Yoga is a growing practice across the United States and college students make up a sizable portion of all yoga practitioners. Whether the goal of a class is relaxation or taking the body to its limits, yoga has a wide range of classes from gentle to power.
According to the Yoga Alliance’s 2016 Yoga in America Study, the number of American yoga practitioners has risen to over 36 million this year, up from 20.4 million in 2012. The top reasons cited for practicing yoga include flexibility, stress relief and fitness.
With over 40 percent of all drop-in fitness classes at the PEIF being related to yoga, it’s not surprising that there’s also a student organization focused on yoga as well. It’s called Hearts of Yoga and the group is run by Meagan Hennekens, a grad student working on her masters in exercise science and studying the effect of regular yoga practice on nursing students.
Hennekens has been teaching yoga in the Marquette area for seven years. Hearts of Yoga offers a free class mostly every Sunday, held by a rotating schedule of instructors.
“College students are going through an identity crisis—they don’t know who they are, what they stand for, and they’re still trying to figure out what their path is,” Hennekens said. “Practicing yoga gives you a chance to take the observer seat on your life.”
According to the 2016 Yoga in America study, 86 percent of yoga practitioners report having a strong sense of mental clarity, which is nine percent higher than non-practitioners.
Sophomore digital cinema major Drew Boggemes transferred to Northern after working as a semi-truck driver for a while. He said after working a sedentary job for over a year, he knows the toll it can take on the body. Boggemes said yoga helps him get grounded and helps him realize the strong connection between the mind and body.
“Practicing yoga gets me away from the brain soup of always being on the internet and thinking about what I’m supposed to do with my life. It gives me the space to just be a human being and be amazed at what my body can do,” Boggemes said.
A study from the International Journal of Yoga in 2009 said that students who practice yoga performed better in academics. It drew a direct correlation between stress and student performance with students with low stress outperforming those with higher levels of stress.
Lenny Shible, Health Promotion Specialist at NMU, said just about anything that people can do to change where their head is at for a little while will help deal with stress.
It’s important to have coping skills on hand before the stress becomes overwhelming. From using breathing techniques like you do in yoga, or making balloon animals at an anti-stress fair on campus run by the Health Promotion Office, what’s important is being able to turn the problems of the moment into something that you can deal with, Shible said.
For more information about Hearts of Yoga visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/heartsofyoga.