An illustration of women doing yoga while reading.
Illustration by Maggie Wood.

College students across the globe suffer from a loss of identity, stress and anxiety. Former college athlete Jeremiah Williams was another contender against all three. During his time at Canisius College, a private Jesuit college in Buffalo, New York, Williams experienced this firsthand while having it affect his academics as well as his college athletic career.

During his time at college, Williams was placed on academic probation. As a Division I scholarship athlete, this had the potential to revoke his $58,000 yearly scholarship. Stress, loss of identity, and anxiety were contributing factors to Williams’ everyday life in college.

But everything changed when he wandered into a yoga studio in New York.

Recent studies show that yoga encourages one to relax, slow the breath and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system and the flight-or-fight response to the parasympathetic system and the relaxation response.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2017 National Health Interview Survey, the use of yoga by U.S adults increased by nearly 5 percent from 2012 to 2017 (rising to 14.3 percent from 9.5 percent). The percent of U.S children who used yoga more nearly tripled during the same time period (from 3.1 percent in 2012 to 8.4 percent in 2017).

As use of the practice increases, its potential for use to alleviate challenges like those faced by Williams has been getting increased attention, as well.

“My mind is quiet”

Michigan State University graduate Bailee White believes yoga saved her during her own tough college experience. On top of the everyday class load of a college student, Bailee also was suffering from a breakup with her high school sweetheart and struggling with a 20-pound weight gain she experienced her first year out of high school.

“One day after a horrible rock bottom weekend of drinking, I realized that was not who I was and I was ready to figure it out,” White said. “I fell in love [with yoga]. I mean obviously not at first, while I was drowning in a 90-degree room, doing moves I didn’t know how to do. As soon as I laid down for my first Shavasana pose, I had felt relief and calm like everything was going to be okay.”

White continued to attend yoga classes three to four times a week.

“Eventually I looked in the mirror and noticed my body changing,” she said. “I had lost 22 pounds in three months and I was super toned. Besides the physical aspect, I was healthier mentally, and that’s the real reason I went.”

As a college student, White eventually reached a point where yoga was not in her budget. She had gotten healthy, regained her confidence and also rekindled her romance with her high school sweetheart, and she eventually stopped going to yoga entirely. That’s when things took a turn for the worse.

“All of 2018, I was severely anxious,” White said. “I threw up almost every morning. I had anxiety attacks that made my heart race 130 beats per minute. And eventually I began losing weight. This went on for a whole year.”

During this break in her yoga routine, she was also involved in her first car accident.

Back in White’s hometown of Union City, local yoga instructor Paula DeJongh convinced White to take up yoga in her weekly routine again, and White’s outlook has once again improved.

“It’s been exactly four months since starting yoga back up, and once again it has changed my life. My mind is quiet,” White said. “I’m happier. I live in the present of life. Not in the future of the unknown, or my past, but yoga is teaching me to live 100 percent in the moment I’m in, and that right there changes a person’s life.”

All Things Serenity

DeJongh is certified yoga instructor and the owner of All Things Serenity, a yoga studio she’s been running in Union City since 2015. Before that, she was teaching and instructing yoga classes at local businesses and churches.

DeJongh has more than 600 hours of study in various specialty areas, as well as a 225-hour Christian Holy Yoga certification, YogaFit HealthCare certification and a Thai Bodywork certification, which helps her better assess her students in their overall yoga journey.

DeJongh believes that yoga is beneficial for all age groups, and that it can help alleviate some of the pressures common to the high school to college transition.

“I think becoming an adult is stressful enough, and then you add time management skills to be learned, new peer groups and pressure, a new home for many, along with your studies. It’s just a very difficult time in one’s life,” DeJongh said. “Yoga totally reduces stress and anxiety through movement, which releases stress; breath work, which changes hormones and lets energy out of the body; and meditation, quieting one’s mind by learning self control.”

Over the course of four years, DeJongh has practiced with and became close to approximately 10 college students.

“Almost all of them have returned to visit me off and on over the years when they come home to visit,” DeJongh said. “Most of them have sought out yoga studios at their college or surrounding cities.”

A positive impact

Williams’ and White’s positive responses to yoga during their college experiences are not uncommon.

Kaitlin Lambert, who attends Middle Tennessee State University, says “I started taking yoga as a way to boost my self-love, and it has changed my life completely. I actually get up and go to campus every day. I have more energy and more focus.”

Williams, the former Division I basketball player, attributes most of his success to his then newfound commitment to yoga. He is a firm believer that yoga helped improve the mental and physical capabilities that led him to his success in college.

“With all of the stress and anxiety that goes on around college, it has had a positive impact on my experience,” Williams said.

Today, Williams recommends all college students attend yoga classes.

“Yoga has had a tremendous impact on the outcome of my college experience, and if given the chance, I believe it could have a positive influence on other college students as well,” Williams said.

Weekly yoga classes

DeJongh teaches a wide variety of yoga classes at All Things Serenity each week. The studio is located at 106 E High St. in Union City. Weekly classes include:


  • 9 a.m. Body Sculpt (Yoga/Pilates/Weights)
  • 10 a.m. Beginner and Deep Stretch
  • 6 p.m. Hot Vinyasa


  • 6 p.m. Fire & Ice ( Hot/Tabata/Core and deep stretching)


  • 9 a.m. Body Sculpt (Yoga/Pilates/Weights)
  • 10 a.m. Beginner and Deep Stretch
  • 6 p.m. Hot Vinyasa


  • 6 p.m. Fire & Ice ( Hot/Tabata/Core and deep stretching)


  • 9 a.m. Body Sculpt (Yoga/Pilates/Weights)
  • 10 a.m. Beginner and Deep Stretch


  • 8 a.m Hatha and Ariel Swing Intro


  • 6 p.m. Yoga for Everybody