Happy Yoga Day!

Hi guys! Sorry it has been so long since my last post. Damien and I have been so busy travelling (and having an amazing time) and I have been posting about our travels on my other website: Nat’s Travels. Feel free to check it out if you have time. 🙂

Happy Yoga Day! June 21 is Yoga Day around the world, where people take part in Yoga classes and do Yoga poses and celebrate all things Yoga. With that said, here is a picture of me in Hawaii practicing asana on the beach (and yes, I recognise the irony of this photo and what I say am about to say next).

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But International Yoga Day is about more than just taking part in Yoga classes and doing Yoga poses. The day marks the celebration of Yoga as one of the greatest philosophies about life and spirituality.

Many people don’t realise that Yoga is much, much more than a system of Yoga poses or exercises. Asana, the physical practise of Yoga, is just one of eight limbs and, to some people, Asana is the least important of the eight. However, for me, asana makes me feel good; strong, fit and healthy and I enjoy doing it. So, for me, it holds equal importance with the yamas, niyamas, pranayama and meditation- part of the 8 limbs of yoga (click here to read more about these 4 limbs which are part of the 8 limbs of yoga). 

Essentially, Yoga consists of eight limbs. Through following the eightfold path, an individual can work towards attaining his/her higher self or true self and eventually attaining the state of bliss or Ananda forever.

As I progress on my Yoga journey, I am continually amazed to discover the vast potential of Yoga (take a look at one of my previous blog posts: Life’s Lessons to learn more about what I have discovered during my yoga journey). Yoga for me is a way of being in the world, an attitude, and a source of strength- physically, spiritually and mentally. One of my yoga teachers once said to me that it helps “strengthen the body, calm the mind, feel joy in the moment, and soften the heart.”

Through breathing, moving and meditating, I have learned how to still my mind, relax my body, and change my mood. At the best of times, I can attune myself to the joy and wonder of existence in the present moment. At the worst of times, I can calm, uplift, motivate and inspire myself. This, to me, is far more valuable than any of the goals that an asana-centric practise might offer- Who wants to be able to put their leg behind their ear anyway?

Yoga is something that catches you… and when it does, it can transform your life.

Happy Yoga Day!

Namaste,

Natalie

P.S. If you are interested in travel, Damien and I have been travelling for a while now, why not check out some posts from our favourite locations:

Poon Hill, Nepal

Agra, India

Maui, Hawaii

Big Island, Hawaii

O’ahu, Hawaii

Trinidad, Cuba

Paris, France

Venice, Italy

Ometepe, Nicaragua

Caye Caulker, Belize

Krka National Park, Croatia

Plitvice National Park, Croatia

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Our greatest power is within

“Every genius has known something of the inner more than the outer world; find your inner power.”- Unknown

Never forget that your greatest power is within! Here’s an inspirational tale from ancient India that I just can’t wait to share with you:

Long back, humans were as powerful as the gods. But somewhere along the way, humans lost their way and starting misusing their powers. So, the gods held a meeting to discuss possible solutions. All gods agreed that the superpowers had to be removed from humans. Once decided, the gods had to decide where to hide them so humans couldn’t get them back.

One god suggested, “Let’s hide them in the top of the highest mountain.”

“No, they’re really courageous, they will climb it,” answered another.

Another said, “Then we’ll hide them in the bottom of the ocean.”

“No, they’re so clever they will find a way to it,” replied another.

Finally, one god said, “Let’s hide them really deep inside them. Since they’re always looking outside for everything they will have no clue that all the powers are deep within them.”

All the gods agreed that this was the best hiding spot for the superpowers and so the superpowers were hidden deep within each and every human.

Find, reclaim and then embrace your hidden superpowers.

Love and Sunshine,

Natalie

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Wondering where this beautiful photo was taken? Click on the following link to be redirected to my travel website to read about how to get here and view more photos like this one!

Be Forgiven at The City of Refuge (Pu’uhonua O Honaunau on the Big Island of Hawaii)

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Puuhonua O Honaunau- The City of Refuge.

In Hawaii, on the Big Island just south of Kona is the City of Refuge, known as Puuhonua O Honaunau. This, like all of my other travel INSPIREd blogs, is linked with my travel blog: Puuhonua O Honaunau, please feel free to click on the link to read more about this beautiful place.

