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Naked in Motion’s Guide to Self-Care for Students

Midterms might still be a few weeks away, but if you’re a college student, you’re likely already beginning to feel…

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Doesn’t matter whether you’re a new-to-the-city frosh or Just.Trying.To.Fulfill.That.Last.Requirement, you, fearless New York City college student, are navigating the considerable stress of school in an often chaotic, crowded, competitive city touting a (for better or worse) work hard, play hard culture. How do you stay sane, healthy, and happy? Naked in Motion wants to help. So we’ve put together this self-care guide to help you be fierce, focused, and take full advantage of your time living in the best city in the whole damn country.

1. Sleep

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Studying, working, partying: it’s no wonder you’re fried. But, gurl, you can’t function at the highest level if you’re not getting your 7-8 hours a night--with an occasional 40 winks thrown in every now and again for good measure. Having trouble shutting your mind down so you can drift off? Try Willow's bedtime routine:

Just an old dancer's stretch to lengthen the muscles on the top of the foot and ankle. After a day of walking around the city, the tops of my feet usually call my name.

Just an old dancer's stretch to lengthen the muscles on the top of the foot and ankle. After a day of walking around the city, the tops of my feet usually call my name.

Cow Face pose, Gomukhasana, but I like it with Garudasana (Eagle) arms to add a shoulder stretch. 

Cow Face pose, Gomukhasana, but I like it with Garudasana (Eagle) arms to add a shoulder stretch. 

Eye of the Needle Pose, Sucirandhrasana, helps me stretch out my outer hips.

Eye of the Needle Pose, Sucirandhrasana, helps me stretch out my outer hips.

Grab a towel to help you stretch the back of your legs. My calves burn after a day of running around.

Grab a towel to help you stretch the back of your legs. My calves burn after a day of running around.

Lots of different leg variations for the Supine Spinal Twist, Supta Jaṭhara Parivartānāsana, so pick what feels good for you.

Lots of different leg variations for the Supine Spinal Twist, Supta Jaṭhara Parivartānāsana, so pick what feels good for you.

Happy Baby pose, Ananda Balasana, helps lengthen my spine. 

Happy Baby pose, Ananda Balasana, helps lengthen my spine. 

2. Nutrition

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Depending on how you look at it, “eating well” in NYC on a budget is a straightforward proposition ($1 pizza slice, $5 halal cart lunch, bodega snacks for dinner) or a fantasy ($70 three-day juice cleanses?). Let’s face it, pizza (especially NY-style pizza) is awesome, and we will never say otherwise. But we’ve all got to take care of our bodies, especially when stressed, and you need more variety than a slice or a burrito bowl to get all the nutrients you need to ward off sickness. Your body is a wonderland: to make sure you’re absorbing all the zinc, vitamin C, and fiber to be your most magical, take advantage of the city’s wealth of delis with salad bars. You’ll pay, on average, $10 for a balance of carbs, fats, and protein, and all that roughage will keep you satiated (and..ahem.. regular). And you can avoid breakdown moments where you end up hungry and springing for a $20 meal if you plan ahead and pack snacks like nuts, bananas, or a protein bar. Keep an eye out for the cheap fruit and veggie stands all over the city. And buy staples in bulk: Willow says that when she was in college, she would fill a suitcase full of Trader Joe’s discounted delights and drag it back to her dorm. But if you fall prey to a post-drinking binge and/or a night of stress-eating? Do some next-day repair: hydrate (aim for a gallon of water) and try a few of these poses:

Garland Pose, Malasana (think "squatty potty")

Garland Pose, Malasana (think "squatty potty")

Supine Spinal Twist, again. Wring it out. You can do a seated Spine Twist, too.

Supine Spinal Twist, again. Wring it out. You can do a seated Spine Twist, too.

Child's Pose, Balasana, complete with baby shark fin mohawk. This is me every morning with a hangover and every moment of every day on my period.

Child's Pose, Balasana, complete with baby shark fin mohawk. This is me every morning with a hangover and every moment of every day on my period.

3. Massage, Bodywork, and Spas

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One of the benefits of living in the big city is that everyone else is also stressed out and in search of relief. While massages and spas might be luxury-priced experiences in other areas of the country, you can afford to get a monthly massage or spa visit while living in Manhattan. There are the well-known deals to be found in Chinatown, where you can easily get a good massage for less than your weekly MTA pass (tip well!). And get thee to Groupon, where you can regularly find one-hour massages discounted below $50, and discounted entry to spas including Spa Castle in College Point ($29), the Russian/Turkish baths in the East Village ($19), or the salt-cave and infrared sauna at Flying Lotus ($33). 

4. Talk About It

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Talk it out, son. It’s called therapy for a reason! 

The city can feel lonely and alienating at times, especially for newcomers and non-natives that don’t have their best friends and family nearby. Finding your support network can take some time, but be proactive: go online to find groups that meet up IRL. You can find community-specific events and group meetings on Facebook and Meetup. And, you know, call your BFF/mom/dad/sis/bro and let them know what’s up. 

