Yoga is an incredibly old discipline that is said to have begun in India 5000 years ago. It is made up of poses and stretches intended to build up strength and flexibility in the body. It is also said to have great health benefits, with some claiming it has helped with the management of illnesses such as arthritis.
Yoga is generally taught by a very rare sort (especially in universities): a calming person. Yoga teachers tend to have this weird inner peace that they can’t help but spread to those around them. They’re comforting without even trying, and it makes for an interesting and unique environment in which to learn something new.
This brings us to the other part of yoga: the togetherness of mind and body. Yoga aims to foster inner calm through focus on the internal rather than all the external worries and goals that make up the everyday life of the average student.
Yoga is a famed stress buster for a variety of reasons. When you get stressed your body tenses, and as a result stiffens your muscles, particularly those in the neck, back and shoulders. This obviously can cause a great deal of discomfort. The gentle stretches and poses in yoga can help relax these muscles, allowing the body to settle back into a more natural position.
In addition to aiding the physical manifestations of stress, yoga can also help control the feelings of panic often experienced by students. It does this by putting a unique emphasis on breathing. For every movement and pose, your breath corresponds. Getting everything synchronised can be quite challenging and requires focus but in the end has a relaxing effect. It’s easy to slip into unison of mind and body without even realising or really meaning to, simply by concentrating on breathing in time with your movements. It doesn’t come with the unrealistic and often believed idea that the mind must be blank. Thoughts will come, and when they do you are encouraged to acknowledge them, and let them pass by, returning focus to your breath, your body and your internal world.
Many students suffer with stress for various reasons throughout their degrees. Yoga, if you’re open to it, can provide a valuable and most importantly, healthy coping mechanism in difficult times.
As well as all the health benefits, yoga classes are just fun, friendly places. Dragging your body though complicated and sometimes impossible seeming stretches is a surprisingly good ice breaker. Whether it’s a shared look of wonder at your teacher’s ability to manipulate their body in ways that simply should not be possible, or a moment of pride at finally mastering a hand stand (important point: very few people can do hand stands), yoga groups, like any fitness class that tends toward to the more challenging, has a nice sense of solidarity. And fun, most importantly.
The UEA yoga society runs several classes a week for every level of ability and classes cost only £10 a semester or £20 for the year (once you’ve got a SAM card from the union), so get involved!