From last semester's Yoga-a-thon to Earth Bound Trading Company's growing line of meditation enhancers, yoga – a popular exercise based on meditation, flexibility and strength – is everywhere.
UT is no exception to this trend.
TRECS offers at least one yoga class nearly every day, and specialized studios are popping up all around Knoxville.
Taylor Drake, freshman in geology, tries to work some form of meditation or yoga into her schedule around four times a week.
After working on a more health-conscious lifestyle three years ago, she decided to try yoga based on the benefits she heard came with the exercise. After trying it with a friend, she said she was hooked.
Now, she even seeks to practice outdoors, further adding to the element of relaxation yoga offers.
"I used to suffer from extreme anxiety and stress," Drake said. "Yoga has helped me tremendously with that and is a huge reason why I continue to do it."
Minta Chaiprasongsuk, a graduate student in plant sciences, was working in Thailand when she first discovered yoga.
Often involved in sports, she realized that even after a tiring workout, she would be unable to sleep due to stress. After trying yoga, she realized she slept significantly better, a reason she decided to continue on with the exercise.
She also noticed her instructor looked miraculously young for her, and upon further research, discovered yoga improves blood flow, causing skin to retain elasticity and vitality. It was then she says she fell in love with yoga.
"I could not help myself," Chaiprasongsuk said. "I kept going back to the class."
After moving to the United States to pursue her education, Chaiprasongsuk attended yoga classes at TRECS and aspired to be an instructor there, as well.
With the support of a friend, she became certified and now teaches at TRECS regularly.
"Yoga is exercise that lets you study about your mind and body," Chaiprasongsuk said. "Every single practice, you will learn more about yourself. Let your mind relate to your body. Learn to listen to what your body is telling you.
"Learn to be in the present and have a good time with your life."
Yoga can be practiced in many different forms. Currently gentle, hot and power yoga are the most popular.
Gentle yoga is used as an introduction to yoga or as a less strenuous way to receive the relaxation benefits. In this type, posture and breathing are the main focuses. It is also done at a slow pace, which can be inviting to those with rushed lives looking for a minute to slow down.
Hot yoga has recently come to mainstream fitness, with studios popping up solely for this form. One such studio is Real Hot Yoga on Kingston Pike.
At their studio, Real Hot Yoga takes the detoxing and calorie-burning benefits of high heat and combines them with the traditional strengthening and relaxing benefits of traditional yoga. The heat also helps your body to loosen up, improving your flexibility.
"I find it really relaxing," Drake said, "and you get an even better workout."
Power yoga, which can be done on its own or combined with hot yoga, is the most common form, focusing mainly on calorie burning and core strengthening. The goal of this type is to use your body weight as your equipment, resulting in sweat and that coveted "workout burn".
Here, participants explore inversion poses that can involve headstands. This form can be difficult at first, but it eventually leads to greater overall strength.
Specialized yoga studios, such as The Glowing Body on Irwin Street, offer focused routines based on the needs of the participant.
Instead of a general class, you can choose to attend one based on your needs. The Glowing Body offers classes that can improve spine alignment, gentle ones that center on breathing and relaxation, and even meditation classes to sit and reflect on your own.
However, even with student discounts, paying for a studio membership is a pricey option. And since you already pay tuition, attending yoga classes at TRECS is manageable for students of all income and expertise.
"You don't have to know anything about yoga and you can join the class," Chaiprasongsuk said. "I try to make my class suited to everyone and offer them many different levels where they can challenge themselves."
While yoga has a wide array of physical benefits, its mental benefits are more often cited as reasons to participate. As a source of meditation, breathing is just as important as the moves themselves. Proper breathing can lead to a more relaxing experience that can improve daily lives beyond the time spent in yoga class.
"When I first started, I did yoga strictly for fitness reasons; now, I do it solely for relaxation," Drake said. "After finishing yoga I always feel more balanced and relaxed. My stressors seem to not be as important, and I enjoy life more."
Jen Schappel, a yoga instructor at The Glowing Body Yoga Studio, said that out of yoga's benefits, its ability to increase attentiveness is her favorite.
"Yoga helps us to pay attention," Schappel said. "With our stressful, really fast lives, we often don't pay attention and miss many details. Yoga helps us to slow the brain down. It helps us relax a little and push many stressors away."