Waking The Mind

The Mental Health Benefits of Yoga
Embark on a transformative journey through the eyes of Bella Hoodle as she discovers the power of yoga amidst the chaos of college life. In this captivating article, Bella shares her personal experiences and the profound impact that yoga and meditation have had on her mental well-being. Join her as she unravels the beauty of finding solace in movement, silence, and self-reflection. Learn how yoga can be the key to unlocking a calmer, more centered you. Dive into the full article and embrace the art of inner peace and self-discovery.
A sunrise peaking above the mountains on the way to VIU's gym.

I dream I am walking along the shore, collecting rocks. I try to focus on the sound of the waves as I toss each stone into the ocean, but it’s muffled by thoughts.

Did you hand it in that poetry assignment? Did you email her back? 

My anxious thoughts are everywhere. They spring up relentlessly, always searching for more space to invade, taking root further and further into my brain. These thoughts grow like wild weeds looking to choke off the positive ones.

You work at 6 am. Wake up. There’s too much to do.

I open my eyes. Blackness greets me underneath my fluffy white duvet. I wrap it around myself forming a warm burrito, me at its centre.

How is it Thursday already? 

Final papers and assignment deadlines swirl in my mind until I force myself out of bed. The routine begins.

Take vitamins. Shower. Heat the kettle. Make coffee. Email. Brush teeth. Start the car. Go.

I park at the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre because I’m stubborn and refuse to pay VIU’s parking fees. 

It’s cold. I should have worn sweatpants and a better jacket. Should I stay after class ends so I don’t have to walk up this hill again?

I look up and my whirlpooling thoughts calm as I notice how the clouds bleed into the orange and pink sunrise. You just can’t beat that view.

As a full-time student working two jobs, to say I’m constantly stressed is an understatement. It doesn’t help that my upcoming final exams and course projects are all due at once. Student counselling services can only do so much, and since I’m still on a wait-list to see a psychiatrist, I have to find other ways to manage.

I close the door of my 2003 Chevy Cavalier and begin my trek to the gymnasium. It’s an uphill battle, but I’m excited for my first “Rise and Shine” yoga class at VIU. 

As a yoga teacher, I know all the benefits of practicing yoga. I find that it helps bring me back to the present—instead of living in a dreamlike state, I can see reality for what it is. Most importantly, yoga gives me control over my life. 

The slot I registered for is from 7–8 am on Thursdays. Why I chose that time and not the regular 5–6 pm one on Mondays or Wednesdays is beyond me, even though I was once accustomed to it.

I used to do yoga first thing every morning before I started school at VIU. I’m serious when I say “first thing”—it even took higher priority over coffee. When I was doing yoga every day, I felt lighter and my thoughts were clouds instead of this thick and invasive fog. 

Finding the right room is easier than I thought. I just follow the sound of soft lo-fi music. 

The first thing I notice is that there’s a string of white Christmas lights on the floor. Nice touch, Andrew. 

Andrew Desrochers is the yoga instructor. He’s deep in meditation when I walk in. (Even now as I write this article, I don’t know if he heard me struggling my way through the doors, wheezing like I just hiked Mount Benson.) 

I sit down and join him, imagining that I’m back in my bed. After five minutes of meditation, Desrochers begins the class of three with slow movements to warm up the body. 

It was at this moment that I realized I’d made a crucial mistake. 

For some backstory, I bought a new yoga mat for this class because my old one looked worse than the mats in my car. The new one reeked of chemicals, so I washed it with soap and water. 

Somehow, I forgot to rinse off the soap. 

The morning’s yoga flow quickly became a battle for grip as I struggled to avoid falling on my ass, which would be very embarrassing given my aforementioned yoga credentials.

Thankfully, Desrochers encourages us to have fun with the flow and not take it so seriously. It’s been more than a year since I taught my last yoga class, but his uplifting message helps me slip back into the practice with ease. 

“The goal is to create a safe space to breathe and move your body,” he says.

The thick fog of thoughts clears as I focus on the form of each passing pose. In downward dog, I focus on the individual bumps on my marble yoga mat. I can feel the oxygen slowly filling up my lungs. I don’t notice how quiet it is until I’m in child’s pose and all I can sense is the pounding of my heartbeat. 

