Yoga mentally, physically rewarding for students

Students can be seen carrying fun, colorful yoga mats on their shoulders along with their books as they make their way around the Flagler College campus.

By Cassidy Strauss |

Whether it’s yoga pants or yoga mats, yoga is trending. All of this attention could be because of the fabulous outfits, but no one can deny the numerous physical and mental benefits that come along.

Students at Flagler College get the opportunity to take advantage of the various classes offered on campus in exchange for one credit.

Sarah Smith’s yoga course builds strength, enhances balance, increases flexibility and promotes focus, relaxation and stress relief. She said that, generally, students who enroll in her course tend to continue on.

“At least a couple [students] each semester tell me that it helps with their general feelings of anxiety and stress in their life and has given them a tool for coping,” Smith said.

Smith has been a yoga practitioner for nearly 15 years but got her love for yoga through her 82-year-old father who continues to practice yoga today.

“He’s a psychiatrist so he liked to explore different modalities. Not just healing but alternative ways to quiet the mind,” she said.

Smith shares her passion with others and believes yoga enables participants to cultivate a relationship with their body and mind.

“It is essentially a science of self-improvement that deals with the whole human being.”

Smith said the art of yoga is a toolbox that gives people the building blocks to make it anything they desire.

“You’re developing a practice that you can take with you anywhere. You don’t need anything but your body,” she said. “It changes with you as you grow.”

Describing a generation used to instant gratification, she emphasizes the importance in slowing down and breathing which can help with stress management, especially for students.

“I think young people, especially now, in the way our technology is and the way you’re constantly connected, need to take an hour of the day to yourself where you can completely detach from that and focus on yourself,” said Smith, sitting with her legs crisscrossed on her yoga towel.

Doctors have been doing research on the extensive list of the benefits of yoga and Smith strongly believes in the power of the body to heal the mind.

Some Flagler College sports teams incorporate yoga into their practice in order to stretch player’s muscles and relax their athletes.

Ashley Martin, Flagler College women’s soccer coach, says that he has weaved yoga into the training routine a few times in his three and a half years at Flagler.

“From a physical standpoint, you’ve got the element of stretching and relaxing the muscles a little bit which can help with injury recovery and from a mental standpoint it can calm and relax everybody especially if you’re focusing on your breathing.”

After an intense week, the coach uses yoga to help the players loosen up.

The women’s soccer team held a yoga practice on the beach which is a calming environment in itself.

Yoga studios are popping up one-by-one in St. Augustine as the 7,000-year-old practice takes the Western world by storm, but these sessions can be pricey.

Morgan DiPalma, a sophomore at Flagler College, has taken yoga classes back home as a kid and has always been interested in yoga.

“I thought it was dope that you could take yoga [on campus] and get a credit,” DiPalma said.

She rushed to finish an assignment and immediately seemed calmer as she closed her laptop.

“If I take a yoga class in the beginning of my day, I’m more calm and relaxed and ready to take on the day.”

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