Top Five: Stress relief classes at UMass Recreation Center


Everyone knows the feeling, assignments are piling up, work is consuming too much time, family and friend drama is becoming a distraction, the list goes on and on. Rather than crawling back under the covers to hide from your responsibilities, one of the best ways to relieve stress is to get up, get moving and exercise.

For some, like myself (a non-athletic, fair-weather gym goer), the thought of mindlessly running on a treadmill sounds more like torture than a way to let off some steam.

The answer to my frantic, stress-filled prayers has been a variety of group fitness classes. For one hour, I can choose to have a dance party in Zumba, kick out my stress in kickboxing or relax and focus on my breathing in a yoga class. Each form of exercise helps me calm my stress in its own way.

So take a break from that dreaded homework assignment. Close your MacBook and head over to the Recreation Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Here are my top five classes to help relieve stress and anxiety.

1. Zumba
The best way to describe any Zumba class is an hour-long, high energy, calorie burning dance party. The music and moves occupy your mind so well that you have no chance to think about the fact that you are working out, let alone your massive to-do list.

This class is great for everyone, from prima ballerinas to those with two left feet. The vibe is carefree and positive, so don’t sweat it if you get off-beat. It’s almost a guarantee that spending an hour bringing out your inner Beyoncé or J. Lo will not only boost your confidence but give you the motivation to work like a boss and get things accomplished.

Zumba is empowering. It allows you to push yourself as hard as you want without any pressure or judgment. The Latin inspired music and dances give you the jolt of energy you need to tackle everything life is throwing your way.

The best part is, you can take the moves you learn out on the town with you. Monkey Bar and The Pub won’t even know what’s coming!   

2. Kickboxing
While a kickboxing class may seem intimidating, it is a great way to feel strong and powerful when your stress and anxiety have been making you feel pretty powerless. This class keeps you on your toes, often quite literally, and is full of different workouts that tone your entire body and keep your heart rate high the whole class. From jump squats and burpees to punches and kicks, this workout is action packed.

The motivating environment helps you challenge yourself physically and mentally so that after you’re done, you will feel like you can take on the world. You can enjoy the pop songs you love while letting out some of your pent-up frustration. Who cares if you will never be a boxing champ? After taking this class, you can roundhouse kick that exam right out of your mind and uppercut that drama straight out of your life.

Who cares if you will never be a boxing champ? After taking this class, you can roundhouse kick that exam right out of your mind and uppercut that drama straight out of your life.

3. Power Vinyasa Yoga
When you need a reminder of what you are capable of, power vinyasa yoga is a great way to show yourself what your mind and body can do. This yoga class focuses mainly on postures that build strength and endurance. It takes the typical downward dog and warrior poses up a notch to target your muscles and balance. You will learn to center your mind and challenge your body by holding postures and controlling your breath.

If you are feeling like giving up on the things you are struggling with, this class will show you that persevering and holding steady will pay off in the end. You will leave this class feeling like a stronger, refreshed version of yourself. This is exactly what you need to handle all of the chaos going on in your life.

4. Hatha Yoga
Hatha yoga will help you reach a calm state of being as you focus all of your energy on your movement. While practicing Hatha, nothing else should take up space in your mind except how to create fluidity with each posture. This class is both soothing and strengthening because it brings your breathing and movement into sync. You learn throughout this class that by introducing peace to your life, you will receive some much-needed peace of mind in return.

5. Guided Meditation
Meditation is a mental exercise rather than fitness, and a group class is a sure-fire way to improve your state of your mind and mental health. Each guided meditative experience is usually different from the next, but they all accomplish the same goal, bringing you peace of mind. Whether the meditation is geared towards helping you set, visualize and achieve goals, or improving all of the relationships in your life, this class will help you feel cool, calm and collected.

Sometimes you just need to set aside time to leave all of your problems at the door and devote yourself to becoming a better, happier, you.

For a full class schedule, visit the Recreation Center website.

Email Julie at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @juliemh126

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