How can befriending challenging situations turn them into positive ones? We caught up with Robin Watkins-Davis to find out how she uses yoga and visualisation for revision and exams. Her tips are not to be missed by anyone preparing for exams.
What made you realise that yoga was a helpful tool during your exams?
Yoga for revision and exams helped me to learn about the power of the mind. I started learning about intention, the power of thinking and mantra meditation. Both these practices had one common link which was, learning to understand how my mind worked and observing thoughts. This way you can control and change your thoughts so that they assist you. This taught me how powerful our thoughts are. If they go unchecked, we often worry, feeling anxious and getting stressed out. Everything comes from thoughts, for example this quote explains it well.
“Watch your thoughts, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”
Imagine: All of that from a simple thought! I felt empowered and excited because I felt in control of my future. I thought if I just change the way I am thinking about something – the rest will unfold.
Off the mat and into the classroom
So, this is what I did. I took my yoga practice off the mat and into the class room, especially the math classroom, a place where I often lacked positivity or motivation. My new mantra was ‘I am good at maths, and I am getting better.’
I needed to re-program my mind so that my thoughts would support my learning. My old belief was that ‘I was bad at maths and that I just couldn’t do it, that it was such a struggle!’ this set of thoughts led me to not try my best in the class room and as a result my test results would be disappointing. Whenever I heard those unhelpful thoughts creep into my mind, I would pause and just replace them with my new mantra, ‘I am good at maths and I am getting better.’
Again and again I would repeat this until eventually I approached my lessons with an open mind and a can do attitude, allowing my teacher and peers to help me and to rise above the challenges, this eventually lead to progress and my grade shot from a GCSE E grade in September to a GCSE B grade for the final exam by June. Yoga and visualisation for revision and exams proved effective for me.
Other than yoga, what else did you do to prepare for exams?
Sleeping well – having an hour to unwind before bed – sometimes I would journal or write things that were on my mind and then put them to one side or burn them on the fire, as a way of letting it all go and allowing the mind to rest. I would take a nice bath and do a relaxation so that I could get a quality 8-9 hours of sleep.
Eating well – I noticed that because of the increase of stress and workload with exams I would crave sugar and fatty food. I tried to regulate this by having healthy meals with lots of fruit and veg and fish for brain food. I also took vitamin supplements to ensure I was fuelling my body up with goodness so it could perform well.
Rosemary oil – I remember reading about how rosemary oil helps the brain remember. I would put a bit of oil on my wrist before revising or taking an exam.
Revising well ahead of time. I scheduled my revision, allowing space for breaks and being realistic to include fun time and social time.
I wanted to avoid cramming so I revised everything in a relaxed manor. To revise I would make mind maps, then a couple of weeks before the exam would put the mind maps up over the walls and play memory games using my mind maps – trying to refine my knowledge down so that I just had a few bullet points for each topic that I needed to refresh on.
What did you find most effective during revision and exams?
Practicing papers and getting to know the marking criteria – I did as many past papers as I could as I find exams are a lot about technique and application as opposed to knowing everything. I wanted to almost get inside the examiners head, work out exactly what they wanted from me and what they were looking for so that I could try and provide that in my answer.
Taking care of myself so that I felt as well as I could do – setting my body and mind up for success, as exams and school is demanding so its important to care for yourself, especially in this time and to give your brain an optimal foundation to perform from. It’s not ideal to just work super hard and neglect your own needs because that will put the body under further stress.
Revising and working with friends – trying to make it a ‘fun’ experience
Effective yoga and visualisation for revision and exams
Yoga helps focus the mind and increase energy levels. Breathing techniques such as alternate nostril breathing are particularly useful for increasing clarity and focus. These breathing exercises bring fresh air into the lungs and greater oxygen into the blood. Focusing on the breath is a way of being in the present moment. It clears the mind and gives it something to focus on, which I find brings greater efficiency and productivity for exams. To learn alternate nostril breathing you could try my video ‘manage anxiety: breathwork for balance.’
The movements are also very helpful because there is such a range of postures. If you need to rest and restore, there is more gentle yoga like yin, to deeply recharge. There is also more physically demanding yoga. Inversions like shoulder and headstand and the sun salutations are great ways to bring strength and focus into your day.
Lastly, I think the relaxation side of yoga helps with exam performance. I have found that when we are relaxed our memory and ability to think creatively and find solutions increases. Often when under pressure we can mentally freeze up.
Visualisations allow us to set a clear goal or intention. They use the power of the mind to imagine that coming into fruition. As I mentioned earlier you should never underestimate the power of thoughts! Visualisations relax the mind as it is guided through a series of images. It’s almost like a bed time story.
Can you share a tip for the day of the exam or to use during the exam?
If you find yourself in a state of worry, doubt or stress leading up to or during the exam, pause and notice the sensation of feeling anxious/stressed/doubtful. Then remind yourself that your thoughts are not facts. In fact all you can do is give it your best shot in that moment. Feel your feet on the ground. Take a refreshing drink of water and think back to the visualisation practice where we imagined the water giving us clarity. Yoga and visualisation for revision and exams helps you to prepare in a stress-free way. For more tips watch my class: ‘manage anxiety: think it, believe it, see it, have it.’
About Robin Watkins-Davis
Robin specialises in Yoga for young people and her classes are fun and accessible to a wide range of young people. She wants to share tools which enhance well-being and which encourage young people to take control of their thoughts and not to become overwhelmed by worry.