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Graduate Goodness: How Yoga can Reduce Stress

It’s no secret that yoga can lead to a calmer mind and a healthier body, but for those who aren’t accustomed to the practice, the reasons for this may not be obvious. With exam season almost upon us, incorporating yoga into our daily routine – even be it 15 minutes – can help us better cope with the pressures of University life. Below are some of the different ways that yoga can improve your mental well being, and thus lead to the alleviation of stress and anxiety.

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Breathing

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that breathing-based meditation and yogic breathing, or pranayama in sanskrit, can help alleviate symptoms of depression. Simply making a conscious effort to slow down your breath has mood-boosting benefits, as it can help us focus on the present moment. Closing your eyes as you concentrate on each breath can also help us to become more in touch with our bodies. In doing so, yoga can help us reduce our anxieties about the future, whether it be stressing about completing an excessive workload or doubting our performance in exams. This is because drawing attention to our breath helps to de-clutter the mind.

Poses

Coupled with using breathing techniques to become more mindful, certain yoga poses are known for contributing to calmness and the release of negative energy. In particular, poses that require us to focus on balance and stability can work as an effective stress-management tool. Even a move as simple as ‘Child’s Pose’ can help reduce pressure on the adrenal glands, thus leaving us feeling soothed and revitalised. As with all exercise, remaining active helps us sleep better at night, and thus feel rejuvenated the next morning – another reason to get moving regularly in a yoga class. Avid yoga practitioner Pamela Newton finds that even a short session can be as effective as anti-anxiety medication is for others. Whilst yoga is in no way a cure for mental health problems, it can promote a happier and healthier mindset.

The Yoga Philosophy

Many yogis emphasise the importance of the philosophies of contentment, calmness, and cleanliness of mind and body. By practicing yoga and surrounding oneself with positive influences, we can improve our wellbeing and attitude towards life. Whilst exam periods are not the most enjoyable part of our lives, appreciating the beauty and positivity in everyday life, such as the support of family and friends, can help us to reduce excessive worry. Because yoga helps to reduce stress in both the body and mind, we can learn to become more resilient to life’s ups and downs over time.

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Third year history student at the University of Bristol.
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