Posts tagged student
How Yoga Can Help You To Thrive Through University

How Yoga Can Help You To Thrive Through University

by James Downs

Moving to a new town to start university can be both an exciting and daunting experience. Presented with new opportunities to learn, grow and meet people from a diverse range of backgrounds, expectations can be high that our university years will be the time of our lives. But navigating the opportunities and demands of university can be a tricky business.

Whilst many appear to be living their “best lives” here in Cambridge, it doesn’t take much digging to uncover that student life isn’t always that rosey. The stresses of deadlines and exams can take their toll. It can become all too easy to sacrifice sleep, self-care and even our mental and emotional wellbeing for the sake of good grades. Finding a sustainable balance between the work you need to do, and the rest, relaxation and enjoyment that your body and mind need in order to function well, is key.


This is where yoga comes in. In my experience, yoga can be a great teacher - and not just of postures with strange Sanskrit names. Coming to Cambridge to study psychology and education, I found it almost impossible to juggle all my coursework alongside the many university societies I had joined through a tendency to say “yes” to everything. In the end, this lead to a relapse in problems with eating that I had experienced since my teens. Without looking after my health, it didn’t matter how high my marks were - it wasn’t going to be sustainable. 

I’d always wanted to try yoga, and had heard of CAMYOGA. I’d planned to give it a try, but that plan sat with me for around 6 months - there was always something more important to do than take time out for myself. But eventually, I made it to an open day. Setting foot through the door and stepping onto the mat marked the start of one of the most valuable learning processes I have ever undertaken. Whilst I was studying the mind and behaviour in the classroom, I was learning all kinds of new lessons about myself in the yoga studio. These have helped me to find balance, feel more comfortable in my own body and move with more ease in my day to day life - not just physically, but mentally and emotionally too.

Here are some of the things that practicing yoga has taught me:

  • Letting go of an “all-or-nothing” mindset is key to finding balance.

    The yoga sutras talk about a balance between “effort and ease” when practicing yoga postures. But this is an invaluable lesson for life too. Trying hard and doing your best can be hugely rewarding, but it is never an all-or-nothing game. If we don’t take rest, we can get exhausted and burn out. If we think that anything less than perfection is a failure, we can get paralysed, judge ourselves harshly when we don’t meet expectations, and even stop trying. Yoga teaches acceptance, and working with where you are without the need to be perfect. This can be a great antidote to a perfectionist culture where our performance matters. In yoga, there is no performance, nor any competition - even with yourself.

  • Self-care has to come first.  Self-conduct has a prominent position in the philosophical roots of yoga. The founders of yoga saw our personal code of conduct as intimately related to how we treat others, with principles such as non-harming applying equally to ourselves and those we encounter. The physical practice of yoga is never about getting into a posture whatever the costs - risking injury and exhaustion just to get the perfect handstand or split. The same applies to university life - getting good grades should never come at the cost of your health. Carving out a space where you can step out of the demands of study won’t cost you marks - it will give the body and mind a chance to rest, improving your focus when you need it. Self-care isn’t just an act of generosity to yourself, either. Looking after yourself gives you more resources to contribute to your friendships and share in the enjoyable parts of being at university too.

  • Mindfulness matters. Being as attentive as possible to the present moment, without judgement or wishing things were different, is central to yoga. When on the mat, we try to notice when our minds rehash the day we had before coming to the studio - or when thoughts rush onto whatever we have to do after class finishes. When the mind is so active, sticking with our movement and breath can be so difficult. The same is true in other areas of life. For example, when working on an essay or project for university, it helps to be able to focus on the here and now, rather than mentally rushing ahead to all the other things we need to do. Letting go of the things you can’t control - whether that’s the way your hips are shaped or the grades you were unhappy with - helps. Many of us only go to uni for a limited amount of time. Learning to appreciate the present moment can help us to fully notice that experience whilst it is here. 

Whether you are new to yoga, returning to practice, or an experienced yogi moving to Cambridge,  coming to classes at Camyoga might just help you as much as it helped me. Finding balance might start with wobbling your way through tree pose. But over time, yoga can also help you find a way to balance university life - with all its challenges and rewards.

Get to know Camyoga Student, Ellie Carter

Get to Know Camyogi: Ellie Carter

Blog Ellie

Name: Ellie Carter

Age: 34

Occupation: Anaesthetist

What brought you to yoga? A hamstring injury from running - I realised that working on my flexibility might be a good idea!

What do you do when you are not working? When I'm not working, I like doing slightly crazy endurance sport events. Last year I did an Ironman triathlon and this year I'll be attempting a cross-country ski marathon.

What is your favourite yoga pose and why? I like balance poses  because of the focus required and the satisfaction if/when you manage not to fall over.

What is your least favourite yoga pose and why? Supta Vajrasana - my  quads are far too tight from running & cycling to make this pose comfortable.

