A Guru's Simple Ritual to Reduce Stress When You're Feeling Overwhelmed
Who else is feeling confused and more than a little distraught by current events? And it's not just politically; it's environmentally (climate change is here), socially, and technologically (AI even scares Elon Musk). Add that to the stresses of modern life (parenting, relationships, money, career), and our anxiety levels are in the red (one in five Americans suffer from a mental illness, and that's just the ones we know about). Yes, the world is in conflict right now, and many of us are feeling nervous and worried for the future. So how can we remain calm?
Lucky for me, that help came in the form of a book that landed on my desk: Invincible Living by Los Angeles–based Guru Jagat—Alicia Keys and Moon Juice founder Amanda Chantal Bacon are both avid followers. As the founder of RA MA Institute for Applied Yogic Science & Technology, a Kundalini yoga school in Venice, California, Guru Jagat is all about positive vibes, so I immediately penned an email with a myriad of questions (aka problems) and sought out her counsel.
"We are living in unprecedented times," she wrote over email. "The major changes afoot in our geopolitics, economy, social culture, values, and the foundations of society at large are pushing us toward some deep evolutionary leaps. Most significantly, how we relate to ourselves in the era of technology is changing and creating a heavy pressure on our systems that require new types of input and output patterns in order to be successful in a highly computerized age." Ain't that the truth?
During this massive period of change, Gugu Jagat says developing a clear mind and a strong nervous system is key. But how? "I believe that having some commitment to conscious breath practice and mind training is no longer a luxury," she explains. "The techniques of Kundalini yoga are tried and true, and for over 5000 years, they have been heavily practiced and proven to change your brain waves, chemistry, physical vitality, and thought patterns. Now, more than ever, the demand for these skills and choices is at a new peak."
Ahead, Guru Jagat shares her simple, quick, and highly effective rituals to relieve stress and enhance positivity.
MYDOMAINE: What is the worst thing you can do when the body and mind are in stress mode?
GURU JAGAT: The term "stress mode" describes a state in which the body and mind don't have enough energy to compute the most advantageous course of action for the situation at hand. You're getting 15 text messages a minute while your inbox is piling up and your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/whatever is having a meltdown. It's a "___-storm," as they say. There is a successful route through any mess of flotsam and jetsam. But if you don't have enough energy, you won't be able to see the course. That inability to see creates a kind of imploded panic, which we call stress.
When your body and mind are in "stress mode," the best thing to do is to give yourself energy. The worst things you can do are the things that leak energy. Surprisingly, one of the biggest energy leaks is a complaint. Literally, one complaint closes 30% of our intuitive faculties like an iron gate. That's a lot. Add to that, the 30% energy loss from self-doubt (another endemic habit) and guilt (something programmed in many of us), and you can see how quickly a minor "stress" can snowball into fatigue, confusion, and misdirection through our bad energy habits.
The good news is that rebuilding our energy reserves is possible and easy. Sometimes it's as simple as remembering that there is nothing wrong with you. In actuality, you are also the most powerful creature that ever was created. This is why "fake it till you make it" is such a deep spiritual practice. Because even if you just start to shore up the places where you leak energy (cut down on complaining, increase your self-worth), that will do a lot for your prosperous navigation of life.
You're getting 15 text messages a minute while your inbox is piling up and your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/whatever is having a meltdown. It's a "___-storm," as they say.
MD: You mentioned in the book that "grounding" is an effective way to "pick up energy." Can we perform grounding when there is no earth or grass? Or do you need to feel the earth?
GJ: Everything has a rhythm. Stress happens when you are out of sync (aka arhythmic) with your body and the world around you. Grounding with bare feet on the earth is an easy way to pick up the electromagnetic rhythm of the planet and therefore synchronize with a beat that is more healing and beneficial. However, this method of absorbing and aligning with the earth's magnetic field is just one of many.
Taking a walk outside, getting in the sun, or taking in the fresh air allows each of the 30 trillion cells in your physical body to align with the rhythmic frequency of nature. You might still have your shoes on. Because you are picking up the earth's field, the experience is grounding you. Knowing this, it is possible to "ground" in an office unit 10 stories off the ground, fully clothed in this season's slickest business wear.
Simply close your eyes, focus them up and in toward the middle of the eyebrows, and try to pick up the magnetic pulse of the earth. Chances are that you will tune into a lot of magnetic rhythms—the beat of your city or the energy of the person sitting next to you. See if you can discern the earth's rhythm, and then synchronize with it.
It is possible to "ground" in an office unit 10 stories off the ground, fully clothed in this season's slickest business wear.
MD: What are some simple rituals you recommend to reduce stress instantly?
GJ: What I love about the practices of Kundalini yoga is that they work fast. Here are some of my favorite practices for quickly distressing the body and mind.
