Yoga in College

Written by Marina Salsbury.

Whether a freshmen or a senior, college can be overwhelming when trying to balance school work, extracurricular activities, internships, jobs, and a social life. With the hours spent cramming readings, holed up in dorms taking online college classes, and the many other daily stressors college students face, it's easy to see why they've contributed to the rapid growth in the popularity of yoga.

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Most colleges offer yoga on campus, often through the school's gym or as a recreational program. While some colleges provide quality yoga for free or at reduced cost, other programs are geared towards beginners and don't differentiate between styles. However, it is beneficial for college students to try the yoga classes on campus. If they're not happy with the quality of the program, then they can seek yoga classes elsewhere.

Sara Thompson, a visiting instructor of sports medicine at Pepperdine University, conducted a study of self-reported anxiety levels in students who took an eight-week yoga program compared to students who didn't. The students who participated in yoga showed significant decrease in self-reported anxiety. She also found there was a substantial improvement in physical flexibility in those who completed the yoga program.

Other research indicates college students who practiced yoga exhibit reduced confusion, tension, anger, and depression. Students who experience the biggest mood changes tend to be those who attend class more regularly. College students are often away from home, under stress, and grappling with choices that will affect their post-college lives. Mood enhancement and stress reduction can have a huge impact on their outlook and motivation.

The proven benefits and increase in popularity of yoga have led most colleges to offer yoga classes on campus. Many colleges offer high-quality yoga classes for students. With a seasoned veteran who has studied under several masters as a yoga instructor, students can be assured they'll learn the proper techniques and philosophies. However, if beginner classes are only offered on certain days, would-be yogis may be somewhat limited.

Most campuses have yoga classes led by certified instructors. For beginners, this can be the perfect introduction to yoga. Because many of the classes are a melting pot of styles, students can learn the basics and get a feel for which type of yoga resonates with them. However, intermediate and advanced students may be unhappy with the frequency of classes and the inability to practice the yoga style of their choice. Moreover, because classes are often only offered a few times per week, crowding can be an issue. Those looking for peace of mind may be distracted by the overflow of other students. For such students, the best bet may be to ask for campus instructors' recommendations for off-campus classes, or to look around themselves.

College students can reap enormous benefits through yoga classes on campus. Yoga can help them relieve the tension and stress attendant upon higher education. Research has demonstrated yoga practice can improve students' physical, mental, and emotional health.

Some colleges offer high-quality yoga classes, but the offerings at others may be lacking, and even in the best cases, more experienced practitioners may not find what they're looking for. In many cases, college yoga classes are geared toward beginners and feature a mixture of different styles. While beginners may thrive in this environment, intermediate and advanced students could be better served taking classes at a studio off-campus. All students should try the classes first and if dissatisfied, explore other options in order to take their yoga practice to the next level.

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