Downward Dogs Helped Me Survive Senior Year

Hi! My name is Emily Owen. I graduated from Allegheny College in May of 2014 with a B.A. in English, and a minor in Political Science. I am a runner, an aspiring yogi, and a gluten-free baker. My dog Pukka was my graduation present. She loves vanilla ice cream almost as much as I do.

Why Taking a Yoga Class is Worth It

The second semester of my senior year, I signed up for an 8 a.m. yoga class for course credit. I trudged to class at the crack of dawn twice a week, even when the temperature had dropped below zero! Yoga class helped me get through the most challenging semester I experienced in college. Here’s why:

1. To establish a routine and better manage your time.

I graduated from a small liberal arts school where a senior project is a required part of the curriculum. Every year, I watched sleep-deprived seniors practically move in to the campus library. Disciplining myself to prepare for an early a.m. yoga class helped me to avoid the same fate. I knew that I needed to manage my time more carefully and plan ahead for assignments, so that I wouldn’t be up until one or two in the morning finishing work I had neglected all day. My attendance at yoga class also affected my grade, so once I committed to the class I felt responsible for being there bright and early.

2. To meet new friends.

Like joining the debate team or playing a sport, taking a fun class at your school like yoga or ballroom dancing is a great way to connect with like-minded students that you wouldn’t ordinarily interact with. Maybe you’re an English major and you don’t spend a lot of time in the natural science buildings, or maybe there are students on campus you have a lot in common with who are involved in different on-campus activities than you are. A shared interest in yoga is a great starting point for building new relationships, and the inviting, lighthearted atmosphere of a yoga studio makes it much easier to break the ice. Staying open to new friendships and opportunities during college may also help you to discover new interests and talents.

3. To increase energy and mental alertness.

Yoga class was a chance to ‘recharge my batteries’ on days that I lacked energy. Practicing yoga has significant research-backed physical as well as mental benefits easily found with a Google search: it helps circulation, improves posture, and decreases stress, to name a few. I was really struggling with the long hours I had to spend in front of the computer while researching and writing my senior project. After a while my legs would fall asleep and my brain would feel like it was swimming. I discovered that getting out of my computer chair every hour or so and performing a few basic yoga stretches like downward dog or rabbit’s pose cleared my head and helped me concentrate on completing my work.

4. To remind yourself of the importance of self-care.

Yoga class can be a social opportunity, but it’s also an opportunity to completely unplug. Pushing through your unconquerable to-do list but forgetting to take care of yourself can make it impossible to produce your best work. Yoga demands an intense focus on the present moment. In the class, I learned how to take a minute to just breathe, which allowed me to manage stress more productively without feeling overwhelmed. I started to tune in to my mental, physical and emotional needs more often, and felt encouraged to take the time to respond to my body’s needs and find other ways to maintain a healthier lifestyle.

When faced with a heavy workload, try signing up for a yoga class. Yoga will help you manage stress, increase self-awareness and keep a positive attitude. It’s a healthy practice that can stay with you for life.

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