At 5 p.m. on a typical Tuesday evening, many college students are beginning to settle down after a day of swarming from one activity to the next. This is the time when many students will finally stop to catch their breath.
Julia Hirsch, a sophomore at Boston College, takes this much-needed relaxation time to the next level by offering outdoor sunset yoga and meditation classes on one of her school’s main quads. The weekly class is free of charge and open to all students who are passing through.
The Scarsdale, N.Y., native has been practicing yoga for about two years, but a summer trip to India opened her eyes to the meditative power behind the art.
The stress relief that comes with practicing yoga is pivotal in achieving a healthier sense of self, especially within the competitive context of college.
“I had been practicing yoga in a Western context, and didn’t realize the ancient origins of this fun and unique exercise,” said Hirsch. “In India, yoga’s birthplace, I learned all about the spirituality that connects the body and mind together and how its goal is to provide a place of tranquility for the ever-wandering mind.”
Hirsch, who is majoring in philosophy with a minor in psychoanalytics, found her business-oriented mind on a new path after her travels. She now intends to get certified this summer and devote herself to studying yoga all over the world.
For Hirsch, the stress relief that comes with practicing yoga is pivotal in achieving a healthier sense of self, especially within the competitive context of college.
“So much of our stress is rooted in our expectations in how people perceive us, and our need to succeed and prove ourselves to others,” she said. “Only within yourself is the true and reliable source of any sort of happiness. The outer world is just our playground, we are not meant to take anything all too seriously, but have fun and enjoy life for all its twists and turns.”
The immediate relaxation benefits of yoga are accompanied by some unique healing powers.
In an interview with Huffington Post, yoga instructor Zabie Khorakiwala discussed her work integrating yoga into the healing process for victims of sexual trauma. As a survivor of sexual assault, Khorakiwala was able to translate her own experiences into a guided course of regaining control.
“At times I felt overwhelmed and suffocated in my own body because my sense of safety was challenged as a result of the assault,” said Khorakiwala. “Yoga helped me cope; it allowed everything in life to become more manageable.”
Budding college yogis can find solace in Brian Leaf’s Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi: My Humble Quest to Heal My Colitis, Calm My ADD, and Find the Key to Happiness. This memoir follows Leaf’s path from an anxiety-prone, overwhelmed Georgetown student to a certified yoga instructor who helps students sort out the issues that he himself has faced.
For those who lack the time or resources to attend an actual yoga class, look no further than Kathryn Budig’s The Women’s Health Big Book of Yoga, which features detailed photographs and descriptions of over 200 poses.
Budig covers everything from full body workouts to postures that cure a hangover.
Hirsch warns against letting the constant time restraints that college students face interfere with their ability to take time for themselves each day.
“Time in college is precious — we’re constantly running from class to class, grabbing lunch with friends, rushing to club meetings and hibernating in the library for hours,” she said. “But, that’s the problem. We are so busy running around in a state of constant stress that we often never give our own bodies and minds a time to de-stress from the chaos of the work week.”
She also dismisses the idea that it can ever be “too late” to start learning yoga.
“You start from the beginning, the very basics, and build your way up as you grow spiritually and physically stronger,” said Hirsch. “The hardest part about yoga is making it to your mat, but after that, you just learn to breathe and let go.”