"Proof" that Yoga is Beneficial to College Students

CSU Crocodile Over the course of the Spring 2015 semester I had the pleasure of teaching yoga to nearly 100 students at Cleveland State University with classes made up of college students, faculty and staff. Depending on the class, students met for two 50 minute classes per week or once per week for 50 minutes with a 2 day "home practice" that was recorded and submitted.  While there were students who had practiced some type of yoga prior to this semester, for a majority of them, it was their first yoga class. A variety of asana (postures), pranayama (breathing) and meditation techniques were covered which included the following: Asana

  • Pawanmukatasa Series 
  • Classical Postures
  • Sun Salutation


  • Natural Breath Awareness
  • Abdominal/Thoracic Breathing
  • Rhythmic Breathing
  • Viloma (Breath Interruption)
  • Bharamari (Humming Bee Breath)


  • Yoga Nidra
  • Kaya Shtairyam (Body Steadiness)
  • Breath Meditation
  • Antar Mouna (Inner Silence)
  • Walking Meditation

Although the following is anecdotal and was taken from an "open book"  final exam given to the college students and certainly does  not serve as "scientific proof",  I believe that these comments build a strong case for the power of yoga's health inducing and stress reducing benefits.  To protect anonymity, and of course privacy, students names were not included. Need to be inspired to give yoga a try but don't have time to read all comments?  Skip to the boldface type! Name two (2) things that you learned about yourself or the practice of yoga that you did not know before taking this class. "I learned about the benefits of taking time in my day to become aware, internally focused, and separated from the outside world. Yoga has been a place where I am encouraged to surrender my negative thoughts and because I did not have yoga experience before this class, I had no idea the effect the time in class would have on me, holistically. In addition, I was unaware just how much breathing would be involved in yoga. Incorporating breathing, physical movements, and a mental component has taught me how to let go of my stressors and focus on the present moment."  "I have a lot of unresolved, unquiet thoughts! Practicing yoga nidra has shown me that. I also have noticed as a result of the class the art of abdominal breathing is extremely calming and grounding for me to execute daily; it also helps lower my heart rate on long distance runs!" "I did not know how relaxing yoga can be before taking this class. It made me realize that it is important to take the time and just be aware of your body and the pain. I have learned that yoga can be another way to work out, but it is also a great way to reduce stress. I have realized that my stress level has went down ever since I took this class." "I never thought I could just sit, or lay down and let my mind go to a completely different place. When we first started doing yoga nidra I would doze off a lot, but towards the end I would stay completely awake and alert and it was one of the greatest and most relaxing things I have ever done! I always thought that if I was forced to lay down with my eyes closed and with the lights off I would just pass out, but like I said, towards the end I never did!  Also, I never thought that yoga could make me so relaxed and stress free. Before this class I have taken some other classes, but they never made me as relaxed as this class did. After yoga, I would feel so good for the rest of the entire day." "I learned that I can actually sit still, something I never seemed capable before. I think that taking this class has helped me better my stress control, and I love that I get two take two hours of my week for forced relaxation, especially with such a crazy schedule. The yoga session have taught me that I like yoga, I thought I would never be the type of person who would do yoga but I fully plan on continuing my practicing because it feels good." "2 things I learned about myself, and the practice of yoga that I didn’t know before taking the class are the importance of consistent practice, and not letting your ego get in the way of practice. When I first began yoga, I often felt intimidated and sometimes embarrassed. After this class especially I realize there is no good that comes from that. Instead it is important to remember the benefits I am constantly gaining and the reason it’s called a "practice". Consistency is important both for physical and mental results and it took up until about a week ago for me to realize that." "I learned that I have the ability to quiet my mind. That has been such a struggle for me, even with the multiple mediation strategies and apps I have tried. My friends say I am over-analytical, and having this ability that I can use at any time will be very beneficial. I also was able to be present and tap into my gratefulness. I was unaware that I could truly do this consistently." "Two things that I learned where basic meditation. I practice yoga frequently but do not meditate often. I learned that I can be still. I also learned how to quiet my mind. I experience anxiety and often have so many thoughts about things I need to do or accomplish running through my mind, and to still these thoughts has been such a great learning experience.  I  already attend yoga classes, but practicing yoga at home is something I have really began to do this semester. I enjoy meditating, and will continue to work on my breathing, walking meditation, putting my phone away and sitting quietly, and learning more about myself and listening to my body. I am such an active person that sitting still and quiet is what I will incorporate more of into my life on a daily basis."  "One thing I learned was that I actually enjoyed yoga! And that it’s not just for girls! I had a preconceived notion that I wouldn’t be able to do the movements because I didn’t have the flexibility. I was pretty ignorant to the whole thing. I also learned how much yoga can improve athleticism. During certain compound lifts I do, like deadlifting and squatting, I found that I had better depth and range of motion. Once I saw my flexibility improving I started enjoying yoga. I would and have recommended it to my friends." "Before taking this yoga class I did not realize that there were different yoga practices.  I had only had experience with a high intensity practice where classes this semester were more relaxed and focused on how we are feeling and what we are thinking.  The other thing I have learned is that practicing yoga a few times a week has helped me feel better and more relaxed.  I am also able to focus and think clearer on my school work." "Before taking yoga, I was skeptical about how much it would really be able to help my body. Now, I know its true powers. You have to be able to listen to your body and be aware of how it feels, and I can do that through yoga. It also involves great exercises and poses that help strengthen the body naturally. The mental and emotional benefits are amazing, too. I never knew that yoga could help me focus more or allow me to become more alert and less stressed. Stress management has probably been the most lasting quality of yoga for me, because I now have ways in which I can become less anxious and worried, and focus on breathing or stretching."  "I learned that I can be patient and deal with stress healthier from this class. I get really bad heart palpitations when I’m nervous, and these can disappear if I do a few breathing exercises to calm myself down. I’ve found these exercises also help my singing voice and have kept me healthier. I wasn’t as sick this semester and I think that had something to do with my yoga practice." "I’ve learned many things about myself and the practice of yoga since taking this class. About myself, I’ve learned how much stress I really carry and how much it had started to show in my body. From the breathing practices and meditations for awareness, I really started to realize that I can control the stress that I’m under and stay positive. Also, I never realized how many benefits yoga has besides just stretching and strengthening muscles. I didn't realize that it can control energy, the nervous system, internal organs, etc, which is something that I found really surprising and incredible." "It is possible to feel disconnected from oneself while practicing yoga. I have felt this multiple times during meditation practices such as yoga nidra and kaya sthaiyam. I have also noticed that practicing even the smallest amount frequently and consistently can make noticeable changes in my mental, physical, and emotional states. Depending on how much I practiced that week, I would notice significant differences in my moods. Yoga had a different effect on me while I was vigorously training for swimming than after I finished. It was interesting to notice that change, but yoga helped." "Doing yoga has encouraged me to be fit and more conscious about changes in my body. It has actually become a routine every morning on Saturdays and Sundays. Right after getting out of bed on the weekends now I do the home practices and it just revs me up for the rest of the day. I’ve noticed changes in that I am more motivated to do things on the weekends rather than just lay around. I’ve also noticed that when doing poses that activate the back muscles, I am not as tight and my back isn’t as strained as before." "I learned that certain positions relieve certain types of aches and pains. An easy stretch like cat pose can do wonders for painful feminine issues. I learned that sitting and doing completely nothing for a few minutes can help clear my mind and help me focus." "Through taking this class I learned how easy it is to come to a peaceful state and relieve my anxiety. I am now able to take a step back from the hectic happenings in my life and calm myself down. I now see that I am capable of furthering my abilities with yoga with gradual progression and consistency. I also see that there are many physical and mental benefits of doing so." "In this class, I learned that yoga is not necessarily as physically difficult a practice as I had thought previously. I avoided trying yoga in the past because I had the impression that it required a degree of flexibility that I did not possess. I also had reservations regarding the strength required to practice yoga. Although the later practices of this class do present challenges for me in terms of the flexibility required, the earlier asanas were easily attainable. " "From practicing yoga in this class, I have learned that I have the capability of letting unpleasant things go in favor of pleasant things. I typically have a tendency to focus on small undesirable details regardless of the outcome of a situation, and derive most of my feelings about that outcome on the basis of those small details. This semester, I find myself able to disregard the unpleasant smaller details in favor of overall positive outcomes. The opposite is also true: this semester, I have been able to focus on small positive things in overall unpleasant outcomes." "While practicing yoga I have actually learned a lot about myself. One thing that I learned that really surprised me is that I am a stressed out person. I always thought of myself as being relatively calm and relaxed most of the time but after doing breathing exercises and yoga nidra I have learned what being calm and relaxed truly means. Another thing that I learned about myself that was pretty surprising is how inflexible I truly am. Since I’ve been playing sports for the majority of my life I’ve always just assumed that I was pretty flexible too. However, after doing asanas I quickly realized that this wasn’t true. " "I learned that I am capable of letting my mind go and not think about the stresses of daily life. I just need to take this time to do nothing. I have also learned that yoga is about you and your capabilities. We all have different strengths and weaknesses and yoga focuses on accepting the fact that you may not be able to do a certain pose, etc. but you can focus on the other poses you are able to achieve." "I learned that I need to take the time to relax and focus to relieve my stress.  By doing this I am more productive then when I tried to work through it. I also learned that by doing the practice multiple times a week I will be more energized and focused through the week.  This helped me in all aspects of my life from being energized and focused in soccer and in my classes." "Yoga is all about emotional connection to exercises.  Meditation is a big part of any practice.  The breath is a great way to relax and stay in the moment.  Yoga focuses on a connection to the present moment." "First, I did not realize how spiritual the practice of yoga is. I thought it was just a form of exercise for stretching and strength. I quickly realized that these practices are closely related to nature and the inner spirits. Second, I learned that yoga can help you rather quickly. In just one semester’s time I made great progress in my flexibility, especially in my hamstrings. I didn’t really notice it until recently when I thought about how inflexible I used to be. Also, I learned to appreciate meditation and the time it takes because sometimes it just takes time to yourself in order to relieve stress; whether it be emotional or physical stress. To be completely honest, at the beginning of the semester I kind of saw yoga as a bunch of people in a room laying in a bunch of weird positions. But now, I realize that yoga is beneficial in numerous ways. From the simple warm palms trick to open your eyes into light, to the stretches that helped me gain some flexibility, to the meditations that do really relax the body, my skepticisms are gone. Some positions I didn’t find helpful very much, but many of them I could find ways in which they helped within the time span of one semester. I think that this experience in general has taught me to keep a more open mind and has led me towards the “don’t knock it til you try it” attitude. I think this is more important than any gain in flexibility or strength. " (more…)

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