In ancient times, Puuhonua O Honaunau was the place where those who had broken laws could go to be forgiven and to avoid death. Today, you may visit Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, and still feel the spirit of peace and forgiveness that continues to surround and bless this special place. Today, it’s a place where people go to ponder what needs to be released in their lives.

Walking around one gets the sense that this was a place of new beginnings and of forgiveness with coconut palms scattered throughout and the ocean softly lapping along the rocky shore, Pu’uhonua o Honaunau is tranquil, peaceful, and welcoming.

Seeking Forgiveness at Puuhonua O Honaunau

Puuhonua O Honaunau is a place where people went for a second chance at life, to ask for refuge and forgiveness; a place to forgive and be forgiven to be given a second chance at life. I think when we ask for forgiveness from others and truly forgive others and ourselves, we give ourselves a second chance at life, too.

It seems to me that forgiveness and reconciliation was an important part of ancient Hawaiian practice- from cities of refuge to meditations of forgiveness and reconciliation, the Hawaiians could see the importance in forgiveness, repentance, gratitude and love for a happy and healthy life.

And immediately upon arrival at this sacred site,  having some knowledge and experience of ho’oponopono, I recognised that it would be a wonderful spot to practice the Hawaiian ritual of ho’oponopono. 

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The power to change the world around us.

Ho’oponopono

Have you ever heard of Ho’oponopono? Probably not. In fact, I hadn’t heard of it either until a friend of mine who I sometimes meditate with suggested that I try it out. I started doing this practice just before visiting Hawaii. Ho’oponopono is the ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness. Ho’oponopono means ‘to make’ (ho’o) ‘right’ (pono) ‘right’ (pono), and its practice allows people to harmoniously re-align with themselves, others and the universe. According to the Hawaiian worldview, ho’oponopono is a forgiveness and reconciliation practice whereby you cleanse ‘errors of thought’ (which, the ancient Hawaiians believed, is the origin of problems and sickness in the physical world).

Obviously, you do not need to travel to Hawaii to practice Ho’oponopono, as you can do this meditation anywhere. Ho’oponopono uses the steps of repentance, forgiveness, gratitude, and love to put things in right order with another.

Ho’oponopono can help restore harmony within, and with others

There are four simple steps to this method, and the order is not that important. Repentance, Forgiveness, Gratitude and Love.

For Ho’oponopono to work you don’t need anyone else to be there and you don’t need anyone to hear you; you can just do it yourself. You can “say” the words in your head. The power is in the feeling and in the willingness of the Universe to forgive, feel gratitude, repent, and love.

Today, I will guide you through just one way that you can use these 4 phrases in your mediation practice to help bring about forgiveness, love and therefore, healing from within. I recommend that you start to practice this method on your more obvious problems until you start to see results. In a later post, I will discuss how it may be used to bring about forgiveness, love and therefore harmony with others.

Before you begin:

Whenever you do inner work, you should always begin by relaxing the body and mind by breathing deeply. Try sit or lying in a comfortable position either inside or out in nature, closing down the eyes or darken the room if inside, taking a few deep breaths and just feel yourself start to relax. You might also like to try a tension and release technique if you cannot relax.

Step 1: Repentance- I’M SORRY

To start with, choose something that you already know you’ve caused for yourself: Are you unhealthily over-weight? Have an addiction? Do you suffer from anger issues? Are overly negative or judgemental? Or maybe you have a serious health problem? Whatever! Think of something that you would like to work on changing in your life and focus on that.

Start there and say you’re sorry. That’s the whole step: “I’M SORRY”. Say it, believe it, and feel it; actually feel remorseful, the more you feel it the more real it is. If you feel the need to make it clearer or that actually stating the issue and how sorry you are will make it more powerful, you could say something like: “I realise that I am responsible for the (issue) in my life and I feel extremely remorseful that something in my consciousness has caused this.” (or something to that effect).

Step 2: Ask Forgiveness- PLEASE FORGIVE ME

Don’t worry about who you’re asking. Just ask! “PLEASE FORGIVE ME”. Say it over and over and mean it. Remember your remorse from step 1 as you ask to be forgiven. Again, say it, believe it, and feel it.

Step 3: Gratitude- THANK YOU

Again, it doesn’t really matter who or what you’re thanking, just say “THANK YOU”. It could be to your body for all it does for you or to yourself for being the best you can be. Thank the Universe. Thank God (if that is part of your belief system). Thank whatever it was that just forgave you. Just keep saying THANK YOU. Say it, believe it, and feel it.

