By Jan Lauren Greenfield
Today we think of yoga as involving lots of poses (asanas) and maybe even some fancy clothes or hot rooms. In truth, yoga is an ancient Science of Movement that comes from India. There are many texts on the subject and some of these books are considered sacred to people around the world. Perhaps the most famous of these books is the "Yoga Sutras" by Pantanjali, a saint from India (150 BC). He defines yoga as the "Cessation of the fluctuations of the mind". In other words Yoga is the stopping of movement (thoughts) in our mind.
While this description may sound more like meditation than yoga, the primary goal of yoga is actually to still the mind. Meditation and yoga go hand in hand. For most people, this is a challenge but for anyone like me, who has experienced a manic episode, controlling your thoughts at times is nearly impossible. I've written in depth on the subject of the challenges of yoga and mental health here. This practice helps.
I live in New York City and it even at the best of times it can be a challenge to create a mentally healthy state within the frenzy of city life. Here are a few of the things I do to stay sane in the city:
Jan Lauren Greenfield
- Practice Yoga.
With any guide from a yogi's perspective, the first piece of advice will always be to practice yoga. Yoga can significantly improve both your state of mind and your body. As the popularity of yoga has grown so much in recent years, it is also easily accessible. Most gyms offer yoga classes and there are many local studios (which is my personal recommendation). If you prefer the comfort of your home, many great yoga videos can be accessed via the internet.
- Get Outside.
This is the biggest key to my happiness. I need to spend time surrounded by nature. I walk almost everyday in the fresh air. Vitamin D, trees and wildlife makes me feel grounded. This is how I find my peace in the hustle and bustle.
- Wear Headphones.
Living in the city is stimulating. It can be exciting, but when I'm feeling highly sensitive it can also be over-stimulating. One of my tools is a trusty pair of headphones. Music is healing and makes the everyday city life a bit easier.
- Take a Break From the Media.
Shut off the news. Make a conscious effort to limit your intake. Same with social media, these tools were meant to connect us but often have us comparing our lives to others and wishing for something else. I remind myself that I have no idea of the struggles that person has and would not trade my life for anyone else's life. When I get into a negative state of mind, I try to decide whether it is necessary to take a "social media fast."
- Surround Yourself with Beauty.
It doesn't cost a lot to make an impact in your environment. A handwritten affirmation or beautiful quote somewhere you look everyday can do a lot when things get hectic.
- Be Grateful.
A gratitude journal is a great way to start and end your day. It's important to have a journal dedicated just to your gratitude. You can write down a list first thing in the morning and then again at bedtime. If you just need a place to start, just begin with "thank you, I am grateful for waking up." Even on those days when you may not mean it, repeat it and you will begin to believe it.
- Be Kind.
This may be the most challenging piece of advice on this list, but it has the biggest payoff (which obviously isn't the reason to do it). A selfless act of service is known as Seva in Sanskrit. It's doing a good deed. Doing something genuinely kind for someone else, whether it's a friend or a stranger, is the highest act we can do.
How often to we forget about our breath? This is something that we have complete control over that can make us feel infinitely better. In order to take control of your breath, first, make sure you are breathing like you did when you came into this world. That means, when you inhale your belly gets big, when you exhale all the air come out like a deflated balloon. Take three deep breaths inhaling through your nose and exhaling out through your nose. Anytime, anywhere, you can return to your breath. It's always with you.
is an artist, writer and yoga Teacher. Her work explores the crossroads of spirituality, mental health and pop culture. She has worked with the UN, has been featured in Vogue Italia and currently lives in NYC. She is author of "My Beautiful Bipolar Mind: Fire on the Mountain
", available at Amazon. More of her work can be viewed at www.yogionlithium.com
Instagram: @lovejanlauren Twitter: @Jan_Lauren. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.