Yoga source of relief for finals stress

As the semester comes to a close, student stress levels are rising. With final exams approaching, it seems as though classes pile on end–of–semester assignments, papers and projects. Almost every day becomes a deadline, and students often find themselves feeling as though they don’t have enough time to eat, sleep or even breathe. One way to deal with this stress is through the practice of yoga.

Yoga is a form of exercise that focuses on health of both the body and the mind, said Kathryn Fitzgerald, art director and co-owner of Amara Yoga, a yoga studio in Urbana. Yoga uses a series of poses to tone, strengthen, and align the body. Breathing techniques are also used to quiet and clear the mind. With the pressures that come from balancing a college student’s schedule, the benefits of yoga can stretch far.

There are several yoga outlets on campus for students aside from Amara Yoga, including various studios and student groups.

Amara Yoga opened in May 2009 and offers a variety of yoga classes for anyone who is interested. From hatha yoga to slow flow yoga, Amara offers classes in different styles and for all levels of experience. Some of their most popular classes include “Candlelight Yoga” and “Happy Hour Yoga,” Fitzgerald said.

“We have a lot of students who really like coming to ‘Candlelight Yoga’ on Wednesday nights. It’s absolutely beautiful and very relaxing,” she said. “A lot of students also come to ‘Happy Hour Yoga’ at 5:30 p.m. on Fridays. Instead of going out and drinking, you can come do yoga to fun music and be healthy instead of unhealthy.”

At Amara, costs are low and classes are offered with membership or drop-in fees. Fitzgerald said this is ideal for a college student’s busy schedule and small budget. Located at 300 S. Broadway Ave., Amara Yoga is in the Lincoln Square Mall and is relatively close to campus.

For those looking to be involved in a yoga club, both the Yoga and Meditation Club and Bhakti Yoga Club offer free yoga for students. The Yoga and Meditation Club practices Ashtanga Yoga at the Illini Union on Wednesdays from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Dustin Kelly, graduate student, is treasurer of the Yoga and Meditation Club and has been teaching classes for almost four years.

“We offer the classes for free and we do that because yoga is everybody’s birthright,” Kelly said. “Everybody should be able to learn the practices of yoga and experience the benefits.”

The Yoga and Meditation Club is geared toward both the intermediate and beginner levels.

“It’s a practice that anybody can try,” Kelly said. “It’s simple enough and not overly physically demanding, so a beginner could try and do quite well.”

The Bhakti Yoga Club focuses more on the meditational side of yoga. New to campus this semester, the club is planning to meet more regularly in the spring. Rajiv Khattar, sophomore in Business and president of the club, said the Bhakti Yoga Club is not what students would normally expect.

“The meditation that we do is not necessarily just sitting and meditating,” Khattar said. “We focus on mantra.”

Mantra is a Sanskrit word, derived from the words “man,” meaning mind, and “tra,” meaning to deliver, he said.

“Delivering the mind means being able to elevate the mind to a state where, rather than having the hustle bustle of day to day life, it’s relaxed,” Khattar added.

Yoga classes are also offered at the Living Yoga Center at 707 West Main Street in Urbana, and at Campus Recreation Center East (CRCE).

“Yoga can be fun and uplifting or serious depending on what you want,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s a great way to focus and center yourself and find balance and peace. I think everyone should try it.”