What is one quality you have taken off the mat and incorporated into your daily life? Learning that it can be good to incorporate a bit of stillness and quiet into my busy life!

An interesting fact about Ellie that you may not know is… I appear in my bikini in the Rough Guide to eco travel....not the most flattering shot but there is a nice Finnish lake in the background!

Take it to the next level! Join our teacher training!

Have you been thinking about taking your practice to the next level and becoming a yoga teacher? You will be pleased to know that our Yoga teacher training and Foundation courses still have a couple of places left.
Louise Lloyd, whom we are sure we don't have to introduce, is excited to meet you and your fellow yogis during training sessions:
"I am really looking forward to starting this year's TT and FC - always fun to see inspired students working and learning together. It is so great to watch the FC students delve deeper into their yogic experience and also seeing the next generation of teachers evolving throughout the TT course."
Those hesitant because they feel they are not quite "there" yet may be relieved to know that Yoga training, like yoga is about more than just flexibility and strength.
We caught Berverley Nolan in the cafe during her two day Pregnancy Yoga teacher training course, who made it clear that its not all about those very impressive poses you see in magazines:
"it is not about your ability to do crazy asana, but about your commitment to your practice and being part of a supportive student group. It is an holistic learning experience which prepares you to guide others."
So do you have the passion to take it to the next level and share the experience and joy of yoga with the world?
Talk to us about signing up !
See you soon
Get To Know Camyoga Student: Rebecca Meyers

Name:  Rebecca Myers

Age: 45

Occupation: Academic (Science)

What brought you to yoga?

It’s not so much what brought me to yoga, it’s who – six months ago a dear friend (and impressive yogini) brought me along one day. I had never envisaged myself and yoga in the same room before – not being one for enjoying exercise classes of any sort. My yoga expectation was all about a cold dusty hall, twisting my stiff old-self into knots and spending the rest of the week aching ... I was so wrong! In a very unfocused, procrastinating sort of way I was indeed looking for ways to improve my general fitness, flexibility and all-round joie-de-vivre, but they’d been on my rediscovery list for some years. So ... yoga eh? What the heck, I’d nothing to lose! What I wasn’t prepared for was the impact it would have on me from day one. I had never done any yoga before coming to Camyoga and my first class was Hot Yoga – I was a convert. I try to make as many as five classes a week now and in the last few weeks I’ve also begun to dip/pull my toe into Ashtanga. As they say – it’s all about the journey.

What do you do when you are not doing yoga?

I work (in a research environment for the University), I eat and I sleep. I do squeeze in some travel and quite a few fun things too – but my average week comprises just that.

What is your favorite yoga pose and why?

This is a hard question. There a quite a few poses I enjoy a lot as each one has different gifts. I like Trikonasana (triangle pose and its variants) as it is a good all-round full-body stretch and balance and I just like the way it feels. With poses I find more challenging (and there are loads!) such as Standing Head to Knee (Dandayamana-janushirasana) I get a real sense of achievement, especially on days when I can do it – or do it just a little better than the last class.

What is your least favorite yoga pose and why?

There are more than several poses that would fall under this category at this stage of my practice – for pure physical effort it most definitely has to be Chaturanga (the sort of half-press up). The other pose (for comedy value and personal highlight of my Hot Yoga class) is Rabbit – which opens up a whole new angle on self-administered water-boarding.

What is one quality you have taken off the mat and incorporated into your daily life?

I have reassessed a lot of how I approach life – it’s not been deep navel-gazing as such – I’ve simply created space for the (rediscovered) joie-de-vivre that seems to have emerged from my regular practice. I have neither felt fitter nor more flexible since I was in my teens, I’ve lost weight in the order of double-digits, and my diet has naturally evolved into one that is far healthier and sustains me better. I wouldn’t have had this opportunity had Camyoga and its great atmosphere and teachers not been on my doorstep. It’s a home from home.

An interesting fact about Rebecca that you may not know is…

There are rather a lot of interesting facts about me, most are classified and none of which are publishable! I am, however, a big cat lover – I have four of them. My special joy is a huge Maine Coon called ‘Cody’ who I swear is a dog-in-a-cat-suit.

Hands up for Hanumanasana!

We sometimes avoid the poses that we think we just can't do, the poses that maybe our bodies weren't "built" for.  Hanumanasana is just one of those poses. Full splits are something we feel we either can or can't do.  But even the naturally unflexible have hope in this pose.

Warming up the body and the key muscles is important as is the consistency of practicing.  The way to get better at hanumanasana is to do hanumanasana.  Sounds simple, right?  But then why do so many of us just avoid the pose altogether? Check out the following video for full split prep poses...

Take inspiration from Hanuman, the monkey god for whom the pose is named before you take this leap of faith.  Hanuman leaped across an ocean in order to help a friend he loved.  And so this massive leap represents the expansion of his heart, the love that allowed him to take this step. In the full version of the pose we add in the expression of the heart opening. Take a look...and give hanumanasana another chance.