Third year student Gemma King tells us about her experience of doing a free yoga session with Sport in Mind.
Sport in Mind is a local mental health charity that uses sport as a way to combat anxiety and stress for students.
Every Monday 10:30 – 11:30 there are free yoga sessions at Sportspark, and anyone who is feeling stressed, anxious or struggling in some way, or who wants to do something positive for their mental health, can come along.
It’s really easy to join the session – just go to SportsPark reception and tell them you’re with Sport in Mind.
I have only ever done Yoga in the comfort of my own home, following Youtube tutorials, so I was a bit nervous of the prospect of doing it in front of others as a beginner. However, the class was very relaxed and perfect for beginners as it was a small class and the instructor was there to give guidance.
We did poses that I had tried before, such as downward facing dog, but also some that I hadn’t tried such as Warrior 2, Trikonasana and Utkatasana. At the end we also did a breathing exercise called ‘alternate nostril breathing’ which sounds strange but it is used in yoga and meditation to focus and calm the mind, and restore balance in the left and right hemispheres of the brain. I went with my housemates and we all found it very relaxing.
Yoga can be hugely beneficial for the body as well as the mind – here’s why:
Yoga focuses on strength, flexibility and breathing. Moving and stretching in new ways will help you to become more flexible and release tight areas.
At university, we seem to spend a lot of our time hunched over computer screens and on our phones, so it can be a great way to release some of the tension in the neck and back that this causes.
Yoga also helps to build strength in your muscles as you are taught to hold positions over the course of several breaths. Holding these positions also help you to improve balance and build core strength. Focusing our attention on breathing and teaching how to take deeper breaths can help clear the nasal passages, and even calm the nervous system, which has both physical and mental benefits.
As soon as you start breathing deeply and become more aware of your breathing, you calm your nervous system and slow down the fight or flight mode that we often don’t realise we are in. This helps to reduce stress and anxiety. A gentle practice of yoga also releases a chemical called Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain which suppresses the neural activity that leads to anxiety.
If you’re interested in trying yoga to help you de-stress and feel less anxious, I’d really recommend coming along to a Sport in Mind session. You can go every week, or you can just go when you feel you need it – there’s no judgement or expectations.