Yoga has been around for centuries, self-enlightenment being the ultimate goal. As with any form of exercise, yoga has the potential to benefit students greatly in both their health and studies.
“Yoga approaches the body in many different ways,” said Samantha Gallo, a Hatha yoga instructor at Cal State Fullerton. “In the physical body, we become that much more flexible.”
Gallo teaches the beginner and intermediate Hatha yoga courses at CSUF.
“Hatha Yoga is a practice that balances out the duality in our systems,” Gallo said. “We do it through both a physical or forceful way where we’re cleansing the body with postures or with breath, or we can also relax the body with postures or breath.”
Practicing yoga not only benefits the body, but the mind as well.
“We also have the ability to just energize ourselves or to relax our minds,” she said. “Sometimes we have our bodies that are fatigued from a long day of work and we do certain poses that can help to basically make you that much stronger or make you that much more alert.”
For students who put in a full day of classes, yoga can be beneficial.
“They (students) would be able to have that much more of a focused attention on what they’re doing,” Gallo said. “Their bodies would feel that much better in terms of being able to sit in a chair all day.”
Gallo said hunching over the computer for an extended period can become taxing on the body.
“(Yoga) can definitely help them with their school studies, that they don’t feel like that they’re basically hunched and crouched all the time,” she said.
The task of balancing academics with other responsibilities can be stressful for students and yoga can teach them to better deal with those tasks.
“It (yoga) also teaches them how to manage their stress that much better,” Gallo said. “Maybe it’s through more mindful discipline, about studying and making sure that they do things with a certain amount of time so that they don’t procrastinate.”
Saldiam Barillas, 22, a kinesiology major, has taken yoga for years. He initially joined for the physical benefits, but has grown to understand and appreciate the mental rewards as well.
“Every single aspect of yoga for me has already deepened my emotion, spiritual and mental ties together,” Barillas said. “To me it’s still growing, it’s still getting better, so I make it an effort to at least practice four times a week.”
Students who are new to yoga are already seeing the benefits after the first two weeks of the course.
“I played sports growing up, so I never really achieved the flexibility I always wanted, and I was told that this (yoga) is where I could find it,” said Humberto Gutierrez, 20, a kinesiology major. “Now that I’m here, I do see the benefits.”
Other students are returning to yoga after a long hiatus.
“I took (yoga) about almost ten years ago, and I really enjoyed the flexibility, the strength and the fitness it gave me when I first started working out,” said Meagan Senkbeil, 31, a communication disorder major.
She said the added oxygen makes her feel more calm.
“Yoga is a holistic practice,” said Patrick Freeman, another Hatha yoga instructor at CSUF. “It also has benefits on the emotions and the mind.”
Freeman said practicing yoga has proved to yield health benefits.
“Students who’ve had trouble sleeping, have been able to sleep better, anxiety has been lessened,” Freeman said. “Some students are able to get off medication that they’ve been on prescribed by their doctors for anxiety because they’ve learned how to handle that through doing yoga and calm their anxiety in that way.”
Stress can be a student’s worst enemy, and Freeman believes yoga can be a great way to manage that.
“Meditation is helping focus the mind and relieve stress and also connect you with a higher sense of self,” Freeman said.
Freeman also said breathing is a very important aspect of the practice. The proper way to breathe, called belly breathing, gives people more energy and focus, as well as alleviates stress and negative emotions.
“This is such a fast-paced society, students are under such pressures, many of them work as well as go to school, they’re under a heavy academic load, there’s financial pressures in our society today,” Freeman said. “The yoga, especially the meditation part, can help balance that out.”
Freeman encourages more students to give yoga a chance.
“Everyone can do yoga,” he said. “Don’t feel that you have to be real flexible to do yoga, or you have to have this ideal body type.
Freeman believes that yoga is for everyone and that anyone willing to give it a chance will be able to see results.
“If you can breathe, you can do yoga,” Freeman said. “And you will get some benefits out of it.”