Jemima D’Souza, Second Year English Literature
Yoga is an increasingly popular form of exercise, and its many benefits include toning the muscles, strengthening the internal organs, relaxing the body, and improving mental health and concentration through a combination of carefully designed ‘poses’. A focus on aligning deep breathing with movement is central to yoga, making it a mindful way to exercise.
Some may be put off by the tradition of spirituality associated with yoga, but there are now many classes which teach yoga more casually, without reference to mantras and energy centres. There are many different types of yoga: some, such as Ashtanga yoga, are more energetic and can be used as a workout, while others, like Hatha yoga, are gentler and good for beginners.
While practising any activity for longer reaps more rewards, it may be difficult to find the time to attend an hour-long yoga class, or you may find it stressful to exercise around others. In this case, home practice could be a satisfying way to connect to your body. If you feel that you don’t have any time for yoga, a five-minute morning or night-time home practice video may be just right.
This ‘5-Minute Morning Yoga’ video is a very quick way to stretch before starting your day:
And the ‘7-Minute Bedtime Yoga’ is a short relaxation practice to ground your mind and make your body feel ready for bed:
Being on your own encourages you to be less performative. If you are practising yoga casually, the most important thing is to focus on the way that the movements and postures feel to your body (and mind) rather than how they look. Being mindful of your body, in turn, develops your respect for your body’s capabilities and means that each practice becomes an exercise in self-care. Many worry that they are not flexible enough for yoga, but, in the comfort of your own room, this does not matter. There is no social pressure to make your body into the perfect ‘downward dog’ pose; simply be gentle and patient with yourself and do as little or as much of the pose as suits you that day.
The privacy of home practice is perfect for reinforcing yoga as personal time, when you can process and release emotions should you wish to. You can search for yoga videos for specific emotions, such as loneliness, or even boredom.
This ‘10-Minute Yoga for Self-Care’ is a loving practice for when you have been neglecting yourself:
As you become more aware of yourself during yoga (for instance, you might notice a habit to clench your jaw) you will find yourself noticing thought patterns more easily in daily life, such as your triggers for anxiety. Becoming aware of tension helps you to relax those muscles, or stop unhelpful thought processes, thereby enabling you to improve your mental and physical well-being. Longer yoga sessions naturally bring greater benefits (some people find that it alleviates depression, for example), but even a few minutes a day can make help you to feel a little more in control. If you have tried meditation but find it too challenging or boring to sit still with your thoughts, you may find that yoga can be an effective form of movement meditation.
‘Movement Medicine- Calming Practice’ is a slow practice for when you need some time out:
If you want a simple and refreshing way to spend your study break, there are many ten-minute videos to choose from to shake off the feeling of stagnation and sharpen your focus again.
‘Yoga for Focus and Productivity’ is a short, calm practice that energises and soothes:
Take a look at this video.
Specific yoga poses and sequences can also be helpful for easing problems such as stiff shoulders from hunching over your desk all day, and there are even yoga videos for problems such as digestion, migraines, and premenstrual syndrome.
This ‘Yoga for Neck, Shoulders, Upper Back’ practice is only ten minutes long and is good for preventing tension, or for when you are already in pain:
Take a look at this video.
In terms of how to dress for yoga, you should practise in bare feet and wear loose or stretchy clothing. It might be a good idea to wear a soft fleece or jumper if you are doing something short or gentle. A yoga mat makes things more comfortable, but you don’t need one to start – just be careful if you are resting on your knees or spine on a fairly hard surface.
Yoga is a wonderful all-encompassing exercise as it is relaxing, restorative, and mindful. Short home practice sequences are a great way to incorporate it into your life as a busy student. Pay attention to your breath, focus on how your body feels rather than what you want it to do, and be mindful of how your emotions respond.
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