Step 4: Love- I LOVE YOU

This could also be step 1 (and in other variations of this practice, you may like to use this as your first step). Say “I LOVE YOU”. Say it to your body, say it to Universe, say it to God. Say I LOVE YOU to your challenges. Say it over and over again. Mean it. Feel it. There is nothing more powerful than love.

That’s it. The whole practice in a nutshell. While it is simple, it is amazingly effective.

Once you start to see changes, you can try this practice for different purposes. If you enjoyed this meditation, keep following for more to come on this beautiful and powerful practice.

Returning to Puuhonua O Honaunau

Puuhonua O Honaunau is one of the places you absolutely must visit on the Big Island. The feeling of spirit is very powerful here and the reminder of the importance of forgiveness and love is an important message for all.

While I was there enjoying the sunset and practicing ho’oponopono, I experienced a surreal but illuminating moment. With the clouds rolling in, suddenly the entire sky  turned dark,  momentarily blocking all light. Then, just as quickly as it had turned dark, the light shone through lighting up the whole sky once again. It was in that illuminating moment that I was reminded that light will always rise above. Light doesn’t have to fight the darkness because light turns the darkness into light just by illuminating it. With repentance, forgiveness, gratitude and love, we are that light illuminating the darkness.

Aloha from Hawaii.

Namaste,

Natalie

P.S. If you would like to follow our travels in Hawaii and see more pics like the one above, please click on the following link to our website.

Stress less this holiday season

Square breathing, box breathing, or the 4-part breath… it doesn’t matter what you call it, just make sure that you know how to do it!

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Juggling work, physical fitness and family can make you feel stressed. A stressed body can manifest itself in many ways, from tightness in the chest and shoulders to your whole body feeling tense or in a state of dis-ease. It can also lead to a lack of focus and clarity in your daily life.

Four-part breathing is a proven method for recalibrating your nervous systems. Research shows that it is especially useful for rapidly decreasing stress, anxiety, heart rate or blood. It is a useful tool during times of stress, when you feel overwhelmed or when you are looking to more fully activate your creativity or ability to concentrate fully on the task at hand. In only a few minutes, you can use the 4-part breathing technique to help you regain focus and calm your mind so that you can think better. Try this once every hour at work or whenever you feel stressed.

Where to Practice

While the environment can help to add to your relaxed state, it is not imperative. If there are other people around and you cannot find a private, quiet place, this exercise can be performed quietly with your eyes open. If you do have a private place to practice, you may like to get yourself into a comfortable yoga pose such as Sukhasana (Easy Pose).

As easy as 1,2,3,4

  1. Breathe in through your nose for four counts.
  2. Pause/hold your breath for four counts.
  3. Exhale through your mouth for four counts.
  4. Pause/hold your breath for four counts.

If comfortable, hold your tongue against the roof of your mouth throughout the exercise. Do as many sets as you like until your mind feels calmer.

For a slightly more advanced variation:

During step four notice your body sensations with gentle curiosity. Don’t try to change anything, just allow your attention to rest with the sensations in your body for these four counts. On step one, return your full attention to breathing in through your nose.

For a simpler alternative:

Focus only on slowly counting to four as you breathe and pause and let go of breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Always listen to your body

If you practice this breath technique for a few minutes and it doesn’t feel good, let it go and return to your natural, calm breath. If you choose to play with it at a later time, you can also begin by using a count of two and working up to a count of four.

Tips

If you find it difficult to slow down your thinking or concentrate, try either repeating a mantra over in your head or try the following visual guide:

Repeating a Mantra

Repeat a calming phrase or sound such as “om” as you breathe. For example, as you inhale, say “om,” two, three, four and repeat on the exhale. Your concentration will begin to narrow as you continue with the exercise.

Use a Visual Guide

If you find yourself losing focus during the breathing process, use a square or rectangular object as your visual guide. A laptop screen, window, piece of paper, or a book are some examples. Start by focusing on the upper left corner of the square. As you inhale for 4 seconds, move your gaze smoothly to the upper right corner. Hold your breath as you bring your gaze to the lower right corner. As you exhale, glide your gaze to the lower left corner. Finally, as you hold your breath, draw your gaze up to the upper left corner. Do this as many times as you’d like. You may even reverse the gazing sequence after you do the original sequence a couple of times.

