College, yeah! Land of parties, learning strange stuff and trying new things.
It’s likely the first time you’ve lived on your own—no one nagging you to study or hit the sack. You’re also around people you’ve probably never seen before—so many potential new friends!
That doesn’t mean the transition to campus life is easy though. Facing the unknown can be tough.
But you can make the most of your college days if you take care of yourself. Yoga is a terrific catch-all for that.
The physical part of yoga obviously keeps you in shape—great for students worried about packing on extra pounds. Turns out exercise also might help you get better grades. A recent study from North Carolina State University showed that when students increased their exercise by an hour each week, their overall GPA went up by .06.
And yoga offers more benefits, thanks to its breath-work and cues to keep your mind from wandering. A few roadblocks you might face en route to earning your diploma:
Anxiety is incredibly common for college students. There are two solid reasons for this: lots of classwork and a new environment, from where you sleep to where you eat. Sure you’ve got some practical fixes for that: lessen your courseload (but you’ll have to get through those classes eventually) and move back home to what you know (then you miss out on all that awesome independence). Instead, practice yoga. Many studies show it reduces stress.
You can’t sleep
All that tension makes it hard to get zzz’s. But any kind of exercise early in the day should bring on restful snooze time. Yoga movements, in particular, get you to breathe slowly, which makes you relax. Relaxing = falling asleep more easily.
You feel isolated
Amazing that you can be in a packed dorm on a packed campus and feel totally alone. That might be because you don’t think you’re connected to any of it. More than half of college students said they felt lonely or sad the previous academic year, according to the 2015 National College Health Assessment.
The good news: Yoga can help lift depression tremendously, in part by teaching you to notice the here and now, cultivating a sense of connection to what’s around you.
Put yoga to the test by trying this dorm-room sequence—ideally at least an hour before bed and even if you sleep like a baby. After a few sessions, see if you move through your days more smoothly.
1. Deep breathing (1 to 10 minutes)
On your mat, lie on your back in a comfortable position. Rest your palms on your outer ribs, elbows relaxed on the ground. Take a few deep breaths, exhaling audibly through your mouth. Then breathe in and out only through your nose. As you start each inhale, press your ribcage up and out, into your hands, expanding your breath into your chest, all to the count of 5. Hold to the count of 5, and then exhale to the count of 8.
If you’re looking just to relax then do this for up to 10 minutes.
If you want to get some physical exercise move to step 2.
2. Abdominal engagement (2 to 4 minutes)
With your legs straight and on the ground, place your palms face-down under your buttocks (so you’re resting on the back of your hands). Keep the neutral curve of your neck. On your next inhale, lift both legs to the count of 5, then exhale both legs down to the count of 5. You can ease this by bending your knees a bit. Do up to 20 rounds.
If this strains your lower back or you can’t lift both legs, lift one leg at a time. If that still strains your back or feels too difficult, bend the knee of the leg on the ground and place your foot down for support.
3. Energizing sequence (2 to 5 minutes)
Follow these three poses to cultivate energy and rebalance yourself. Return to step 1, and end there.
Learn more about yoga instructor and journalist Mitra Malek at mitramalek.com.