When I was in college, I never saw yoga as a viable fitness option for me. I saw it as a workout only intended for skinny L.A. chicks who wanted to increase their flexibility and have an excuse to wear Lululemon yoga pants to class. I had no clue practicing yoga could have potentially saved me from gaining the freshman 15—er, 18. And, I had no clue yoga’s secret mental health benefits could have improved my physical health. Looking back, I really, really wish I gave yoga a shot…
The Importance of Working Out in College
You’ve heard it all before: It is important to stay healthy in college by eating right, working out, blah, blah, blah. If you were smart enough to get into college, you are probably intelligent enough to realize the importance of being healthy.
But did you know there is a correlation between working out and your actual grades?
Colleges around the country have been tracking their students’ workout habits and are spending millions of dollars to build bigger and better recreational facilities for their students to exercise in. Their justification? Because working out seems to lead to higher grades.
As detailed in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Purdue University, for example, noticed through data from students scanning in their ID cards at the recreation center that those who exercised got better grades. In fall 2013, those who didn’t visit the recreational facilities averaged a 3.07 GPA; those who visited 64 times or more in a semester averaged 3.20.
When you stop and think about it, it makes sense. According to Dr. Eudene Harry, author of Live Younger in 8 Simple Steps, working out can decrease any anxiety you may feel about an upcoming test, and it has been linked to improve memory and increase test scores.
Running on the treadmill, lifting weights or kickboxing classes are certainly great workout routines that seem to contribute to students’ better health and grades. However, yoga could be a contributor as well.
Tara Stiles and the FitStar Yoga App
You might have already heard about FitStar. Its debut product was FitStar Personal Trainer and featured NFL star Tony Gonzalez. The five-star app surged past 1 million downloads earlier this year. Looking to achieve that same success is FitStar Yoga with Tara Stiles, which will debut later this fall on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.
“The ability technology has to bring yoga to lots of different people—I thought that was fascinating,” said Stiles about her partnership with FitStar. Stiles is the founder and owner of Strala Yoga, a renowned studio with more than 1,000 instructors leading classes globally. She has worked with stars— Jane Fonda and Brooklyn Decker—and with FitStar Yoga, Stiles hopes to “help a lot of people,” including college students.
“One of the main things that’s really cool, especially for college-aged kids, is that yoga really helps to reset how you feel while you’re doing something physical,” said Stiles.
She further explained that besides burning calories, practicing yoga helps bring awareness to your body and mind. “When it comes to making healthy food choices and also better thinking when it comes to school, tests, life and stress reduction, yoga is really paying attention to how you feel about yourself,” said Stiles. “It cultivates this sort of desire to keep making choices that make you feel better.”
Making these healthy choices in college is challenging. Often, students feel inclined to grab a high-calorie fast food option for lunch instead of making something lighter. Or, they reach for a caffeine-packed coffee treat instead of a nutritious smoothie to get through the day. But by practicing yoga, a student may feel more inclined to take better care of his or her body.
“You can finish your practice of yoga, and you’ll feel really good about yourself,” said Stiles, “and want to continue doing things that make you feel good about yourself, like eating healthier, hanging out with people that make you feel good, forming better relationships and better work relationships.”
All of these benefits sound great. However, some may argue practicing yoga is not a viable option for college students because they do not have the funds to pay for yoga classes, nor do they have the time to attend regular yoga sessions. That’s where FitStar Yoga comes in. The app will feature customized video-based programs suitable for any body, from beginning to expert. Whenever time permits, a student can just open the app and start their personalized yoga session.
“If you wanted to do 10 minutes, if you have 30 minutes one day or if you happen to have an hour one day out of the blue—there’s all these different ways to customize it,” said Stiles.
Plus, the app is free to download. “It’s obviously a lot lower than a gym membership you would go to, and it’s something you can do right in your own home, dorm, apartment or wherever college students are crashing these days.”
Tara’s Recommended Poses
If you have just a few minutes before class, in between classes or after class, take the time to do these poses; they’ll help you release tension and stress.
The Plank Pose
Stiles describes this pose as “really fun” and “recognizable”—it’s just the top of a push-up position. “You can sort of stay in this position and be easy and calm in your body,” she said. “It gives you that time and space for your mind really to calm and be easy.”
The Pigeon Pose
According to Stiles, this pose helps relieve stress and muscle tension. It’s simple to do as well: Just bring your chin forward to the ground, and extend your other leg behind you. Relax your whole torso over that chin.
“It pretty much feels amazing for everybody,” said Stiles, “especially for students who are sitting at their desks for long hours or at the computer…It’s something that gets the range of motion back into the hips and the lower back, but it also releases that mental tension as well.”
Thanks to today’s innovative technology, getting in shape has become a lot easier. With apps like FitStar Yoga, there really is no excuse to not live a healthier lifestyle while in school.