When asked how she would describe herself in 140 characters or less, Lauren Davidson responds, “Hmmmm…I think I like ‘compassionate intellectual.’” At 25 letters, that description comes in far under the limit of your average Tweet, but manages to sum Lauren up quite nicely.
It does justice to her law degree (recently earned from New York Law School), her specialization (Mental Disability Law), and the innovative yoga technique she’s developing (MindMantra Yoga) that was spurred by personal tragedy and which she aims to use to help others cope with their own. No two words could ever completely describe a person, but Lauren’s choice here is certainly comprehensive.
“I went to law school with the idealistic intention to help people,” says Lauren, though unlike some of her classmates, being a lawyer might not have been Lauren’s childhood dream. Growing up in Sunrise, Florida, Lauren wasn’t even sure if college was an option. “My neighborhood was zoned for one of the worst high schools in South Florida,” she says, “so my parents tried everything to keep me from going to it. There was a lottery you could enter to win a chance to go to a very good public school in a nicer neighborhood 45 minutes away.”
When Lauren’s name was pulled from the lottery at age 13, she started busing out to Nova High School, a stroke of luck that laid a strong foundation for her future success. Not only did she have better access to AP courses and resources, but the extra curricular activities that were available would support her career choice.
At Nova, Lauren joined one of the best high school debate teams in the country, and quickly became one of the best competitors on the team, even making captain her senior year. “It was huge for me, and I credit it with building a lot of my confidence and making me realize my strengths and weaknesses,” she says. Her hard work in high school paid off, earning her a full scholarship to the University of Florida, and helping her become the first in her family to graduate college.
As hard as she worked, high school couldn’t prepare Lauren for everything college would throw her way. In the first two weeks of her freshman year, Lauren was sexually assaulted while at a fraternity party off campus. “It was horrible,” she says, “and I didn’t really get through it until many years later.” Though eventually Lauren would seek help and be diagnosed with PTSD, for months after the attack, she kept it a secret. “I didn’t process it as an assault at first. I thought it was my fault for drinking with a group of guys I barely knew. I actually feared getting in trouble. I didn’t know what would happen if I ever told anyone.”
After the attack, Lauren found herself struggling with her mental health. “[The idea of] dropping out was very appealing and there were days I could not leave my dorm room,” she says. She began struggling with classes, forgetting assignments, and losing sleep to nightmares. Despite plummeting grades and a decline in her health, she kept her secret. “I had this amazing opportunity to be at school on a 100% scholarship and I was afraid of getting kicked out and disappointing my whole family,” she says.
At the end of her freshman year, Lauren attempted suicide. Finally, she knew she had to open up to her parents and seek help. Over the next few years, Lauren went through therapy but continued struggling, taking steps forward and backward. She developed an eating disorder in her junior year of college and was eventually diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder. In addition to her therapy treatment, Lauren was put on a regimen of prescription drugs but says she often felt over-medicated. She began incorporating yoga on her own and says, “It was amazing to me how some deep breathing and self-soothing could be more effective and more immediate than a Xanax.”
Throughout her treatment, Lauren continued her studies. Her grades improved and she rediscovered her love of debate, and joined the collegiate debate team in her sophomore year. “It felt good to be using my mind again in that way,” she says. “Although no one on the team knew [about the attack] a lot of the material I ended up focusing on and putting in my speeches was inspired by my own issues.”
With hard work and a re-dedication to her health and studies, Lauren graduated with a degree in Political Science, two years after originally planned. Though her grades weren’t as strong as she expected, Lauren was admitted to New York Law School and moved 1,006 miles from Florida to New York City. She took evening classes in order to work full time to pay for school, and graduated this year with a law degree and a specialization in mental disability law.
“I thought I wanted to help people with mental disabilities by protecting their civil rights in a litigation capacity,” she says. “I interned at a firm that did veterans disability law, and although I learned a lot and gained a lot of experience, it was horrible mentally. Nearly every client had PTSD, and a lot of the females also had Military Sexual Trauma. It was too much triggering for me, and all of my worst symptoms came back full force while I was working there.”
After that emotionally difficult experience, Lauren needed to do some soul-searching to figure out just how she wanted to use her background. Throughout her personal therapy and treatment, Lauren discovered that practicing yoga regularly helped her more than any of her traditional medical treatments. She began developing a technique she calls MindMantra Yoga, and realized in her soul-searching that this was how she wanted to help people.
“A legal education makes you think in a different way,” she says, “and teaches you a whole new set of ways to analyze a problem and solve it. One of my biggest takeaways has been the importance of not being afraid of ambiguity, and to be aware of so many different possibilities and interpretations. This has been integral in my development of MindMantra Yoga and has influenced everything from the conception phases to business development and everything in between.”
The development of her program is a big part of Lauren’s shift in focus—rather than prosecute on behalf of those with mental disabilities, she wants to be a part of the recovery process for those with diagnoses like her own. “I’ve been using yoga for 8 years as part of my recovery,” Lauren says, “but it took me a while to tap into the mental/meditative aspect of it rather than just the physical part. The essential takeaway from my technique is that there is a relationship between your thoughts and your body, that you have the power right in your own mind to change your body chemistry, and that we are much more powerful beings than we think we are.”
Lauren harnessed this idea as she began developing her technique. Ultimately, MindMantra Yoga will combine three elements: Yoga asanas and breathing regulation, positive affirmations and mantras, and vibroacoustic therapy. “I started doing a lot of research about the brain and how emotions are processed, and my research led me all the way into the worlds of astrophysics and quantum physics,” Lauren says. “It turns out that science has now proven that our thoughts and emotions vibrate at very real frequencies in our brain and create fields that are invisible but just as real as gravity. What we think and say to ourselves really does matter, and negative emotions and thoughts vibrate at different frequencies than positive ones, and that has a measurable, tangible effect on our brains and body chemistry.”
The vibroacoustic element is costly to develop due to the need for special machinery, however, as Lauren continues to develop that aspect, she says the asanas, breathing techniques and positive affirmations work to build a solid foundation. The vibroacoustics, when finalized, will build on top of and in conjunction with the two main techniques.
In July, after her graduation from law school, Lauren took a leap and moved to California, where she is continuing to develop and implement MindMantra Yoga. She’s currently using her law background working as a legal secretary by day, but her focus is yoga and practicing her treatment techniques with others. “California is number one for both yoga and treatment centers,” Lauren says. “Once MindMantra Yoga is fully developed, I can meet with directors of treatment centers to present my technique, demonstrate it, and hopefully be able to introduce it as a regular weekly therapy to be used in conjunction with more conventional therapies.”
“Having my JD allows me to empower others with the knowledge of their rights and protect vulnerable populations from exploitation and discrimination. On the other hand, my personal experience allows me to empathize with people from all walks of life on a deeper level than most of the therapists and counselors they encounter.”
To learn more about and follow the development of MindMantra Yoga, you can visit Lauren’s website.