But maybe you need a professional. Fortunately, there are a number of options that won’t break the bank. You might first want to check out what’s available on campus: most universities and colleges offer a wealth of free mental health resources. If you’re looking elsewhere, try the National Institute for Psychotherapies and the Training Institute for Mental Health--both training institutions that offer sliding-scale therapy (in some cases as low as $25/session). The Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy is another institute training therapists and offers student discounts on sessions. Can’t find the time to bus around the city for appointments? Maybe the text-based Talkspace can be a solution; it just requires downloading the app on your phone, and weekly sessions start at $32. Their website also offers a list of nationwide emergency resources if you are in crisis and need immediate support. 

5. Meditate

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Check out New York Magazine’s recent list of the best meditation centers in New York to get started. Looking for a free class? September 29-October 5 is “Meditation Week,” the annual week when the city hosts a bunch of free meditation classes throughout the 5 boroughs and New Jersey. Plus, hit up your Podcasts app for a wealth of free guided meditations to set your mind at ease.

Our students also tell us that they enjoy meditating after taking one of our classes, which makes sense. Yoga is itself a meditative practice. Want to learn more? Explore our blog. 

6. Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing)

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Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese term and concept for the healing process of “forest bathing,” or escaping into the woods to alleviate stress and promote health. A recent article on the practice in Quartz quoted a study on the effects of 30 minutes of forest bathing, performed by researchers at Japan’s Chiba University: “Forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than do city environments…” 

So get outta the city! The Metro North offers a number of easy day trips for hikes along the Hudson River, or a subway/bicycle ride up to the George Washington Bridge and across the New Jersey border will take you to the Palisades Interstate Park, which offers more than 30 miles of hiking trails. 

Can’t leave town? Both Central Park in Midtown and Prospect Park in Brooklyn offer hundreds of acres of serenity. Go deep: Central Park offers wilderness in the Ramble, a 38-acre area on the west side of the park. And numerous trails off the central loop in Prospect Park offer opportunities for hiking, trail-running, bird-watching, or just contemplative walking. 

7. Have Fun!

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Take breaks from studying. Get your people together and go to a dance party. Host a movie night. Form a weekend kickball team. Sign up for the Nonsense List, which sends a weekly digest of weird and underground happenings in the city. You get it: everything in moderation. Take time to play. It’s not just important for child development; it enhances coping skills, creativity, and alleviates stress in adults to promote lifelong growth and wellness. Willow adds: “It's hard for me to take time off because I feel that I'm not being productive, that play is separate from my work and a waste of time. But play is actually a part of work. When we take a lazy Sunday to hang out and go to the movies, we are directly contributing to our ability to healthily produce work. Without time off, we quite literally become less efficient, productive, and overall, less happy individuals.”

8. Try Something New Once Every Week

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Neuroscientists are doing fascinating research on brain plasticity, and research suggests we have power to make choices that can actually change the way our brains function. Not to mention the benefits from a cognitive-behavioral point of view. Students, of course, are learning new things every day. But get your visceral thrills: explore new boroughs, try new foods, seek out new music. Newness, novelty: these experiences are tied to dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter. Naked Yoga was certainly a new experience for most of our now regularly attending students.  One student, Rabia, for example, told us that she came to Naked Yoga for the first time out of a challenge she set for herself to try something new that scared her on a weekly basis.

9. Physical Intimacy

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Humans are wired to thrive on touch. It’s basic: we want physical intimacy because it’s literally life-saving. This includes sex, and sex is definitely a stress-buster. But you don’t need to have regular sexual partners to benefit from physical intimacy. Hugs from friends work. Going further: cuddle! If your friends aren’t down, and you’re looking to make new friends, you can always try out a cuddle party. 

10. Like the yoga? Like the naked? Naked Yoga is your next new thing.

A Naked! Yoga & Pilates class with Willow at Naked in Motion

A Naked! Yoga & Pilates class with Willow at Naked in Motion

We have a diverse group of students in our naked yoga classes, so we know that some of you may be saying Yoga? Naked? Awesome, I’ll try it! and others are thinking Naked yoga? OMG WTF I could NEVER. We want to meet you where you’re at. We think naked yoga is an amazing way to check off a few items from this list, and we know from experience how often nervous first-time students leave class on a confident high. In addition to weekly all-gender classes, we offer donation-based women and trans-only classes and allow those students to wear bottoms in any of our classes


college flickr photo by Sole Treadmill shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

We also offer student discounts! Now through the end of December, you can get a $10 student ticket for your first class, plus unlimited student discounts on class packages. Boston students get a discount, too! Email student@nakedinmotion.com for discount codes.

Have more questions? Read this. Come alone or bring a friend: we invite you to join our rebellion!