New Year, New Chic: Start a Yoga Practice!

By Guest Blogger Shira Engel, Student at Wesleyan University

Do you prefer the word "intention" to the word "resolution?" Is one of those "intentions" to breathe more and stress less, to gain flexibility of mind and body, to incorporate more balance into your life or to have a daily practice that can act as a barometer of how you're doing and coping with the daily pressures of being a college student? Did anyone get you a yoga mat or uber chic leggings for the holidays?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, chances are, this new year is the year you start a yoga practice and I'm here to help.

As the author of the e-book Yoga U: The College Student's Tools for Balanced Living, I firmly believe that a yoga practice is a fantastic and, at times, necessary addition to the college lifestyle. We need tools to lead balanced lives and a yoga practice can provide those tools!

If you can move, you can do yoga. Fanciness is overrated. We need to be babies in order to be kids and we need to be kids in order to be adults. In other words, we need to be really awkward freshmen in order to be fabulous seniors. As for a yoga practice, we need to go through all the steps in order to create one that works for us.

1. Set your intention
Set an intention. What do you want your own practice to convey about you? This intention is not static; it can and will vary. When I first began practicing, my intention was to be present and while it was great for me at the time, it is not super unique or personal. I now go by the three F’s (yeah, I know I love alliteration) — fierce, fun, and flowing. That is what I want my practice to convey about me. My yoga practice on the mat should be reflective of who I want to be off the mat.

2. Check out a yoga class
Find the schedule of some studios in your college town if you're not in a city (this can be a great way to get to know some full-time residents and minimize any town/gown divide). Better yet, see if an are offered by college students who are also yoga teachers. Want to know if these exist at your school? Check out UniYogi, a Facebook network of college yogis.

3. Decide on how often and for how long you would like to practice
Once a week for an hour and a half? Three times a week for an hour each? Ten minutes a day? Whatever it is, make sure it works for you, your life and your schedule. Set yourself up to succeed!

4. Find an ideal time of day
There is no right answer here. If you have a tendency to roll out of bed and into 9 a.m. Spanish, a morning practice probably isn’t for you unless you are in some dire need of changing that habit. Are you exhausted by the time you’re off to the library? Maybe insert your yoga practice right beforehand. Work WITH yourself.

5. Check out some online resources
Take a class in your dorm room with sites like My Yoga Online, YogaGlo, Yoga Download and YouTube.

6. Grab a friend
It's a lot fun when we do things that are good for us with other people. It keeps things sustainable because it makes us more accountable.

7. Make a playlist
Pick some inspiring music to set your practice to. Maybe start with something tranquil and then up the beat for a bit, ending with some relaxing Norah Jones at the end, for example.

8. Get on the mat and play around
Do your thang! Dance around. Practice some sun salutations. Follow a podcast or video. Whatever it is, the most important thing is to do something and move with the breath. You, your schoolwork and your social life will reap the rewards of a calmer, more balanced you!

For more detailed instructions, check out the e-book Yoga U: The College Student's Tools for Balanced Living.

Image courtesy of sakhorn38 /

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