Combat exam anxiety and stress with Yoga
Exam anxiety and stress can influence performance negatively. Yoga may be a solution to lower stress and improve the general and mental wellbeing.
Many students experience stress when deadlines are tight and several exams are planned. Additionally some students may experience exam anxiety shortly before and during an exam which can influence their performance. Instead of treating these problems with medication, there may be a way to solve them all by yourself.
Yoga, with its origins in India, teaches us how to make a better connection between the body and the mind, find relaxation in our lives and to be able to control our thoughts. Since yoga has gained popularity in western society, it has become accessible to a broad range of people through online videos and gym classes . The main focus in most classes still is on the Asanas (poses) and in some classes also the Pranayama (breathing technique).
Why does it help?
Studies regarding the effect of yoga on the body have shown that it is possible to improve physical and mental health with yoga by down regulating the HPA axis and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS,) which both are triggered by stress (psychological and physiological). A dysregulation of the stress response, which prolongs the presence of cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine in the system, can lead to disease like diabetes, depression and obesity (Ross & Thomas, 2010).
Can it help for exam anxiety?
There is evidence that yoga can reduce the arousal level and produce a state of calmness or relaxation (Wei & Kilpatrick, 2006), which may help to lower stress and anxiety when preparing for an exam. Specific research with medical students showed that 45 minutes of daily yoga practice for just 1 month, containing Asanas, Pranayama and meditation improved not only the general and mental wellbeing, but also let the students feel moor energized and relaxed during the day and finally led to a better night sleep (Bansal, Gupta, Agarwal & Sharma, 2013). Furthermore, a study by Sheela and Hanpat (2013) showed that yoga practice could increase sustained attention, which means that people could keep their attention at a task for a longer time.
Taken together, it seems that yoga can’t only help you to relax before an exam or presentation, but it also helps to feel better in general. And since there is a great variety of possible classes, with focus on maintaining certain poses (e.g. yin yoga) or more flowing classes focusing on moving and breathing (e.g. Vinyasa, Ashtanga), everyone can find a suitable class.
Bansal, R., Gupta, M., Agarwal, B., & Sharma, S. (2013). Impact of short term yoga intervention on mental well being of medical students posted in community medicine: a pilot study. Indian journal of community medicine: official publication of Indian Association of Preventive & Social Medicine,38(2), 105.
Ross, A., & Thomas, S. (2010). The health benefits of yoga and exercise: a review of comparison studies. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 16(1), 3-12
Sheela, H. R. R. N., & Ganpat, T. S. (2013). Efficacy of Yoga for sustained attention in university students. Ayu, 34(3), 270.
Wei, B., & Kilpatrick, M. (2006). Psychological perceptions to walking, water aerobics and yoga in college students. American Journal of Health Studies, 21.