Considerations

While meditation has many positive benefits, it should never be used as a substitution for conventional medical care, regular exercise and a proper diet. Please check with your health care provider before starting a meditative practice and always inform your meditation instructor about your condition if you have one.

Wishing you and your family a safe and happy holiday full of laughter and love.

Namaste,

Natalie

P.S. If you enjoyed practicing 4-art breathing, you may be interested in learning more about another breathing technique called Nadi Shodhana (Alternative Nostril Breathing). If you enjoyed reading this post or practising meditation, you might be interested in reading my love and gratitude post

 

 

 

Day 9- 7/10: Tolka to Australian Base Camp (10.29 kms)

On self-worth & Inner Strength

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think,” said Christopher Robin to Pooh. –AA Milne

One thing I learnt from trekking in Nepal (Please visit my travel blog: Tolka to Australian Base Camp) was that I am stronger, more resilient and more capable than I ever thought I was. Today I feel like I have the inner strength of a Warrior.

So, for my second last post from the Annapurna region trek, I’d like to share with you Warrior II Pose. Warrior II is a strong, powerful pose, which always makes me feel capable of achieving anything, which I now know is true.

 

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Warrior II

 

The term ‘Warrior’ shouldn’t be interpreted as a negative; the idea is that you are a strong compassionate warrior, facing challenges and gaining strength from your practice. As with all aspects of Yoga, the idea is of non-violence and compassion.

Disclaimer: While I am a certified yoga teacher, if you have any issues or concerns, please check with your doctor before performing the pose below. As always, listen to your body and modify as necessary.

Warrior II Pose:

  1. Standing, spread the legs apart about three feet, one foot pointing forwards, one turning slightly inwards.
  2. Raise the arms outwards, palms face down, shoulders relaxed.
  3. On an inhale, bend the front knee deeply, and turn the head to face the outstretched hand on that side.
  4. The waist and centre of the body should remain facing forwards.
  5. Breathe.
  6. Smile.
  7. Hold for a count of three deep inhales and exhales through the nose, and repeat on the other side of the body.

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Namaste,

Natalie

Day 7- 5/10: Lower Sinuwa to Jhinu (Hot Springs) (10.00+ kms)

Rest, Relax and Recharge.

As you may know, my most recent blogs have been revolving around my travels with my husband in Nepal. Today, as I sat in the hot spring (See: Lower Sinuwa to Jhinu Hot Springs), I could feel all my tight, stressed muscles relaxing and knew that it was far more than just the last 7 days of hiking being released. As all the tension that we had been holding in our overworked bodies slowly vanished, I thought about how often throughout this year I had actually taken the time to rest, relax and recharge.

Everybody knows the importance of adequate rest and relaxation in order to recharge our bodies, minds and spirits, but let’s be honest, how much time do we actually devote to resting and relaxing? I know I am guilty of doing work while I am supposed to be sitting relaxing and watching a movie with my husband. I imagine that I am not alone here.

In a busy, fast paced world where we are trying to squeeze everything in, one thing that I do find useful when I need a quick rest, relax and recharge is Nadi Sodhana, or alternative nostril breathing. Below you can read a little bit about this relaxing pranayama and follow my step by step guide so you can practise this at home or at work or whenever you need a little ‘pick-me-up’.

What is Nadi Sodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)?

Alternate nostril breathing may sound a little strange at first but once you know how easy it is to incorporate into your routine and how calming it is on your entire body, you’ll be addicted.

So, let’s jump straight to what you are probably thinking at this stage of the blog: How can you breathe out of one nostril at a time and why would you want to? Using your fingers to block off one nostril at a time as you breathe through the other, you alternate your breath between nostrils. Alternating your breath between nostrils in a regular pattern is not only extremely relaxing but also has a balancing and calming effect.

This method is traditionally thought to balance the two sides of your brain and to clear the Nadis, which are energy channels that run along the base of the spine to the crown of the head and recent research suggests that this breathing technique can reduce your blood pressure.

