Balancing school or work with the ups and downs of daily life can be a stressful and sometimes seemingly impossible task.

Many people are finding that a daily dose of yoga -- a low-impact exercise that combines movement with breathing -- can help lessen the load by providing an energizing physical and mental workout.

What is yoga?

"The word yoga means "union" in Sanskrit, the language of ancient India where yoga originated. We can think of the union occurring between the mind, body and spirit.

"What is commonly referred to as "yoga" can be more accurately described by the Sanskrit word asana, which refers to the practice of physical postures or poses.

"Asana is only one of the eight "limbs" of yoga, the majority of which are more concerned with mental and spiritual well being than physical activity. In the West, however, the words asana and yoga are often used interchangeably."

Source: About.yoga.com

Elle Potter, associate studio director at Om Time Yoga, said that yoga is an all-around beneficial exercise that can be used to help people stay in shape, improve their posture, ease chronic pain and relieve anxiety.

"It really is the kind of practice that can be tailored to satiate any need," Potter said.

The CU Yoga Empowerment + Service (YES+) club, a part of the Art of Living Foundation, offers free yoga classes every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 5 p.m. on campus during the school year and once a week during the summer. The club meets on Norlin Quad when the weather permits and in the anthropology wing of the university`s Museum of Natural History on colder days.

CU outreach

Daniel Moss, co-creator of CU`s YES+, said that the club has been meeting for about a year and a half now, trying to make yoga more fun as it reaches out to the CU community.

Moss said that yoga is especially helpful for students because it allows them to get a better sense of focus. It`s harder to remember things under stress, he said. When midterms roll around, when life itself is just complicated, yoga can be instrumental in delivering a sense of clarity.

George Guyver, co-creator of the YES+ club, said that concentrating on calming the body and mind reduces stress and helps students perform better in class.

"If people are in a relaxed state of mind and body, they are more capable to address hardships that come their way," Guyver said.

Moss said that the stress relief and detoxifying breathing techniques of yoga can keep the body healthy. Since he started doing yoga about ten years ago, Moss said that he`s noticed a drastic decrease in the number of times he gets sick.

"Stress is the root of all illness in the body," Moss said.

Unwinding

By doing yoga at least once a week and taking that break between classes to de-stress and unwind, Moss said that students can spend less time out of commission due to an illness and have more time to direct toward their studies.

Laura Antelmi, instructor at Boulder Yoga Center, said that many people practice "yoga for immunity." She said that the focus on breathing in yoga often helps with sinus issues or throat problems, and that these health benefits are perfect to take advantage of at the onset of a cold.

Antelmi also said that studies have shown how yoga can help those suffering from depression. It is a transformational exercise, she said, that allows people to become aware of themselves and their surroundings. This awareness lets them notice when they are being taken over by a positive or afflictive emotion.

"It lets you have a glimpse of yourself -- it lifts you up from darkness into light," she said.

'Be present`

Alyssa Abbott, 21, said that she initially got started with yoga after she was injured while running and has since kept with it because it allows her to simply be in the moment and not dwell on any outside issues that she may be facing.

"You just learn how to let go and be present," Abbott said.

Yoga strengthens a person`s sense of self, Antelmi said. It calms them down, gives them energy and fulfills their need for a relationship with their body. With a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle, she said that yoga can lead to a happier existence.

"It changes your perspective," Antelmi said. "It changes your thinking to make you more self-accepting."

Types of yoga

Iyengar Yoga: Iyengar emphasizes alignment and encourages the use of yoga props such as blankets, blocks, straps, pillows, chairs and bolsters. The purpose of the props is to assist the student in attaining ideal alignment, even if the body is not yet open enough.

Jivamukti Yoga: Jivamukti means "liberation while living." This modern style of yoga blends vigorous vinyasa practice with spiritual teachings, chanting, and an emphasis on how to bring yoga`s philosophy into daily life.

Bikram Yoga (Hot Yoga): Hot Yoga is a series of yoga poses done in a heated room of 95-100 degrees. A vigorous yoga session at this temperature promotes profuse sweating which rids the body of toxins, which also makes very warm and therefore more flexible.

Kundalini Yoga: Kundalini yoga is an ancient form of yoga that has only been practiced in the west relatively recently. Kundalini is one of the more spiritual types of yoga. It goes beyond the physical performance of poses with its emphasis on breathing, meditation and chanting.

Ashtanga Yoga: Ashtanga is a fast-paced, intense style of yoga practice. A set series of poses is performed, always in the same order. Ashtanga yoga is very physically demanding, because of the constant movement from one pose to the next, but students progress at their own pace.

Power Yoga: Power Yoga is a general term used in the west to describe a vigorous, fitness-based approach to Vinyasa-style yoga.

Sivananda Yoga: Sivananda will appeal to you if you want to take it slow and gentle. You will learn to fully reap the benefits of the 12 featured poses. The goal of this practice is to promote physical, mental and spiritual well being.

Forrest Yoga: Forrest Yoga pays special attention to abdominal work and breathing. Vigorous sequences of poses are intended to build heat in order to sweat out toxins and release emotions stored in the body.

Source: Yoga.about.com