Why Yoga Can Change Your Student Life.

Why Yoga Can Change Your Student Life

Throughout history, people have been drawn to holistic practices, like yoga, for many different reasons, but ultimately it seems that most of us are searching for the same thing – health, happiness, and understanding. These practices are ancient and yet we keep returning to them.

There’s got to be something to this!

When a system, protocol or practice is perpetuated for thousands of years and can be compared throughout seemingly unrelated cultures it makes me confident that something is important and something is working.

Yoga was invented in ancient India, yet when we look at other indigenous belief systems for healing there are undeniable consistencies. People speak different languages and exist in completely different environments and somehow those who have taken the time to connect deeply with themselves and their surroundings (especially elements of nature), often share the same conclusions.

I believe that we are innately connected to each other and can access a harmonious life by slowing down and developing a deep understanding of ourselves and our relationships with everything and everyone around us.

In my experience, yoga is one of the most accessible ways to do this.

Why Yoga Can Change Your Student Life

Consider your life as a student. How much time do you spend on lectures, studying, preparing for exams, trying to feed yourself, squeezing in a little bit of exercise, and maintaining relationships with friends and family?

Student life is intense to say the least. Performance expectations are high and let’s be honest, regardless of your age or background, it’s a stressful time in life and most students suffer at some point during their career with mental health decline.

I imagine the last thing you want to be asked to fit into your already jam-packed schedule is more ‘things to do’. I wholeheartedly believe that integrating even a short yoga practice into your week will not feel like more homework but instead, like the break you’ve been desperately needing.

This depends on one thing…

Please don’t approach your yoga practice the way you approach the rest of your life.

Why Yoga Can Change Your Student Life

What I mean by this is that there’s no pressure. There aren’t any deadlines. There’s no one watching you. You do not have to do anything in that moment that doesn’t feel appropriate for your mind and body. The practice isn’t a chore, the practice is intended to create relief!

The beauty of this discipline is that it creates heightened self-awareness and self-compassion whereby:

  1. You choose to set time aside for yourself as a gift as opposed to an obligation.
  2. You are allowed to take things slowly. There’s no pressure to achieve anything or reach an end goal in any given time.
  3. You can learn to passively observe your mental habits in a relaxed and non-judgmental way.
  4. You can generate more mental and physical energy as opposed to using it.
  5. You will learn about your needs – your physical needs, mental needs and emotional needs.
  6. You will feel an increased sense of confidence in yourself as you will know yourself better.
  7. You can learn to tune into your environment, thereby increasing your intuition.
  8. You will feel great in your body. Getting the blood flowing, and moving energy through stiff muscles and connective tissue increases health, fitness and mental capacity.
  9. You will feel less stressed. As you learn to observe and control your breath, you will learn when your nervous system is activated and can use simple tools to calm your entire system.
  10. You can develop more self-compassion naturally leading to an increased sense of empathy for those around you.
  11. You can reduce perfectionism and allow yourself to grow and learn in life over time.
  12. You will feel an overall sense of balance and wellbeing.

Personally, I discovered a yoga practice after retiring from twelve years as an elite athlete. Expectations in my life were extreme, perhaps unachievable. I began to put these expectations on myself in all areas of my life. Also, I noticed that I was living yet not really alive. I suffered from anxiety and a sense that I was never succeeding.

At first, I chose a dynamic style of asana (physical posture) practice. After years of intense activity and focus as an athlete, I felt that this ‘busier’ approach was good for me. It kept my mind entertained. I loved to be pushed to my limits and explore what was possible in my body and life. I wasn’t ready to slow down. That understanding came with time.

About ten years into my yoga practice I began to realise that what I thought was helping me was actually depleting me. My nervous system was crying for help. I was experiencing aches and pains and mild injuries. Even though I understood the concept of a steady and comfortable breath, I think I was a slow learner in applying it.

I hit a point in my life where I could no longer push. My relationship was declining, I wasn’t happy in my career, I was constantly sick, I was incredibly busy, yet without a sense of purpose. I knew I had to change something.

Why Yoga Can Change Your Student Life

This was the moment I realised I needed to slow down somewhere. Aspects of my life were not within my control. I needed to go to work to pay my bills. I knew I had to make a decision for myself. Something drastic had to change. At this point a friend recommended slower, gentler yoga practices, including meditation, guided breathwork and even trying supplementary holistic treatments, such as Reiki.

Over the next year or so, I began to feel like I was returning home to myself. I became aware of how desperately my nervous system was requiring repair. I still engaged in dynamic activities that got blood moving, and I realised I had to balance these with slow, mindful, deeply restorative practices, such as Yin yoga.

The journey will be yours. Everyone is unique and there’s no one prescription for anyone.

One thing I can say for certain is that without this practice, I may not be where I am today. I have a deep awareness of my needs; the fluctuations of my mental health and I am able to make responsible decisions to ensure my life remains as peaceful as possible within the natural waves and stressors of life.