There’s no question that practicing yoga has many benefits for a stressed college student looking to heal both mind and body. Given the frantic pace of Northwestern’s quarter system, it isn’t always easy to find the time or money for an organized yoga class. Even so, with a little bit of ingenuity, it’s still possible to reap the benefits of yoga practice in the cozy confines of your dorm room or apartment.
STEP 1: FOUNDATIONS COME FIRST
It may seem obvious, but to practice yoga, you need to know how to actually do yoga. Chicago native Rhoda Miriam has been teaching yoga since 1993 and says it’s important to have some help when you’re practicing to make sure you’re performing physical postures and breathing exercises properly.
“Just reading from a book or looking at a few pictures of some poses really doesn’t work, and that’s why I recommend going to a class and at least getting some instruction under your belt,” she says. “There’s no substitute for having a teacher watch you.”
Nick Beem, the co-owner of Evanston’s Grateful Yoga, agrees, but also points to YogaJournal.com as a helpful online resource.
“Once you have an idea of what to do, you can just lie on your mat and see what comes out,” he says.
STEP 2: CREATE YOUR ROOMY, ‘SACRED SPACE’
Even if you have the luxury of living in a dorm with larger rooms or a decently sized apartment, finding enough space to practice yoga can be challenging. Unless you feel like moving pieces of furniture out of the way, you may need to adapt your routine to fit in your confined space.
But clearing the floor of chairs, waste bins, clothing and anything else that takes up space can help. Beem says if you can’t make do with your room, try a quiet, unoccupied common area, like a study lounge.
Because yoga is an inwardly focused practice, it helps to reduce outside distractions and get in touch with your spiritual side. When Miriam lived with her sister and brother-in-law, she used a few personal items and photos to create her “sacred space.”
“I created a little box [filled with] things that had meaning to me so that when I wanted to create my sacred space, it was inside that box and all I had to do was open the box,” she says.
Beem says yoga offers its practicioners the tools to experience the principles of any faith.
“If you have a spiritual connection to an image, it’s also best to set up an altar with meaningful objects,” he says. A picture of a holy figure or even a copy of a holy text from whichever faith you observe can do the trick.
STEP 3: DON’T SPLURGE ON EQUIPMENT
“All you really need is a yoga mat and then somewhere to do it,” Beem says. Local fitness and yoga supplier Lululemon has a variety of mats starting at $28, but you can find one on Amazon for just $12, not including shipping.
As far as apparel goes, Miriam says you don’t need to go out of your way to buy often expensive — albeit flattering — yoga pants. Any loose, comfortable clothing will do.
STEP 4: PUT IT ALL IN PERSPECTIVE
While at-home yoga practices are beneficial for enthusiasts, it’s difficult to recreate the atmosphere of an actual class. That said, it’s important not to hold yourself to such a high standard.
“Don’t look at the top of the mountain, look at the foothills,” Miriam says. In essence, don’t try to do too much too soon. Instead, let yourself gradually build up to a consistent routine.
Ultimately, Beem says to “let yourself off the hook” from recreating the experience of class, because it’s next to impossible.
“Just start with a few poses that you like and you find your own way with them and give yourself a chance to experiment,” Beem says.