Instructions:

  1. You can practice this breathing technique in any seated position. Make yourself comfortable in Sukasana (Easy Pose) or any other pose in which you feel comfortable, or if you prefer, sit in a chair. You will be sitting for several minutes, so use props as necessary so you can maintain your posture.
  2. Position your right hand in Vishnu mudra by folding your pointer and middle fingers into your palm, leaving your thumb, ring finger, and pinky sticking up (see picture below).
  3. Bring your thumb to the right side of your nose and your ring finger to the left side.
  4. Close your eyes or take a soft gaze downward. Inhale and exhale once to prepare.
  5. Close off your right nostril with your thumb.
  6. Inhale through your left nostril.
  7. Close off your left nostril with your ring finger.
  8. Open and exhale through your right nostril.
  9. Inhale through your right nostril.
  10. Close off your right nostril with your thumb.
  11. Open and exhale through your left nostril.
  12. Inhale through your left nostril.
  13. At first, you might only make it through a few rounds of this breath. Try to work up to doing at least 10 rounds. You can always take a break and then resume the exercise.
  14. If you mind begins to wander, focus on counting the length of your inhales and exhales or on the sensation of your breath on the skin under your nose. It may feel cool as you inhale and warm as you exhale.
  15. If you ever begin to feel light headed, release both nostrils and breath normally.

Disclaimer: While I am a certified yoga teacher, if you have any issues or concerns, please check with your doctor before performing the above breathing technique. As always, listen to your body and modify take breaks as necessary.

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Vishnu mudra

Additional Advice: If you are a little congested, expect this pranayama to move the mucus out so have some tissues handy. However, if you are too stuffed up to breathe out of either nostril you won’t be able to get the intended benefits, so wait until the air passageways are clear to do this exercise.

Benefits

  • Lowers heart rate and reduces stress and anxiety.
  • Said to synchronize the two hemispheres of the brain.
  • Said to purify the subtle energy channels (Nadis) of the body so the prana flows more easily during pranayama practice.

Contraindications

If any of the below are experienced, discontinue the Pranayama exercises and allow the breath to return to normal.

  • Difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath.
  • Tightness in the chest, or hardness behind the forehead.

Cautions

  • Avoid holding the breath.
  • Do not practice Nadi Sodhana if you have a blocked nose.

 

Namaste,

Natalie

Day 5- 3/10: Dovan to ABC (21.75 kms)

Breaking your Comfort Zone.

A lot of the books that I have been reading lately have been talking about doing something outside your comfort zone. And if I am being perfectly honest with you I would have to say that trekking to Annapurna Base Camp (See my travel blog: Dovan to ABC) is about as far out of my comfort zone as me travelling to the moon. With no training we decided that it would be a good idea to engage in a 10-day trek from Nayapul to Poon Hill and then all the way up to Annapurna Base Camp and back down again. It was difficult and tiring and draining… but we made it.

This got me thinking, what was it that we required in order to ‘take the leap of faith’ and just go ahead and try it anyway. Apart from wanting to try something new, we also had trust. Trust in ourselves, trust in our bodies, minds and spirits to get us there and back.

That led me to wonder about what this means for your yoga practice. Do you stay within your comfort zone and never break out? Do you trust and listen to your body?

In order to step outside our comfort zone, you need to have trust. You need to trust yourself and in particular, your body. You must trust your decisions and your ability to know what is right for you.

In that self-trust, you are acknowledging not only your strengths, but also your weaknesses or limitations. I myself have many limitations since my accident that fractured my ankle and partially tore my ACL (See: How did I find yoga? If you are interest in the back story to how I got here today). But despite my limitations I always find a way do to the things I want to do. Maybe some of my poses are not always perfect and I often take longer to do things like walking uphill or mastering a new pose but I get there with perseverance and trust. With trust we realise that we not only have the ability to succeed and thrive, but there is also the possibility that we may fail. But when you think about it, both are ok because when we trust ourselves, we are listening to our bodies and when we listen to our bodies, we can never push ourselves beyond our limits.

If we had been too scared to take the plunge and decide to do the complete trek, we would never have known just what we were made of and would have missed out on so many beautiful experiences.

So, we need to take the plunge, to jump, to try and succeed or fail, and if we do fail, to get back up and try again. We need to get out of our comfort zone and try something new.

So, getting back to the questions I posed earlier, do you stay within your comfort zone and never break out? Do you trust and listen to your body? Do you try new or difficult yoga poses or do you say to yourself that it is too difficult?

One pose that I know a lot of people are freaked out by are handstands so today I wanted to dedicate the rest of this piece to the humble asana- The handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana).

