By now everyone probably knows of the many benefits of yoga: it has been proven to reduce anxiety levels; lower blood pressure; increase strength; improve balance and flexibility; boost metabolism; the list goes on and on.
Despite knowing the many amazing benefits, how many of us actually practice yoga daily? Or, are we more likely to buy a mat from Amazon, use it once, and then leave it stuffed down the back of our wardrobes, never to be seen again? As the year winds down and our stress winds up, perhaps now is the perfect time to dig out those dusty yoga mats.
Yoga has been practiced for many thousands of years. First codified between the first and fith centuries by Hindu Sage Maharshi in India. The ‘Yoga Sutras’ recorded wellness techniques which are nearly as old as Indian civilisation itself. These texts defined yoga as the ‘yoking’, which seeks to prevent the mind from focusing on stressful externalities.
Overtime, yoga came to incorporate more physical elements, such as gymnastics and stretching. Today, scientists have discovered a whole host of health benefits (both physical and mental) produced by yoga.
As we are now well in the midst of exam season, yoga can be a great way to manage stress and improve concentration. We spoke to the Manchester Yoga Society, to find out how yoga can be utilised during exam season. They said: “The benefits of yoga are not restricted to the physical body. It also can have a calming effect on your mind: relieving stress and tensions, reducing anxiety levels – all of which are super important, especially in stressful periods such as exams. It’s a brilliant, accessible way of exercising and moving your body – you can do it anywhere. You don’t necessarily need any equipment and you can tailor your practice to your body.”
Manchester University’s Yoga society currently runs two classes per week. If you’ve always wanted to try yoga but haven’t found an opportunity, this is the perfect excuse! Milk & Honey on Oxford Road also offer fantastic, affordable yoga sessions, with loads of time slots available to suit everyone’s schedules.
The brilliant thing about yoga is that it’s pretty much accessible to everyone. YouTube videos are free, and all you need is a spare 10 minutes in your day to sit down and practice. Manchester’s Yoga Society recommends that in order to stay consistent with yoga, set aside some time in the day for it – maybe as soon as you get out of bed, or right before you go to sleep.
The society also recommends sun salutations as a “really nice and simple starting point”. Sun Salutations is a yoga exercise incorporating some twelve different positions, starting standing, moving into downward and upward dog poses, and eventually making your way back to a standing position. Click here for a great introductory video to ‘Sun Salutations’. Or, try our yoga playlist!
The most important thing is that yoga is for everyone. While some positions are more physically demanding, yoga need not be rigorous or particularly challenging. It’s about finding positions that work for you.
Good luck to everyone with their exams: and, if you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or lacking in concentration, why not try a bit of yoga this exam season?