, yoga is also extremely beneficial for easing stress and promoting your mental wellbeing. Yoga is a great aide to concentration and mental stamina, which will really help you when it comes to revision. Connecting mind, body and breath is also a great way to centre yourself into the here and now. It’s so important to take a few moments to put aside the stress of university work in order to check in with your mental health. A build up of stress is a one-way trip to an intense burn out, so taking regular time to tend to your wellbeing will really help you avoid breaking down towards exam time.
Where to start:
Yoga can seem a little daunting to people who have had no experience with it. I started practising by joining the Warwick Yoga Society in my first year. I found them to be so welcoming to a beginner, and through weekly sessions saw real benefits to my mental and physical health. The society is running sessions online due to the pandemic, so if you want to join other students for classes this is a great way to do it.
If you would rather practise alone, then check out Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. She has a huge variety of free videos for all levels of yogis. The classes are anywhere between ten minutes to over an hour, and she has some great practises aimed specifically at exam stress and work overload as well as videos targeting certain body parts. Staying local, Warwick Sport also have a selection of free online yoga sessions that you can access at any time of day.
All you need to practise yoga is a mat, some comfortable clothes and a can-do attitude. I use a cork yoga mat in order to be more environmentally conscious about my practise. However, since they are a bit pricey, I would recommend trying out a lower-budget option until you’re sure you will be committing to regular sessions. Sports Direct have several choices, and it’s always worth checking on Amazon too. If buying a mat still doesn’t seem like an economic option for you, see if a housemate or family member will lend you one, or you can even create a makeshift mat using layered towels.
The main thing to remember about dressing for yoga is to focus on comfort. Any old pair of leggings will do and they don’t have to be expensive. I have even been known to use my pyjama bottoms in a pinch. The one essential I would recommend for the girls is a sports bra; there’s nothing worse than having a peaceful pose ruined by getting stabbed by your underwire. A budget option here is to use a comfy bralette.
How to fit yoga into your studies:
I know what you’re thinking: this all sounds great, but when can a student coming towards the exam period fit yoga into a jam-packed schedule? It isn’t always easy to find the time to do your practise, but it is well worth the effort. My suggestion is to dedicate a certain time every week and stick to it. For me, that’s at five o’clock in the evening when I’ve lost all concentration for work, but it’s too early to think about dinner. That might not work for you. Perhaps before breakfast would be better, or right before bed to wind down. It might take a few weeks to work out the best time, but once you’ve got it try to stick with it. It’s much easier to continue with your practise once you’ve made it habit. Hopefully this inspires you to get on the mat and start connecting mind and body to supplement your studies. Remember, it’s so important to take breaks from your work in order to care for your mental and physical wellbeing, particularly with exams around the corner.