By Rebecca Pacheco, international yoga teacher, creator of the popular yoga and wellness site Om Gal, and author of ‘Do Your Om Thing’
Finals week is no joke. It’s like boot camp for your brain, a juice cleanse for your social life, and an elaborate yoga pose in which you sit cross-legged while balancing all your books on your head, writing a term paper, drinking an espresso, and texting your study group to confirm what time you’re meeting in the library. Which is why I’m here to help.
However, if you’re thinking this is just a hippy-dippy article about how “finals are NBD” and how you should just “chillax in Child’s Pose instead”…..man, I’ll save you the suspense. I’m not that kind of yoga teacher. Finals are a big deal, and I want you to slay them. Plus, “just chillax” isn’t practical advice – these 5 yoga-inspired tips are. The best part is that they don’t require a yoga mat or any extra time, which is perfect since yours is already committed to Bio!
Prioritize the Most Important Moment of Your Life (Hint: You’re in It):
It seems like a big question with a far-off answer: what is the most important moment in your life? Getting your diploma? Landing your first job? Saying “I do”? Nope… those moments are guesses. They’re in the future. They’re not real (yet). Meanwhile, the present moment… the one happening right now is the only moment over which we have any influence. We can recall the past and guess at the future, but we can only inhabit and take action in the moment. Therefore, the key to doing your best is being more present. So, whether you’re studying, term paper writing, or taking a test, you’ll perform better if you take a moment to truly BE in the moment. Here’s how:
- Pay attention to your breath. It’s physically impossible to breathe in the future or past, so when you focus on your breath, you are present.
- Remove distractions over which you have control (i.e. put away your phone, disable social media sites on your computer while you work, use ear plugs to block your roommate’s snoring). Create an environment that helps you focus.
- Repeat after me. Like wearing your lucky hat or having a secret handshake/fist bump with your BFF, repeating a mantra is a surefire way to help you feel connected and confident in the moment. It’s also an easy way to protect your mind from racing into anxious territory. Choose a word or phrase that speaks to you (yes, Beyonce lyrics count). All that matters is that you have useful words to tell yourself and anchor your mind when you’re feeing stressed. Some favorites to try: I am relaxed and confident. I am ready.
Beat Stress with Your Breath
Our breath is the easiest, cheapest, and most portable tool we have to reduce stress. This simple technique called Sama Vritti or Equal Breathing is ideal for combating test anxiety. Sama translates to same, so the idea is to evenly match the length of your inhale to that of your exhale. For beginners, a three or four count is a good place to start. From there, you can work toward a five or six, then a seven or eight. If you’re Michael Phelps, you can do several minutes. (Kidding.)
Stay Awake Naturally
Another breathing technique, which is a huge hit on college campuses when I include it in my talks, is called Breath of Joy. This one is great if you’ve been sitting at your desk for a long time and are starting to zone out, nod off, or get antsy. The added benefit is that while it perks you up like caffeine, it won’t make you jittery.
Breath of joy is comprised of a three-part inhale through the nose and forceful exhale through the mouth. Along with the three-part inhale, your arms will gesture like those of the conductor of an orchestra:
First inhale: lift your two arms together to the level of your navel.
Second inhale: open arms to the level of your shoulders.
Third inhale: lift two arms together overhead.
Now comes the fun part: like a downhill skier leaving the gate, throw your arms behind you as you squat down and breathe out your mouth, sticking out your tongue. (Repeat three to four times). Be sure to really let your freak flag fly with this one. It’s fun!
Know Your Power Pose
In my book, Do Your Om Thing: Bending Yoga Tradition to Fit Your Modern Life, I talk about a fascinating body language study conducted at Harvard University, in which researchers discovered that as little as two-minutes of standing or sitting in a posture that evokes confidence and competency can actually change the body’s chemistry, increasing testosterone (the hormone that emboldens us) and decreasing cortisol (the hormone associated with stress and anxiety). So, stand tall before your exams, let your shoulders relax, feel your chest open and expansive like a superhero, maybe put your hands on your hips. Or put a yoga spin on this theory and try Warrior II pose for one-minute on each leg. Not only will you feel ready to rock, but your legs and booty will get a quick toning session after all that desk time. For extra credit, crank up your personal power anthem as you do this. (Beyoncé, anyone?)
Remember to Recharge
Finals week is demanding because there is so much work to be done in a very short amount of time, which means you need to focus on one task at a time (see tip above about being in the moment), and it’s important to recharge along the way. The following yoga pose is one of the lights-out, best-on-earth, ways to regroup after one final and before the next by sneaking in some much needed relaxation. Try it for as little as 10 breaths or as many as 10 minutes or more. Just be sure to set an alarm if you think you might doze off… OK, so maybe I lied earlier. The goal of this tip truly is to chillax.
Check out the full video on Runner’s World!
SO many great tips from Rebecca! Which will you be trying out? Tweet us what works for you – @BNcollege!
For more tips and advice, be sure to check out Rebecca’s book, Do Your Om Thing: Bending Yoga Tradition to Fit Your Modern Life! Plus, be sure to keep up with her on OmGal.com!