My first experience with yoga wasn't entirely pleasant. After all, P90X yoga isn't for the faint of heart. It entails 90 minutes of intense moving asanas (flowing strength-based poses like the Warrior poses), balance postures (traditional poses like Tree and Royal Dancer) and Yoga Belly 7, which is possibly my favorite abdominal workout of all time.
The first time I tried P90X yoga, Tony Horton tied me up in knots with the efficiency and coolness of a veteran Eagle Scout. I huffed, puffed, fell over a few times and was absolutely exhausted by the end of the session. Moreover, the infuriating serenity of Horton and his fellow trainers – in stark contrast to my grunts of exertion and clumsy stumbling – was anger-inducing and frustrating.
Don't get me wrong, though. I love P90X yoga. It's easily my favorite workout of the program, and it helped me excel in all aspects of my fitness, especially flexibility and balance. That said, I don't think it's necessarily the first thing a beginning yogi should try. Horton's program is intense, designed for building strength and flexibility rather than for relaxation and meditation.
That said, yoga definitely has a place in your workout regime, especially if you're a college student. Here are some reasons why:
Yoga is excellent for stress management. Let's face it. College is stressful for everyone, from the nervous freshman to the seven-year senior who just can't seem to graduate. Papers, networking events, a few part-time jobs, resume crafting, student loan debt – if you're in college and have never been stressed out and overworked, then you're doing it wrong. The key is finding a way to deal with that stress. Many students turn to food, alcohol (which is fine in moderation, but not great for stress management) or cigarettes (which are not fine in any amount). Yoga is a healthier and more effective method of dealing with the stress of school. It allows you to clear your mind, relax your body and prepare yourself to deal with the many pressures of being a college student. Plus, if you're a fitness nut, it's just fun. Speaking of clearing your mind…
[Read: Yoga for People in Wheelchairs.]
Yoga makes you a better student. Yep. Research suggests yoga affects how you perform in the classroom. It improves listening skills, enhances focus and concentration skills, and improves all-around awareness. Additionally, studies show that students who regularly partake in yoga are generally happier and more sociable, qualities that lend themselves to a better classroom environment.
Yoga makes your other workouts easier. My inherited lack of flexibility has always haunted me. Whether it was back in my high school basketball days, or trying to learn a bit of complicated choreography in the University of Alabama's show choir, my distinct absence of litheness always made things harder for me. That's why, initially, P90X was so difficult for me. But after 12 sessions of Horton pushing me to my limit, I definitely saw changes in all aspects of my fitness, especially in my weightlifting. Squats, which were always difficult for me because of my grasshopper-esque frame, became easier; my abdominals got stronger; and, because of my enhanced flexibility, I was able to perform more difficult exercises.
Yoga gives you community. It's always confused me that, in a world constantly connected by Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, we're still so disconnected from the people right next to us. My campus is swarming with students walking around in their own little "tech bubbles," using their headphones and smartphones to shield themselves from any unnecessary human interaction. This isn't healthy. Humans need human interaction. We're social creatures, and yoga classes give you the chance to have those social interactions, especially if you're not on an athletic team or part of Greek life (which is especially prevalent on my campus). Yoga is organized, and because everyone is sharing the experience, it is, by its very nature, a collective and communal activity.
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Steven Holbrook is a senior majoring in journalism at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala. In addition to finishing up his degree, he is currently working on attaining his personal trainer certification. He wants to use his fitness journey to help others attain their own fitness and nutrition goals. He loves a good omelet, aggravating his dog allergies and superhero t-shirts. Follow him on Twitter at @iHolbrook