Bare Feet on the Ground: We live in an electrical system, and your feet are one of the biggest conductors of electromagnetic energy. There are 72,000 nerve endings in the soles of your feet. The moment you put your feet on the ground, your personal energy field and the energy field of the earth align with each other, creating much more peace on a nervous system level.
Time: 15 seconds or more
Quick Cold-Water Hydrotherapy: To relieve stress or turn your mood around on a bad day, duck into the bathroom, and splash cold water on your face, hands, feet, and underneath your arms. The armpits are another convergence point of the 72,000 nerves in the body. When you splash cold water on these major nerve plexus points, the cold water calms the body and can stop panic in its tracks.
MD: What is a simple breathing exercise we can perform to reduce anxiety?
GJ: Nothing short-circuits the nervous system and creates anxiety like anger and impatience. When it comes to a prosperous and graceful life, it's required to detox this kind of destabilizing energies. One of my favorite breaths for this is the Kundalini Fists of Anger exercise. Fists of Anger detoxes the pent-up energy of frustration and self-hatred that's creating the anxiety.
That anger prevents all the blessings from coming to you, so you need to release it for the prosperity to have more flow. This breath also releases such a current of radiance that the nerves start to be able to conduct more wattage. Your capacity widens, your energy clears, and your grit develops. See below for my step-by-step guide, followed by a video of how to perform this ritual yourself at home.
Courtesy of Guru Jagat
MD: You recommend starting each day with a cold shower or just splashing each armpit with cold water for 15 seconds. Can you explain this ritual in more depth and why we should incorporate it into our morning routine?
GJ: By far, one of my all-time favorite practices for overall health, energy, and rejuvenation is the cold shower. This practice is an incredible kind of hydrotherapy. It improves the integrity and condition of the skin. It detoxes the inner organs, increases immunity, fends off depression, heals the circulatory system, erases wrinkles, activates cellular renewal, improves energy, strengthens the nerves, and even makes your brain more alert by increasing the velocity of your neurons.
Cold showers are the best bet for strengthening the nervous system to withstand great pressures (which is now an epidemic in this modern age)—and as an added bonus, they make you feel incredible. I know what you're thinking, but I promise you this is one of the most amazing, fast-acting, anti-aging, rejuvenating practices you could ever take on.
Here's my ritual:
1. Dry-brush your body in short strokes toward the heart from the base of your feet all the way up. The skin should become pink. If you dry-brush the skin of your face, which you can, do so gently, and stroke upward.
2. Massage almond oil or coconut oil all over your body, including your face.
3. Turn on the cold water in your shower, and get in.
Facing the water, begin massaging different parts of your body, starting with the soles of your feet and continuing with the tops of your feet and your hands.
4. To treat the back of the body, turn around and let the cold water run down your spine. Rub your shoulders, armpits, upper arms, forearms, and wrists on both sides. Rub your kidneys and lower back.
5. Strike the buttocks lightly. Massage the back of your calves with the tops of your feet, and then turn around again.
6. Massage your face. Let the water hit your chest, and massage your heart center and breasts. Massage your stomach, and then lightly strike the tops of your thighs with loose fists.
Time: 30 seconds to 15 minutes, or until you are warm
To End: Get out of the shower, and towel yourself off until you are dry. Look in the mirror, and admire your glow.
Taking a walk outside, getting in the sun, or taking in the fresh air allows each of the 30 trillion cells in your physical body to align with the rhythmic frequency of nature.
MD: Beditation—a phrase you coined—has become a modern wellness movement. Can you explain what it is, how it works, and why?
GJ: I'm happy that people are adopting beditation as a real practice, because it is. In Kundalini yoga, there are actual yoga sets and meditations that yogi Bhajan (the master responsible for bringing Kundalini yoga to the West) left specifically as practices you can do in bed. So beditating is a real, authentic practice.
It is an effective way to practice mind training. There's a sense that you have to have some kind of special pillow or bench or someplace special to sit to do this. But in reality, you can simply wake up in bed, sit up, and practice quoting your mind. No stone Buddha or lotus blossom incense required. The effects on the mind are just as deep and effective.
One of my favorite beditations is the simplest one; here's how to do it:
Posture: As soon as your alarm goes off, sit up in bed or throw your legs over the side of the bed.
Eyes: Keep your eyes closed, gently focusing up and in at the brow point.
Breath and Mantra: Connect to your breath by taking long, deep breaths. Mentally chant Sat on the inhale and Nam on the exhale, vibrating the mantra at the brow point.
Time: One to three minutes
To End: Inhale, exhale, and relax.
What is your favorite ritual for stress relief? Do you practice beditation? Share them with us below, and then shop Guru Jagat's book for more Kundalini rituals to try at home.