One foot at a time: stretching into immunity with yoga

I was nervously sweating, taking slow deep breaths, as I stepped onto my mat and waited for further instruction. "Spread your legs out and get a wide stance, svanasana position, come down into downward dog, come up and namaste," yoga teacher Herb Sandoval said, while teaching his advanced yoga class at SMC.

I came to the class expecting to observe, but instead I experienced how yoga transforms your body as I struggled through Sandoval's class.

Yoga has been practiced for centuries in India, both for spiritual and medicinal purposes. According to the American Yoga Association, yoga made its way to the U.S. in the late 1800s, but didn't become widely known until 1960.

Stress management and health benefits of the immune system are just some of the benefits doctors have researched over the past few decades.

Recently, the LA Times wrote an article exhibiting benefits that extended to college students.

It was found by researchers in New Delhi that yoga helps the body resist the impairment of cellular immunity during stressful events.

The discharge of stress builds up the immune system.

Also, regular practice isn't necessary to start seeing benefits, just one to three times a week does the trick, while results start to show in as little as eight weeks.

After diving into the advanced yoga class, Sandoval joked and said, "You didn't think it'd be that easy did you?"

He explained that every position has a purpose. Even twisting like a pretzel has its benefits.

"Standing poses work on structure, inversions work on your granular system and organs of perception, and spending time upside down strengthens your immune system," Sandoval said.

College students on our own campus have also experienced benefits from practicing yoga.

Eva Segura, a biochemistry major, has taken everything from beginning to advanced yoga classes at SMC.

She explained that it has done a lot for her physically and mentally.

"I used to have a lot of stress from going to school full-time, but yoga has taken a lot of the stress out of my life," Segura said. "I used to have back problems and the poses help with my alignment and posture."

Another SMC student also conveyed his release of stress.

Jesse Gutierrez, marine biology major said, "I was going through a really hard time with my family and I was really stressed out about work and school and it helped me release a lot of stress."

The benefits didn't stop there though; besides becoming more calm, Gutierrez also said it helped him with his flexibility and conditioning.

For other students like Sandrine Azisi, nursing major, her experience with her yoga instructor made all the difference.

"I don't like it. The teacher does a lot of advanced poses even though it's a beginner's class so it's hard to keep up," she said.

Through struggling to do all the backbends, handstands, and other compromising positions, somehow in the end I felt more relaxed.

The list of benefits from practicing yoga are endless as research has increased over the years. The challenging poses and the breathing techniques are proven to do a lot for your physically and mentally.

Personal experience will vary, but consistency will likely display better results if you are looking to improve your overall health.

In the words of Sandoval, and I'm sure many philosophers and yogis, "Relaxation is the key to everything."


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