Finding Zen in Chaos

Finding Zen in Chaos

I started practicing yoga after a particularly rocky period of my life. Prior to then, I’d only ever tried yoga in school or with friends on the odd occasion. I’d always preferred higher intensity exercise and couldn’t bear sitting still for a long time, so I’d never really gotten into it.

Last January, my anxiety reached a new peak that left me unsure of how to cope with the way I was feeling. Deciding some lifestyle changes were called for, I signed up for the Queen’s Yoga Club, a student organized yoga program offering members two classes each week. At $40 per semester, it’s an affordable way of practicing yoga, especially for beginners wanting to try out different practice styles.

The first couple of classes left me skeptical —poses were uncomfortable, some of the instructor’s insights were a bit “out there”, and time slowly dragged by. However, I made myself stick with it, and, with patience, commitment, and an open mind, I was able to delve deep into a hobby that’s easily become one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

The term “yoga”, loosely translated from Sanskrit, means “to unite,” but the word actually combines a number of physical, spiritual, and mental practices. Essentially, individuals use the practice to connect with another source of energy. In some traditions, it’s a god, while others take the approach of accessing a common energy shared by all living things. Yoga is often thought to be mostly based on exercise however, while it’s an excellent way to get toned and limber, it offers so much more than that. Originally, yoga consisted of only a few seated postures because it was intended to achieve the meditative union at the core of the practice.

“The practice encourages linking breath to movement —once you learn how to do that, you’re able to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life, so that life’s stressors don’t bother you as much as they used to.”

For me, yoga is a way of staying attached to the present moment. The practice encourages linking breath to movement —once you learn how to do that, you’re able to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life, so that life’s stressors don’t bother you as much as they used to. Meditation and breathing techniques are incorporated into most yoga classes, providing further tools for dealing with stress and anxiety.

Over time, having attended dozens of yoga classes and read various books on the subject, I’ve found my entire outlook has changed, becoming more rooted in the present moment, connected to the world around me, and focused on the positives. Yoga, in its traditional definition as a “union”, exists both on and off the mat.

While yoga is a useful tool for everyone, university students in particular can benefit from the practice. Aside from Queen’s Yoga Club, Kingston has a wide selection of studios with different locations and styles —there’s something for everyone. They also typically offer a student rate, reducing the cost for those with a smaller budget.

“If you can sit through 10 minutes of silence with your own thoughts, an hour-long lecture suddenly seems a lot easier to focus on.”

Moreover, my commitment to practicing yoga has given me newfound discipline. As I try my best to practice five times a week at the studio, I have to maintain a decent amount of time management and planning. Fortunately, this habit has translated into my work and school schedule. Planning my days out in advance keeps me on track and minimizes stress. Additionally, yoga is beneficial because meditation and exercise are both known for increasing focus, relaxation, and memory. If you can sit through 10 minutes of silence with your own thoughts, an hour-long lecture suddenly seems a lot easier to focus on.

Overall, I’ve come to believe yoga is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself as a university student. It promotes self-care by allowing you to focus on your mind and body, even for just a few minutes each day, and let go of the stress of student life. Over time, like it did for me, it might just change the way you look at things.

Header Image Source: Hatzikirou via Instagram

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