Fitness & Health

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Say ohmmm! Beat back-to-school stress with yoga

Ailey Korneychuk | Fulcrum Contributor

DIVING BACK INTO the classroom may shock and startle the systems of a university student, especially those who still have summer on the brain. As flip-flop tans fade and thought patterns begin to shift to deadlines and exams, it is not uncommon for students to experience symptoms of low serotonin in the brain—commonly referred to as anxiety or depression.

Symptoms of anxiety and depression can be seen in every six out of 10 university students, and is caused by low or irregular levels of serotonin in the brain. Not only does it bum you out, but a lack of serotonin can cause swings in appetite, energy, sleep, mood, libido, and cognitive functioning. In extreme cases, low levels of serotonin can result in suicidal thoughts, a phenomenon that is perhaps particularly dangerous for the overworked and easily isolated university student.

Until recently, the only solution to increase low serotonin levels was drug therapy, but the drugs developed were often found to be either ineffective or inefficient for a generic patient audience.

Unsatisfied with the mixed results garnered by drug therapy, researchers have begun to look for different answers to the low serotonin question. One avenue they explored was the practice of yoga. We know that practicing yoga requires a person to hold different physical postures and poses, and that the aim is to rebalance the mind, body, and spirit. To the first-time yogi these poses often seem pointless, awkward, or just plain stupid, but what occurs with consistent practice is an elimination of toxins, an increase in muscle development, and improved stability in your mind and body. This is due to the release of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical in the brain that is known to regulate active nerves. One German study found that women who practiced yoga for three months reported improvements in not just stress levels, but in energy, well-being, and anxiety as well. Yoga naturally rebalances chemicals within the brain and allows serotonin to equalize, which helps to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

As university students, we are immersed in a balancing act of academic obligations, the demands of a part-time job, family functions, romantic relationships, and the ever-important social life. You may be wondering how you could possibly fit anything else into your schedule. But don’t worry—nowadays, practicing yoga regularly does not require you to travel to India or adopt a deeply spiritual lifestyle. In fact, you don’t even have to leave campus. There are different yoga classes held at Montpetit and at the Minto Sports Complex at a student rate, but keep an eye out for free sessions held on campus by checking out the group fitness page of the Sports Services website.

Finding a yoga practice that’s right for you may mean having to take a trial and error approach. This could take some time and exploration, but it’s worth it in the end. With so many options to choose from, finding a practice that will suit both you and your schedule should be no problem. So put those Lululemons to work, get your GABA flowing, and breeze through midterms anxiety free.