College students have a particular kind of stress that encompasses biological, social, environmental, familial, academic influences and more. Typically, students seek release from daily stressors through sports, art and other extracurricular activities. These methods are effective and involve the body and the mind; however, yoga may be more influential and beneficial for the average college student when it comes to relieving stress. The ancient practice of yoga requires true intention and high concentration. Not only is the physical aspect of yoga a critical part of the practice, but mental and emotional well-being needs to be taken into consideration for in order for true change to be seen and felt. Here are 10 yoga moves that college students can practice daily to de-stress:
1. Downward Dog
Start by getting on all fours. Push off and straighten your arms while straightening your legs; then straighten your legs so that your bottom is in the air. Your hands should be a little wider than hip-width apart. Hold for five breaths. This works out your whole body. If done regularly and correctly, it helps out your shoulders, back, and legs. Over time, you’ll find that this pose is a good pose to rest in between more advanced poses.
Start on all fours. Arch your spine so your mid-spine is stretching towards the ceiling; breathe all the air in your lungs out while you do this. Pause. Once you are ready to breathe in, arch your back once again so your stomach is protruding out towards the floor. Transition back and forth between these arches to relieve lower back stress and stimulate the digestive tract. Hold for a total of 10 breaths.
3. Standing Forward Bend
Stand straight and slowly bend forward at your waist. You may hold your elbows, leave your arms dangling, and even shake your head side to side or up and down. Hold for four breaths. This is great for relieving the stress built up in your neck, elongating your spine, and stretching the backs of your legs.
4. Child’s Pose
Start by kneeling on the floor with your knees spread out a little more than hip-width apart. Sit back on your feet and bend forward so your forehead gets as close to the ground as possible. Arms are stretched out in front of you and straight out above your head. Hold for eight breaths. This stretch opens your hip flexors and kneads out your lower back muscles.
5. Cobra Stretch
Lie on your stomach and bend slightly backward at your lower back while supporting yourself with your hands on the floor on either side of your chest. You should be able to look straight ahead. Hold for two breaths at a time. Once again, this move stretches out your lower back, where stress usually builds up.
6. Toe Tuck
Kneel on the floor and tuck your toes under your feet. You should feel balanced leaning back onto your feet. A stretch should be felt in your feet and in your legs. Your torso should be supporting you, and your focus should be on proper alignment. Hold this pose for eight breaths. This stretch is helpful to relieve tightness in feet and legs.
7. Corpse Pose
Lay on the floor on your back with your arms at your side and your legs about hip-width apart. Close your eyes and face your palms upwards. Be aware of your breathing, and relax. Hold for as many breaths as you want to before you fall asleep.
8. Happy Baby
Lie on your back raise your arms and legs. Grab either the top of your feet, outer sides of your feet, or toes; your legs should form a 90 degree angle. Your knees should be bent into your belly towards your armpits. Hold for seven breaths. This stretch is good for opening up your hips, stretching your inner thighs, and helps with fatigue.
9. Legs up the Wall
Lay on your back with your legs up against the wall. Your bottom should be facing the wall as well, and your arms should be at your side. Hold for 10 breaths. This pose can alleviate headaches and decrease the intensity of menstrual pain.
10. Bridge Pose
Lie on your back with the soles of your feet on the floor; your knees should be bent. Raise your hip towards the ceiling, and keep your palms face down. The stretch can be felt in the lower abs, gluts, and thighs. Hold for 3 breaths at a time. This pose can decrease anxiety and back pain. If done correctly, this pose may also help with headaches and sleep issues.
Although we have designated a certain number of breaths and particular positioning for each pose, it is advised that yogis move at their own pace, hold poses for a favorable amount of time and not push too hard. These poses are meant to bring relief and pleasure. If you start to feel shooting pain while attempting any of these poses, simply move out of the pose slowly and continue at your own pace.
Yoga is a practice that focuses on relieving both the body and the mind. College isn’t solely about survival through academics; the pleasures of life through college years should be truly felt and enjoyed. This can be a very demanding task when we consider all the distractions around us: family pressures, boyfriends, girlfriends, the next audition, the next interview or the next internship. Practicing yoga daily may help you not only relieve bodily tension, but also allow you to nourish your mind and spirit.
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