Yoga for stress class can help students lower stress levels

Emily Barske

An alternative medicine, a form of meditation, a practice based on religious rituals, a popular exercise: Yoga.

“Initially it [yoga] was appealing because of the gymnastics of it,” said Andria Knutson, a yoga instructor for Recreational Services. “I started to realize how good it feels just to be in a yoga class and how it feels to not just do individual poses, but a whole sequence together. Combining it with the breathing had a whole different world attached to it. The whole picture together is what keeps me going.”

Studies have proven that yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety levels, according to the Mayo Clinic. Many people think that yoga is only for those that are flexible, but yoga has many benefits beyond stretching for those flexible, inflexible, young and old alike, Knutson said.

“Yoga is so much more than stretching, so no matter who it is, I think people should give it a shot,” Knutson said. “Just to explore it and know what it’s all about is a really good experience for everyone to have.”

One of the new ISU Recreational Services classes offered this year is Yoga for Stress, said Kara Herbert, fitness coordinator for ISU Recreational Services.

“Today’s society, there is such a high level of stress for everybody, but students especially, because there’s so many pressures put on them keep up with this activity, and that activity, and keep the grades up and make a living to pay your rent,” Herbert said. “So we wanted to offer something that people could go to for just 50 minutes to kind of just take away some of that and maybe walk out of here feeling a little bit calmer and a little bit more ready to deal with things again.”

Breathing techniques, like alternating nostril breathing, are included in the Yoga for Stress class. The intention of the class is different than going to a fitness yoga class because it is specifically geared toward stress relief, Knutson said.

“If I’m having a really stressful week or something, you can kind of feel the stress built up in your body—I can always feel my shoulders hunched up toward my neck,” said Carly Polson, a student who enjoys doing yoga. “When I go into yoga, you get all stretched out during the exercise. Toward the end, all the tension in your muscles is released and you feel like all muscles have been oxygenated. You feel a lot looser.”

Polson finds yoga to be the best exercise for stress relief, which is why she tries to go to yoga every day during finals week to get her mind off studying, she said.

“I don’t find as much mental relief from the other exercises—your body feels worn out and it’s good to get rid of stress that way—but I find that my mind can still be full of thoughts from the day and full of stress,” Polson said. “Yoga is the only exercise that helps in that way. It is a full body workout in the sense that your mind is included in that.”

Many different yoga classes are offered through ISU Recreational Services, Knutson said. Polson said she’s tried various yoga classes and has enjoyed them all because of the low-pressure atmosphere, but has found that she prefers particular classes.

For those looking to start yoga, Knutson suggests that students try out a yoga class to learn the basics so they don’t harm themselves by doing the form incorrectly.

“It’s kind of nice not to know all those [science] details too,” Knutson said. “It’s kind of the thing that drew me to yoga because it’s so mysterious. You feel good, but you don’t know why—and that’s okay sometimes.”