“This is a space to relax and let everything go,” Desrochers says.

When we rise again, the sun glistens through the window and catches both of my eyes—a reminder for me to close them. Desrochers explains that doing yoga with your eyes closed is important in developing the mind and body connection.

“Going inwards and releasing everything else is the most sacred thing anyone can do,” he says.

Desrochers finishes the class with a beautiful meditation about giving gratitude to ourselves for showing up to practice. At the end of the mediation, he bows.

“Namaste,” he says.

Then he asks for us to bow to each other. I turn to the person next to me, and in unison we say: 


Before the Christmas lights are packed away, I’m eager to talk to the yogi himself. 

I walk up to him as he is cleaning his mat, and ask why someone who is wanting to try yoga should come to a physical class rather than one online.

“You’re committing to giving time for yourself, and when you come into this space you are amongst others who are doing the same,” says Desrochers. “It creates this beautiful connection.”

He tells me how grateful he is to have been teaching classes at VIU for almost five years now. 

“There is a lot of stress and pressure on the students here, so I’m glad to share my offerings,” he says.

The benefits of yoga are worth the time and effort. Not only does it increase your balance, strength, and flexibility, but it also helps with managing stress and anxiety. If you aren’t already convinced, read this article by Johns Hopkins Medicine. 

It’s the same as when you start working out. Each day you commit to it, you pour greater benefits into your everyday life.

I’ve dealt with anxiety my entire life, and nothing has helped me more than yoga and meditation. If I’m not committed to the practice, the invasive thoughts overtake my mind. 

“I’ve had a lot of students tell me that if they miss a yoga class, their day isn’t the same,”  Desrochers says.

I have to wait two weeks until the next class because of the VIU Mariners Women’s Volleyball team hosting their national tournament in the gym. As Desrochers predicted, I miss the emotional and physical outlet yoga provides. I feel like I’m just trying to get through the days rather than actually living them.

The second class is easier. 

We begin by focusing on a half moon pose sequence. Already, I feel like I have more energy for the poses than I did last class. By the time Shavasana (corpse pose) comes around, I’m disappointed—something I never imagined I would say.

But then again, I have to remember that the meditation part of yoga is just as important as the physical movement. It allows the body and mind to create space for silence and stillness.

As we open our eyes and turn to one another for “Namaste,” I meet a new friend.

Her name is Tana Molenaar-Wilson, and these sessions at VIU are actually her first time taking a yoga class. 

“I love the yoga class,” she says. “It’s at a nice time where I’m available to come do it.”

Molenaar-Wilson tells me she benefited from yoga immediately. 

“It’s beneficial because your whole perspective on that day changes,” she says.

The only downside to the class is that there aren’t any drop-in prices available. Students have to pay the full price of $50 for all 10 sessions even if they register late, so those who just want to try it out are forced to take a bigger financial risk than necessary. 

But the $5 per class is well worth the price if you register early.

You really can’t beat how convenient the location is, either. If you take the morning yoga class, then you can stay on campus until your class starts, or if you choose the other (superior) slot,  you can get your evening yoga dose right after your class ends.

“Come give it a try, and forget about the craziness of life for a bit,” Desrochers says.

When I get back to my car, I still have a few hours to spare before my next class begins, so I drive out to Piper’s Lagoon and sit along the shore. I don’t wish to throw rocks into the ocean, because I’m too busy admiring their stillness.

Incorporating yoga into your life will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. It will change how you perceive the world—and yourself. 

The clouds open up, and the sun shines through the city. In this moment, my mind is not a clump of tangled weeds obscuring the garden beneath. I can see clearly. 

And I am simply enjoying the view.

Bella is a second-year Creative Writing and English student at VIU. When she was six years old, her mom helped her write her first book, “The Shed Princess.” The Grand Forks Library even kept it on its shelves for a few weeks. These days, Bella is on a mission to have her books on every library’s shelves.

"As a yoga teacher, I know all the benefits of practicing yoga. I find that it helps bring me back to the present—instead of living in a dreamlike state, I can see reality for what it is. Most importantly, yoga gives me control over my life. "
"You’re committing to giving time for yourself, and when you come into this space you are amongst others who are doing the same,” says Desrochers. “It creates this beautiful connection."

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