Stretching Out

Meredith Compton

Yoga, pilates emphasize physical and mental fitness

Finding a way to lose weight has become a part of everyday life for many college students. Though commonly accepted practices for losing weight include diet and exercise, there are other ways to accomplish fitness goals.

One of these methods is yoga, an “ancient Indian body of knowledge that dates back more than 5,000 years ago,” according to the Web site ABC-of-Yoga ( “The word ‘yoga’ came from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj,’ which means ‘to unite or integrate.’ Yoga, then, is about the union of a person’s own consciousness and the universal consciousness.”

Senior nursing major Rachel McDonald said yoga means a variety of things to her.

“For me, yoga is a challenge both physically and mentally,” she said in an e-mail interview. “It isn’t about competition, but simultaneously working to accept yourself and improve yourself.”

McDonald enjoys yoga because it improves her focus.

“I enjoy the focus yoga places on the mind/body/spirit connection. The focus on being aware of your body helps with my aches and pains associated with poor posture and being constantly on my feet,” she said. “I like the mental and physical challenge that yoga affords — just the opportunity for my mind to be present in one place, and not thinking about the trillion other things I have to do later. Yoga also makes my body feel energized and alive.”

McDonald also said yoga is not just about relaxation.

“Some people think yoga is just about relaxing, and that it’s just fluff,” she said. “However, moving through many flowing poses, or holding a challenging pose definitely gets your heart rate going. Practicing regularly probably would burn off some weight.”

It also helps build muscle and improve flexibility.

“I can definitely tell the difference in my level of strength since starting yoga,” she said. “And because the practice is not a competition, but instead focuses on knowing your limits and constantly bettering your own practice, over time you will really notice a difference in your abilities to do certain poses.”

McDonald said there can be some drawbacks to yoga.

“It is always encouraged to listen to your body and only go as far as it will allow,” she said. “Some of the positions can put pressure on certain joints like the knees, shoulders, low back, and people with injuries should let the instructor know so that appropriate modifications can be made to avoid further stressing an injury.”

All-around fitness

Pilates, an exercise that focuses on postural symmetry, breath control, abdominal strength and joint mobility — among other things — is another alternative form of exercise.

Developed by German-born Joseph Pilates, this exercise is designed to train the whole body instead of isolated muscle groups, according to the Web site of the Pilates Method Alliance (

For freshman nursing major Lisa Ahlers, Pilates is relaxation and recreation.

“(It’s) a way to relax and work out when I’m pressed for time,” Ahlers said in an e-mail interview.

Ahlers said she enjoys Pilates for its relaxation techniques.

“(I enjoy it) because I’m forced to focus my thoughts and breathing on what I’m doing, and it helps me to declutter my head,” she said.

“I recommend it because not only will you help yourself get in better physical shape, but it helps you mentally as well,” she said. “It’s a great stress reliever.”

Benefits of Yoga:

  • Improved circulation
  • Stimulation of the abdominal organs
  • Putting pressure on the glandular system of the body, which can “generally result (in) better health.”


Benefits of Pilates:

  • Increased lung capacity and


  • Strength and flexibility, particularly of the abdomen and back muscles
  • Muscular and mental coordination
  • Posture, balance and core strength


Contact features writer Meredith Compton at [email protected].