For many students, college can be a time of great stress and anxiety provoked by an increased pressure to do well in both the realms of school and social life. Many local yoga instructors encourage stressed students to give yoga a try after seeing the positive changes in their own life as a result of continued yoga practice.
Metka Zupancic, a UA French professor and yoga instructor at The Yoga Center on Hargrove Road, has been practicing yoga since her impromptu discovery of its healing powers while in college in France in the 1970s. After a stressful night of studying, Zupancic felt the need to roll on her back, which she later discovered was a yoga pose known to alleviate stress.
“As I came to understand throughout the years, yoga is not stretching,” Zupancic said. “It is not showing your biceps and triceps, it’s about the energy that is being heightened in your body. It helps with focus even when multitasking. It helps the flexibility in my mind and in my body.”
Zupancic practices Iyengar yoga, focusing on the body-mind-spirit conjunction. Her constant immersion in yoga practice has brought her to a number of yoga workshops all over the country as well as in France.
“Sometimes yoga can be more beneficial than a couple hours of sleep,” Zupancic said. “It cleans the energy in the body and opens the channels in your body so the body can take out the toxins that emphasize anxiety.”
Lynda Kees, also a yoga instructor at The Yoga Center, believes students can greatly benefit from the constant practice of yoga. Kees took her first yoga class at 17 and has been practicing in some way or another ever since.
“It [yoga] helps you to stay centered in your day-to-day life, that means that you’re not swept around by things that happen to you,” Kees said. “There is an observer part of your mind that allows you to step back so that you’re not always reacting but choosing to act in response to things that come up and things that throw you off guard.”
Kees said the physical benefits of yoga are a side effect of constant yoga practice. It is impossible to separate the mindful component from yoga.
“College-age folks don’t ever want to shut down or just be still,” Kees said. “If you’re feeling frazzled or stressed or over-stimulated, make a choice and back out for a little bit. You can be nourished by yoga so you won’t feel so whipped around by everything.”
The Yoga Center offers a discount for students, priced at only $7 per class. But, if you are looking for a free option, the University Recreation Center offers a variety of yoga classes at least once a day.
Bonnie Whitener, a UA English professor and a yoga instructor at the UA Recreation Center, has been practicing yoga for 20 years and became a registered teacher seven years ago. She said you can get a great yoga base at a Recreation Center yoga class.
“I personally have a hard time just sitting and meditating,” Whitener said. “Yoga is a moving meditation that lets your body release all tension. It gives you a chance to focus your mind and gives you an hour to just focus on you.”
This is Whitener’s first semester to teach yoga at the Recreation Center. She said she is happy to start teaching “the second love of her life” again.
“In a yoga class you can’t have your phone out,” Whitener said. “I’ve never had a problem with that in my yoga class, which is pretty wonderful. In my classes when I teach English, I watch [students] all the time with their phones out. But here, students want to come in and have a chance to not deal with that part of their lives.”
Zupancic encourages students to set aside 20 minutes in the morning or at night to keep a yoga routine. Steady yoga practice along with a healthy diet is a holistic approach that will nourish the body.
“The American school system is very demanding in terms of constant pressure,” Zupancic said. “Steady yoga practice will solidify the body-mind-spirit connection that will help the person address life from a different perspective.”