Stretching the stress away

Members of Castleton's yoga program pose in the Fine Arts Center. Photo by Olivia Maher. 

Church bells ring the tune of Castleton Universitiy’s Alma Mater and what was just a calm campus becomes a jungle of students heading to and from class.

Some mozy their way to class, while others skip off to lunch or back to their rooms for a quick catnap.

But members of a select group carry vibrant yoga mats a walk eagerly to put their worries at ease.

That’s right, Castleton gives students the opportunity to calm themselves down, and put the anxiety of college in their back pocket for an hour.

“It’s just a lot of fun and I like doing it. It’s once a week so it’s easy to fit into my schedule,” says freshman Leanna Weisse as she set up her yoga mat on the hardwood floors of the Fine Arts Center fitness studio. Weisse started taking advantage of the Castleton yoga program just a few weeks ago when the fall semester began.

Down in the hallways of Haskell Hall and the Casella Fine Arts Center, faculty, students, and community members are offered these yoga classes three times a week.

“It keeps me calm during the week,” Weisse says as faculty members start piling into the class, turning the hard wood floors into a sea of colorful yoga mats.

Studies conducted by Harvard University find that yoga provides satisfaction in reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure and easing respiration. It was also found that yoga increases heart rate variability, an indicator of the body’s ability to respond to stress more flexibly.

And instructors say you don’t need to be physically fit or have any particular body type to give yoga a try.

“I would like people to know that yoga is good for anyone,” says Tammy Brown, a physical education professor for the university and an instructor for the yoga program. “You don’t have to already be flexible to do it. It helps increase flexibility, focus, balance, and stress reduction,” she said with a smile.

When Brown starts talking about yoga, her face lights up. Her beige and white mat decorated with swirls of flowers is set up at the front of the room. As students and faculty enter the room, she greets them warmly and lays down to relax on her mat. She has been instructing for about 12 years, and even teaches a one-credit yoga class.

Instructors at Bikram Yoga Mendon, a local hot yoga studio just two towns over from Castleton, believe that every time you leave yoga you have an extra skip in your step.

“When you do Bikram yoga,you become really centered and focused,” said Erin Paulsen, an instructor there. “And when you leave here and have to study for a test you can completely focus on what you’re doing. Your mind doesn’t wander, and you have energy.”

Since the building of the downtown Castleton apartments, Paulsen has noticed the number of students that practice at Bikram Yoga Mendon has increased.

Reports presented by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that practicing yoga lowers levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can cause many mental health problems.

“Often times we choose exercise as the first thing to cross off the list when we’re feeling stressed … when it can actually be very beneficial,” says Jamie Bentley, who works in the Health & Wellness center at the University. Bentley has been instructing yoga at Castleton for about four years.

Bentley’s class was full before fall break, with a mix of faculty and staff, men and women. The age range of the class went from fresh college students to an older crowd, moving soulfully through the stretches and poses.

“The women and men that come often do remark on how they need it, and it helps them with their stress,” says Bentley in a calming voice.

Both Brown and Bentley emphasized on the fact that having a consistent yoga practice is truly for anyone.

“The more you practice, the more focused you become,” says Bentley

The instructors at Bikram Yoga Mendon reiterated the message. You don’t have to be super fit, super flexible, or super young to practice this form of physical activity.

“The worst class is the one you didn’t show up to,” says Paulsen. “Just show up,” she says with a smile.

To find the Castleton University yoga/fitness schedule, visit



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