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Monday, September 27, 2021

UC Davis Yoga Club stretches practices and mindfulness into the new year

Club members reflect on the importance of yoga and meditation during the pandemic

In response to stressors relating to the pandemic, many students have developed self-care habits to maintain mental and physical health, such as yoga and meditation. At UC Davis, the Yoga Club welcomes students interested in yoga and provides them with resources including free yoga or meditation classes. 

Nicole Drake, a third-year wildlife fish and conservation biology major and the vice president of UC Davis Yoga Club, practices yoga three or four times a week, integrating meditation into her yoga routine.

Drake shared how practicing yoga has helped her to stay present during the chaos of the pandemic. 

“It’s definitely helped me maintain my sanity,” Drake said. “It helps me stay focused, stay grateful and stay present. Instead of thinking about all the things that I’m missing, it kind of grounds me, and makes me realize that no, I have the ground underneath my feet, I have the air around me to breathe: it’ll be okay.”

Drake said she notices a difference between the days she practices yoga and the days she does not. Specifically, she shared that practicing yoga allows her to hone in on her schoolwork and avoid peripheral thoughts. 

“When I do practice, I’m able to focus better,” Drake said. “I just feel not as cloudy in my head. I’m just able to be present and focus on the tasks in front of me instead of all of these thoughts in my head buzzing around and competing for attention. I feel like I’m able to separate those better and focus on what I need to do and separate my tasks.”

Moreover, Drake shared that yoga goes beyond exercise, but rather creates a blending experience that can invite new values to your life. 

“Real yoga is about nourishing your body and your mind and connecting the two and appreciating everything that your body can do and everything that your mind can do, and the harmony that they can create together,” Drake said. “By practicing yoga, you instill that in yourself. By practicing those values and that concept, it really can change how you think and how you view the world around you in a really beneficial way.”

Emily Velez, a third-year psychology major and public outreach chair of Yoga Club, practices yoga approximately six times a week. Velez received her yoga teaching certification during a gap year in Bali but is not currently teaching due to the pandemic and the difficulty of juggling teaching and school. 

Velez shared that yoga helps provide a sense of stability during such uncertain times. 

“It’s very grounding, especially at a time when nothing feels certain, yoga not only grounds me, but it also helps balance,” Velez said. 

Velez stated that yoga techniques can be beneficial in one’s routine. Specifically, she identified the importance of a good breathing routine to aid in times of stress. 

“Yoga has a lot to do with the breath,” Velez said. “And I feel like in daily life, a lot of people, including myself, can get so taken up, especially as a student, with all the assignments and the midterms and exams, and just having breath techniques and knowing where I can go and what I can do to help come down from that anxiety and that stress is really helpful.”

Zanny Zellers, a third-year international relations major and the content creator of Yoga Club, participates in daily informal yoga that involves both yoga and forms of stretching for around 15 minutes. Zellers said that she uses meditation practices as a way to reset her mind when she is feeling down. As of late, she has been incorporating high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts into her routine as well. 

Zellers shared that the pandemic at large has been a difficult time for her as she strives to graduate early while balancing personal issues. While she continues to navigate through these unprecedented times, Zellers uses yoga and meditation as a tool to push forward in the face of adversity. 

“I wish that I had accomplished more during this time, but I am proud that I wake up excited each day and that I have a lot of energy and make everything happen, and maybe that’s an accomplishment in and of itself,” Zellers said via email. “I don’t know to what degree yoga and meditation help me, but I know that they help. They’re simple, free tools, and every time I use them they get more effective.”

Zellers shared that every moment of practicing yoga feels as if they added up to create significant and lasting changes in her life. 

“Every day I do yoga I feel a little better and stronger in really subtle ways,” Zellers stated. “Compound this over a year, and you have like a totally new body with new muscles everywhere. I remember an instructor I had telling us that he was amazed the first time he could touch his foot in the shower. It’s really little things that you can do that give you a feeling of serendipity.” 

Written by: Nora Farahdel — features@theaggie.org

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