Need a way to relax AND get fit? Add yoga to your daily routine

With the start of another school year, leaving the summer behind and adjusting to a whole new schedule can be a little stressful. The first few weeks of the semester become a balancing act — everything from more advanced classes to new living arrangements to all those extra activities you signed yourself up for during last week’s campus fest (without realizing you don’t have time for all of them). Not to mention the new names and faces to learn on campus this year and if you’re anything like me, learning names is really hard work. Needless to say, we’re stressed. So now what?

Thank goodness you asked. Have you heard of yoga? Oh, you have? Well, fantastic. I can skip the long spiel about all the benefits of yoga — such as increased flexibility and muscle tone, better posture, balance and lung function — and get right to the nitty gritty of yoga and why everyone who is a little stressed out should take advantage of this practice.

Yoga works some serious science magic in your body. Consistent yoga practice regulates your adrenal glands, which are the places where the stress hormone, cortisol, is created and then released into your bloodstream. How does yoga accomplish this amazing feat, you ask? By increasing your body’s serotonin levels. Serotonin is a type of neurotransmitter that helps balance your mood and contribute to your feelings of happiness. So not only does yoga limit stress, it also puts people in an overall happier mood. Want proof? A study performed at the University of Wisconsin found that the left prefrontal cortex (the part of your brain that establishes positive feelings) of mediators such as yogis had more activity than the left prefrontal cortex of an average person. Naturally, we would all like a little more happiness and a little less hormone-induced stress in our life. Yoga can help with that.

We’ve all heard that we have to take care of ourselves, body, mind and soul. Yoga checks all three boxes. First, it’s great for your muscle strength, posture, and flexibility. Second, it improves your mind — specifically, your left prefrontal cortex. Finally, it makes you an overall happier person. If you’re not athletic, never fear. As my instructor back home says, “It’s called yoga practice, not yoga perfect, for a reason.” Yoga is a great way to spend time with friends, de-stress, and feel a little happier. So get out there and find a yoga mat. Besides your mini fridge, microwave, and five-foot phone charger, I guarantee it’ll be the best purchase you’ll make all year.

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