We live in a world that often seems filled with doom ‘n’ gloom and the unknown. How can we keep from being overwhelmed and overstressed?
If 2016 left you feeling stressed, scared, and a little out of sorts, rest assured that you are not alone. After nearly two years of a contentious battle for the White House, a humanitarian crisis in Syria, mass shootings, hate crimes and more here at home, it’s difficult not to feel confused and stressed about the world we are living in. Chronic stress and worry can zap us of our health and our happiness. In fact, chronic stress is responsible for a multitude of health-related problems, including anxiety, depression, headache, heart disease, weight gain and more. So, how can we begin to find inner peace during this time of unrest?
As a yoga practitioner and yoga teacher, I always turn to the ancient philosophy found in The Yoga Sutras of Patanajali. Compiled sometime between 100 BCE and 100 CE, The Yoga Sutras contain the wisdom of yoga beyond the physical postures that we, in the West, most often associate with yoga. The Yoga Sutras have helped me better understand my own mind and offered practical advice for how to keep my mind focused, calm and elevated. One piece of this practical advice offered is, “When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite ones should be thought of.” In yoga, we call this practice pratipaksa bhåvanam. Such simple and profound advice, but not always easy to put into practice. If you are like me, you know that it’s easy to get trapped in your own darkness some days. How are we to put this simple advice i n to action?
I have found that the key to pratipaksa bhavanam is mindfulness. Learn to pay attention to your body and breath cues. Find a few minutes each day to sit in a comfortable, quiet space and just breathe. As you are breathing, notice that slowing your breath relaxes your body and quiets your mind. Over time you will learn to connect with this relaxed physical state. When your body and breath become tense from a heightened stress response you will be able to more easily return to this calm inner peace.
Create a positive atmosphere around yourself. Find a community, like the one we’ve created at Inner Spring Yoga, that uplifts and supports you to help keep you grounded. Surround yourself with inspiring books, a clean and calm environment, and as much time outdoors in nature as you can. Sometimes all it takes to break out of a negative cycle is a deep breath of fresh air.
My final piece of advice is to find a way to affect positive change in your world. Instead of being stressed out by what you are against, figure out what you stand for and work to make that a reality. In the spirit of pratipaksa bhavanam, if you don’t like the way something in your world is, view it in terms of how you’d like it to be and work to make it so.