Yoga Graphic

For almost a year now, I’ve made my physical and mental health a priority.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, I was unhappy with my unhealthy lifestyle. When we were sent home, I decided I was going to make a change, get in shape and run every morning.

I also started journaling, decreased my social media usage and cooked healthy meals. I had never felt better.

At school, I started hitting the gym and lifting every morning. When I started my days with a good workout, I would keep my room cleaner and eat three healthy meals a day.

However, this semester looked a little different for me. While I had a lighter course load in the fall — mostly made up of classes I enjoyed — I decided to take more gen ed courses this spring.

Now, I’m spending hours in the HUB-Robeson Center and the library every single day. I stare at a computer screen and try to catch up on work that I honestly don’t care about. I haven’t had time to exercise at all. I’ve been eating Panda Express for breakfast and living off of venti Starbucks drinks.

My mental health has definitely taken a toll. My room just can’t seem to stay clean. I cry at the tiniest things, which is something that’s definitely out of the ordinary for me.

So, I decided to dedicate a week of my life to finding time to practice yoga and meditation.

On Monday morning, I started my journey by cleaning my room. Being a typically messy person, this always helps me feel better.

I laid down my mat next to my bed, and I followed a 20-minute YouTube video from MadFit — it was a video catered toward stress and anxiety relief, which are two things I definitely need help with. I used to be a pretty flexible kid, and last year I did a weekly 6 a.m. yoga class on Fridays in the IM Building, so this was pretty easy.

But, by the end, I was surprised at how tight and tense my muscles were. It definitely felt good to get my body moving, but I still felt anxious about skipping the high-intensity workouts I’m used to.

At night, I decided to turn off all the lights in my room, light one of my many candles and meditate.

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As a journalism student, writing is an activity that helps me wind down and feel comfortable. I began my meditation by writing down some personal goals for myself I wanted to achieve that week. Then, I wrote down what I’m thankful for so I could really focus on my well-being while meditating.

I took 10 minutes to focus on my breathing. I also put down my phone for the night after that and went right to bed.

Something that comes with feeling anxious for me is the inability to sleep and nightmares. I definitely slept better that night after practicing meditation.

During the next few days, I began to love the feeling of meditation, so I started meditating after practicing yoga each morning. It definitely made me feel more calm when my workload started getting crazy.

I also felt more motivated in many ways. I stopped stuffing my face with unhealthy food every day, and my body started craving foods that make me feel good.

I started eating more like I did last semester, which consisted of a lot of oatmeal, veggie patties and water. I would pack myself fruits for busy days out of my apartment. When I did indulge in treats or unhealthy food, I didn’t feel like kicking myself. I was content with myself and my body.

I found myself wanting to keep my room clean — mostly because I needed space to do my yoga. Even if I just pushed my clothes aside, I learned it was harder to focus and my mind felt cluttered if my room wasn’t clean.

After only a few days of yoga, my body felt energized. Sometimes when I lift heavy weights or run long distances, I feel tired and sluggish after the post-workout high wears off, and I need energy drinks or coffee to keep me going. But with yoga, it was just stretching. It was a way to get the juices flowing.

A few days in, I decided to stop spending $6 every day at Starbucks. I just let yoga do the job. With only a few headaches, it started to work as well.

Even after I have time to do my typical workouts again, I am going to keep up the occasional yoga to keep my body stretched and to clear my mind. I know I will also definitely journal as consistently as I can.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health — even the tiniest bit — I recommend finding a routine with some sort of meditation to help you focus on the positives. You will be surprised at how much the smallest things can help.

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