It’s no secret that Boston College students have a lot on their plates. With the seemingly never-ending midterm season just behind us and finals looming ever closer in the future--plus trying to balance that with clubs, work, that paper that’s due tomorrow, staying healthy, exercising and maintaining a happy facade--stress is pretty much unavoidable. Luckily, new studies have shown that yoga is a great way to beat the finals blues.
Yoga has always had a reputation for strengthening the core, improving flexibility and being a good way to stay in shape, but recent findings have concluded that the ancient art can also help to reduce stress, relax anxiety and boost your mood. And if that’s not evidence enough to get you to roll out your yoga mat, a study on undergraduate females from the University of Illinois determined that just 20 minutes of yoga practice can improve reaction time and focus more than intense cardiovascular exercise for the same amount of time. “The breathing and meditative exercises aim at calming the mind and body and keeping distracting thoughts away while you focus on your body, posture or breath," said Professor Neha Gothe, leader of the recent study in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.
The reason for all of yoga’s mental health benefits comes from its focus on breathing, meditation and the importance of living in the moment. According to TIME, people today spend up to half of their lives thinking in the past or future. The combination of yoga’s physical poses with its mental doctrine allows yogis to center attention on their current state, which has been shown in a study by Harvard University to improve happiness. In addition, research from the Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners revealed that just 12 minutes of yoga every day can reduce stress, which in turn reduces inflammation and risk for depression.
The meditative aspect of yoga is extremely important, too. According to Gothe, the enhanced self-awareness that comes with meditational exercise contributes to reduced stress and anxiety, and improved scores on some cognitive tests.
So the next time you’re feeling stressed about school or work, or you just want to unwind, yoga might be a great option to help relax you and put you back in a positive state of mind. The Plex offers a variety of yoga classes, but even simply watching online yoga videos and practicing some poses on the floor of your dorm room would do the trick.