Don’t stress out, stretch out

By Kelly McKay
Flapjack Chronicle

Stress and college seem to go hand in hand. As the end of the semester is swiftly approaching, this idea is becoming a recurring theme as stress levels among students are reaching an all-time high. Finals become reality and students frantically trade in their social lives and personal health for research papers and study sessions.

Sarah Chipman, 23 year-old Humboldt State graduate recalls the stress she endured when the semester would come to an end.
“Stressing out about all the work I knew I had to accomplish would cause me to panic,” Chipman says. “It was horrible because the stress would cause me to put everything off until the last minute.”

This is the beginning of a vicious cycle. As stress increases, ability to concentrate decreases and academic performance declines. Many turn to alcohol and over eating in their down time to escape the pressure of assignments and deadlines. It has become the norm for students to forget about exercise routines when finals come around.

The toll that this stress may take on the body may cause students to suffer headaches, muscle aches, nausea, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating. These effects make it even more difficult for students to complete assignments stay awake in class. According to Stress Management: A Randomized Study of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Yoga, there is a remedy to this downward spiral, the practice of yoga.
Yoga is a practice characterized by mental and physical balance. Breathing meditation techniques combined with numerous physical poses help to calm the mind and body. Yoga practice can bring peace to the mind and yields countless physical benefits including relieving back pain, lowering heart rate and blood pressure, and improving flexibility.

Courtney Barnes, 22 year-old local yogi, explains the positive effect yoga has on her body and mind.
“When I enter the studio my mind is always buzzing worrying about responsibilities in school and issues in my personal life,” Barnes says. “But as the class progresses and I close my eyes and breathe, I am able to release all of that stress and concentrate on the poses. I end up leaving class refreshed and ready to handle anything.”

Yoga can be an instrumental tool in dealing with stress, and is widely available at numerous studios in the community as well as on campus. There are numerous sections of yoga taught on campus and classes are available every day in town at studios such as Om Shala Yoga, It’s Yoga Arcata, Community Yoga Center, Inner Freedom Yoga, and Old School Hot Yoga. There are no necessary pre-requisites to attend a yoga class, beginners are welcome. A yoga class can be as gentle or as challenging as the attendee wishes. April Martin, local yoga instructor at Om Shala Yoga, encourages students to attend classes to let go of school related stress.

“Classes are always packed at the beginning of the school year,” Martin says. “I can think of no better way to de-stress and improve your focus at the end of the semester.”

The benefits of yoga become apparent in the classroom as studies have revealed that a regular practice of yoga can improve hand-eye coordination, attention, concentration, multi-tasking and relaxation. A study of regular yoga practicing college students, published in Stress Management: A Randomized Study of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Yoga, has proven the activity to decrease daily tension, depression, fatigue, and confusion after attending a yoga class. Yoga has also been proven to improve memory capacity in adults. College students are often times constantly on the go trying to get things done, however just taking the time to slow down, breathe, and stretch through yoga can yield countless benefits for the stressed out student.

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