Despite the fact that yoga is becoming extremely popular among adults as a way to stay fit and stay healthy, most teenagers and young adults do not take it seriously. Personally, I was introduced to yoga because it was the only PE class available in my schedule junior year. I was very skeptical about it at the beginning, but with time yoga became an inevitable part of my morning routine, not only because of its physical benefits but psychological as well. Some of the scientifically proven benefits of yoga include better heart health, improved eating habits, reduced inflammation, and migraines. However, I think one of the biggest benefits of practicing yoga is the positive impact it has on our mental health.
As a high school student, I do not necessarily experience big stresses in my life such as buying a house or losing a job. However, just like most teenagers, my life is full of constant small stressors such as preparing for tests and AP exams, applying to colleges, managing school, and personal life, performing well at sports, etc. Combined with the peer pressure and the pressure of deciding our future, all these stressors on the developing teenage brain can lead to anxiety attacks or even depression. This is when yoga comes into place.
Practicing yoga 20-30 minutes a day gives me enough time to forget about whatever worries I have and allows me to focus on my body and mind. Relaxing yoga flows - Vinyasa Yoga - not only calms me down but helps me recharge and set the intention for the day. When I focus on not falling out of my pose or reaching my toes when stretching, I do not think about the upcoming tests or college essays I need to write, which helps me relieve my anxiety and decrease my stress levels. When I feel especially stressed, I like to do Yin Yoga, which is a slow meditative flow. If you are a beginner, it might be harder to hold some of the poses for a longer period of time, but this is why breathing is very important.
Breathing is one of the most essential parts of yoga because it helps you remain focused and bring your attention back if it wanders. During the practice, it helps me remain balanced and deepens the stretch. I really enjoy doing 4-7-8 breathing (inhale for the count of four, hold the breath for seven and exhale for the count of eight) after my workout because it helps me calm down my body and my mind. By performing breathing exercises regularly, you will not only benefit psychically but also mentally, as breathing techniques are widely used to decrease stress levels and increase awareness of an individual's feelings and emotions. There is a wide variety of breathing exercises, so you can definitely find the one that would benefit you.
After a regular yoga practice or a workout, I like to spend a couple of minutes doing Yoga Nidra, which is a guided meditation. It is a great way to end the practice and set your final intention for the day. It helps me completely relax and recharge. Moreover, meditation is a great way to connect with your inner self, understand your worries and your feelings, which is also why yoga is used to fight anxiety and depression. It promotes self-love and encourages positive self-talk. You can also try doing Restorative Yoga to help relax your mind. Having a routine and knowing that your yoga mat is always there, waiting for you, can be very helpful in stressful situations and can even help fight depression.
Lastly, doing yoga regularly promotes good sleep quality. Let's be honest, it's very difficult to find a high school student who is getting a good quality eight-hour sleep regularly. Practicing yoga can definitely help with that. Whether you decide to do a quick 10-minute flow or a short meditation before going to bed, you will feel more relaxed and fall asleep easier. Therefore, yoga can be a great tool when fighting insomnia. And I think everyone would agree that a better sleep quality means better overall well-being, and more happiness, which we all desire so much.