Blue Mind in the City
By: Elika Aird

My fascination with water I think started in the womb. I would roll around and play and swim in my mama, but soon I outgrew my warm little space and moved on to explore bigger realms. As a baby I loved to be at the beach and I think it was a place where I could remember that watery world I once lived in and what comprises the majority of my body. The salty air smells like the amniotic fluid that used to nourish my growing body.

As an adult, my love for the ocean has continued and recently I have become so fascinated by the theory behind the book Blue Mind by Dr. Wallace Nichols, who studied the influence of the oceans on our brain function and emotional well-being. It presents insight and research about the interface of psychology and our natural environment to support why we feel so amazing when we are by, near or in water. I think I was drawn to the vinyasa yoga system because of my deep love for water and the beauty and sounds of waves flowing into one another is like the moving meditation of flow yoga.

No study needed to reveal to me something that I feel in my soul and keeps me dreaming about owning a beachfront home one day. CBS News did a story on the Blue Mind and found: “Brain imaging indicates that proximity to water floods the brain with feel-good hormones such as dopamine and oxytocin. Levels of the stress hormone cortisol actually drop. Scientists have also discovered that the brain prefers the color blue above all others and water increases our ability to focus.”

When Sex in The City was on TV, I fell in love with my birthplace of NYC, all over again and contemplated moving back. I got lured by big-city life and thought how exciting it would be running to yoga classes on the subway, hanging out in the meat packing district on the weekends, eating in amazing restaurants, oh yeah I forgot and wading through a sea of traffic frequently and maybe being in snow 6 months out of the year. No thanks! The only sea I want to be wading in will be blue and have sand close-by. I’ve become very aware the longer I do live in a more urban environment; it can create a state of mind, which Dr. Nichols calls “Red Mind”. It might feel like this…. you have this sense that you’re always “on”, never time to slow down, your phone appears glued to your hand, it’s increasingly difficult to escape the emails and calls from bosses, colleagues or customers and vacation is just a distant memory.

And while sadly we all can’t live at the beach and often stress arises out of our control, we can control how we react. And instead of turning red, we can decide to turn blue!

If you think you have to move to the beach or visit weekly to get in on the Blue Mind experience, you are wrong! Each time you visit a body of water, see what you can bring home: a feeling, seashells, imagery of the waves, a new rhythm for a song you heard in the waves maybe. At any stressful moment, you can then remember that calming presence whether in a traffic jam, packed in a subway car or rushing to meet clients. The way I see it, the Blue Mind philosophy is not something that has to exclusively be enjoyed in or near water, but you also have the potential to incorporate the energy of water into your everyday life as an urban-dweller like me. According to Dr. Nichols "Our response to water is deep…It's human, it's about life and it's about survival. So when you see water, when you hear water, it triggers a response in your brain that you're in the right place." So when the harried pace of Red Mind overwhelms you and you can’t get to your nearest body of water, here’s some suggestions to transform your brainwaves to those more in alignment with the Blue Mind:

  • Find a local vinyasa yoga class or enjoy my teacher Shiva Rea at Wanderlust in a very fluid, creative flow class
  • Check out this song called “Blue Mind” and see if it puts you in that blue state of mind
  • Redecorate your home with water images, or add more blue colors to your home to invite a flood of feel-good hormones to flood your brain
  • Add a small waterfall in your home/office to enjoy the sounds and beauty of water
  • Look for nature cds that have tracks of babbling brooks, flowing waves or rain
  • Try this Water visualization ~ get comfortable laying down or seated and turn off all your Red Mind-creating electronics; see yourself at your favorite body of water. What does it sound like? What does the air feel like on your skin? Is there sun/clouds? Notice the breath flowing in and out like the waves of the ocean. What do you sense when thoughts arise, can you come back to the waves, the sounds, and the breath? Stay here 10-20 minutes

Our world is full of suffering and change so by inviting fluidity into our lives, we enter into the soothing rhythms of the oceans. Maybe you are serious about conserving water, but never thought beyond that or knew all of water’s healing qualities. Well now is your time to dive deeper into the Blue Mind. You can start shifting your consciousness to allow space to move like water, nourishing your brain and cultivating fluidity in your daily life …without going anywhere.