Students leave anxiety behind through stress-reducing yoga class

Nov. 3, 2014

Ashley Thompson
[email protected]

Students are turning to yoga to cope with the stress of their classes.

Yoga for Stress Reduction is led by Debby Patz Clarke, yogi and psychologist at the counseling center, and provides an opportunity for students to take a break and participate in yoga.

Clarke has been practicing yoga for 15 years and said she believes in the help it can provide.

“Yoga is for everybody. There is nobody who can’t do yoga,” she said.

Though Clarke said that talking about issues can help relieve stress, she also mentioned that there is a definite impact when people are on their yoga mats.

“Your posture can have a huge impact on your mindset,” she said. “Yoga helps you get out of your head and into your body. On a college campus, we’re in our heads all the time.”

Clarke believes that altering your brain’s chemistry is possible and a key factor in reducing stress.

“Our brain is a very powerful organism, and that’s where our stress originates,” she said.

Students who have attended the class have seen this for themselves. Freshman Megan Womack, criminal justice and psychology dual major, has been attending the class for two and a half months.

“My friend and I were stressed out over the fact that we had three exams in a three day period and so we joined,” she said. “The class really helps me unwind. I have classes almost every day and I find that taking an hour to loosen up really helps me feel better.”

Research, Clarke said, indicates that different postures in yoga have an impact on hormones released in the brain. She teaches more vigorous yoga in the stress-reduction class as a way to get students to focus on the pose and move out of their minds.

“It’s great because I will focus really hard on the position, which will cause my mind to go blank and I won’t be thinking about work or school,” Womack said.

Knowing your limitations is also important. Clarke said that she is a runner, which causes tightness in her legs.

“There are some things my body won’t do,” she said. “I’ve recognized that it’s just not that important.” There is more to yoga than what the poses look like.

“Yoga is about finding balance. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Learn to let go,” she said. “Learning this stuff young can save years of stress.”

She added that yoga helps provide perspective. Through yoga, stressful situations become mere experiences and are not allowed to turn into tragedies or dramas in your head.

Sonja Bjelland has attended the class for a year and appreciates how Clarke runs her classes.

“I really like her classes, and it’s free. Can’t beat that,” Bjelland said. “There are always some good thoughts for the day that always seem to be what you need to hear.”

The Yoga for Stress Reduction class is on Wednesdays from noon to 1 p.m. in UC 124 or on the lawn outside Main Hall if the weather is good.

“Everyone is welcome,” Womack said. “It’s simple and will have you doing things you never thought you could before.”