Originally appeared at topuniversities.com
Worried about that exam? Fascinated by your roommate’s strange hygiene habits? Missing home? Struggling to get up for that morning lecture? See how this guide to yoga for students can help.
University life can send a tornado of new thoughts and experiences through your life, mind, and emotions. The techniques you use to manage this will greatly determine your level of success both in and out of the classroom. These simple yoga practices can help.
1. Free those computer shoulders
All that time rounded over a computer or a book may end up making you feel like Quasimodo. Poor posture can lead to tension headaches, back pain, and compromised health. Undoing the effects of this is not always as simple as sitting up straight. Try this simple yoga series for shoulders, holding each posture 3-5 breaths and repeating as many times as feels good.
- Lift the arms over head and keep hands shoulder distance apart. Feel the torso lengthen upwards.
- Stretch the arms straight out to the side with the palms pressing out like stop signs.
- Bring the hands behind you, interlace the fingers and send the hands up and back behind you. Feel the front of the chest stretch and open.
- Release the hands and send them in front of you. Re-interlace the fingers, bring the palms together and punch the hands further forward. Allow the arms to pull the shoulder blades apart, stretching and rounding the top of the back and neck.
Try these audio practices:
2. Calm the mind
If you never give the mind a chance to slow down, you may remain anxious and restless even with a full night’s sleep. To calm the mind, try one of these practices:
Yoga Face Plant
Seated at your desk, bring your forearms to the desktop and let your hands rest one on top of each other. Bring your forehead to rest on your hands. Close your eyes and breathe softly. The gentle pressure on the forehead and between the eyes sends a cue to the nervous system to relax.
Legs up the wall
As advertised, simply bring your rear up to a wall and rest both legs directly up. If you have tight legs, move away from the wall just enough so the lower back is on the ground and the legs are not being overly stretched. Rest your hands by your side with palms facing up. Use a blanket underneath the head for additional support. Stay here as long as you’d like, as this gentle inversion calms the mind and the body.
Try this evening letting-go practice as well.
3. Wake up!
Struggling to get to that early class or just feeling a little bit overwhelmed and tired? Simple breath-based movement can have a huge effect in boosting your energy. Try a simple half sun-salutation 3-5 times.
- Inhale and raise the arms over the head.
- Exhale and bring the hands down to the ground, bending the knees as much as necessary.
- Inhale and bring the hands to the shins and bring the torso halfway up, making a flat table top.
- Exhale and fold back down over your thighs.
- Inhale and rise back up to standing with arms over the head.
- Exhale and release the hands by your side.
4. Improve concentration
Having trouble paying attention in lectures or forcing yourself to write that essay? Like any activity or skill, focusing the mind requires practice. Meditation can seem like a daunting or mystical activity, but is actually quite simple, and can really help to improve concentration. At its heart, it is simply learning to pay attention.
Meditation on the breath
Sit upright either on the floor or in a chair. Place your hands on your thighs with palms down. Close the eyes and breathe softly. Bring all your attention to observing your breath. If the mind wanders, count the number of inhales and exhales. Start with 5 minutes and work your way up to 20. You’ll notice a difference in your ability to weed out unnecessary thoughts and a rise in your focus and creativity.
Beyond these simple yoga practices, yoga offers a wealth of tools to bring peace and creative productivity to your life as a student. Check out your university’s fitness center or your local community’s yoga studios and try a class.