Yoga reduces stress, increases focus

Terrie Albano, Writer

What do Victor Cruz, Elena Delle Donne and LeBron James all have in common? Yoga.

“Yoga isn’t just about the body, it’s also about the mind and it’s a technique that has really helped me,” James told Brian Windhorst (then of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer) in 2009. “You do have to focus because there’s some positions that can really hurt you at times if you aren’t focused and breathing right.”

Mind. Body. Breathing. Focus.

These are the ancient discipline’s fundamentals. Yoga means “to yoke” or “to join” in the Sanskrit language, and it has been practiced for thousands of years. Based on Indian sacred texts called the Vedas, yoga, simply put, is a system of mental and physical practices for attaining well-being and inner-knowledge.


It also helps manage stress, which is the number one reason that students give for taking yoga classes. At NEIU, students can take group yoga classes Monday through Friday at the P.E. Complex. There are basic yoga and yoga stretch classes taught by three different teachers, Tom, Dee and Nancy..

Nancy Vankanegan has taught yoga at NEIU since 1999. She leads Thursday’s Yoga Stretch class from 12:15-1:15 p.m. and Friday’s yoga class from noon to 1:15 p.m. Besides the length of the class, Vankanegan said Yoga Stretch incorporates breathing and yoga poses with other fitness methods like Pilates and strength training, which may appeal more to students wary of yoga.

“The number one benefit is the conscious awareness of the breath,” Vankanegan said, which can decrease stress levels and give you a sense of satisfaction. “Movement into the poses (called asana) using conscious breathing teaches one to move through the mundane activities of life in a more conscious manner.”

Balance, flexibility, strength improve through yoga too, she said. Yoga can also reduce chronic pain and help heal from injuries. “Sometimes chronic pain is caused by habitual movements and yoga asana practice can break those habits as the yogi (yoga student) learns to move with ease and in alignment to avoid repetitive motion injuries.”

In addition to the group classes, Vankanegan teaches a 300-level Yoga Philosophy and Practice class at the P.E. Complex. Students learn about yoga’s history, philosophy, lifestyle in a classroom setting, and practice poses, breathing and meditation in the studio.

“Most people consider yoga to be asana or postures, but yoga is a complete system of living that incorporates deep philosophical ideas,” she said. “Since the ‘language’ of yoga is Sanskrit and the practice comes from ancient India the ideas can seem exotic, but in fact yoga ideas are present in all major schools of philosophy.”

Other aspects of yoga including meditation, behaviors (to self and others), and the importance of self-knowledge are investigated, she said.

Students are welcome to take a drop in class for $5. Classes run through Dec. 10. For more information, go to or call (773) 442-4131.