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Sometimes, just like in real life, we need to flip our perspectives and get outside our comfort zone (or in this case get ourselves upside down)- even if it freaks us out.

Katie from Honeystuck- Learning to fall talks a bit about handstands but the most pertinent to this post is:

“Handstand takes a lot–strength, alignment, breath. But most of all it takes trust. Trust in your own strength, yes, but also trust that your weaknesses will not kill you.”

 

So, why not step outside your comfort zone and try something new whether it be attempting a handstand, going skydiving, or trekking for 10 days in Nepal.  🙂

 

Namaste,

Natalie

 

 

Day 4- 2/10: Siprong to Dovan (27.62 kms)

Disconnection.

Disconnection. Just like a coin, there are two sides to everything.

One can be a positive: disconnecting from work and technology in order to enjoy spending time with the people we love and doing the things we enjoy doing. The negative is the opposite: feeling disconnected from the people around us, because we are in a constant state of ‘busyness’; finding ourselves becoming more insular and separate. Day 4 into our trek (if you would like to follow my travel blog, please click on this hyperlink: Siprong to Dovan) and with no access to the internet, we are feeling disconnected not only from technology but our family and friends back home. Today I am going to talk about the positives of disconnecting.

Sometimes back in Australia I find myself permanently in a state of being ‘switched on’; available night and day to answer emails, chat to online friends, and working way too many hours a week. Worst of all, this is often to the detriment of my real-life relationships.

Just like my yoga practice brings me back to my mat, back to myself, and back to re-connect with the real-life people around me; trekking in Nepal has also had the same effect. Without access to and the distraction of technology, I found myself deep in my own thoughts, enjoying the sounds of nature and absorbed in meaningful conversations.

Trekking has been an imposed ‘switch off’ both mentally and metaphorically, from the digital clutter that fills a lot of my life. I have found that apart from the mind-blowing scenery in Nepal, the thing that I have enjoyed the most about my 10-day trek through Nepal was being with myself; both being alone with my thoughts and the quietness.

If you are reading this and wondering what does this have to do with yoga or thinking “I’m not keen to go on a 10-day trek through Nepal so that, I too, can practise being with myself”, never fear I have got a solution for you!

Why not try Easy Pose? In my opinion, it is the perfect a way to reconnect with that inner self and disconnect from all of life’s stresses (if only for a little while- I can’t imagine anyone sitting in Easy Pose for 10 days).

Easy Pose (Sukhasana):

  1. Come to a seated position, back straight, and your legs gently crossed in front of the body. If you struggle to maintain a straight back, either sit against a wall, or on a raised cushion/ Yoga block.
  2. Your eyes can be open or closed, but closing them often helps us to focus.
  3. Rest your hands either palms up, facing the sky, or down (if you need to feel more grounded), touching the knees.
  4. Begin to concentrate simply on breathing, inhalations and exhalations through the nose. If it helps, breathe in for a mental count of four, hold the breath for one second at the top, then out again through the nose for four. The moment when the breath is held at the top is thought to represent bliss, peace, the ultimate release.
  5. Alternatively, if yo are more experienced at deep breathing you could try inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts.

Try to aim to do this for a few minutes each day, to simply ‘be’ with yourself, allowing thoughts to come and go. And of course, ensure you remove any digital distractions before beginning your practice. 🙂

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Easy Pose (Sukhasana)

Disclaimer: While I am a certified yoga teacher, if you have any issues or concerns, please check with your doctor before performing the above pose. As always, listen to your body and modify as necessary.

 

Namaste,

Natalie

Day 3- 1/10: Ghorepani to Poon Hill to Siprong (28.64 kms)

Love & Gratitude.BfevP27CUAEZN0N

So today I watched my husband, Damien fall off the side of a mountain in Nepal (See Ghorepani to Siprong via Poon Hill if you would like to would like to read more about this story) and it got me thinking about how often we show our love and gratitude towards the people who are closest to us.

Today is the perfect day to tell your loved ones how much you care for them; how much you love them and how much they mean to you. Do not wait until it is too late.

 

Below I have included a love and gratitude meditation to help you enhance your feelings of love and gratitude for not only your loved ones, but also for yourself.

Love & Gratitude Meditation

This is an excellent script for experiencing love and gratitude. You may want to record yourself reading the script and then using it as a guided meditation.

To begin, find a quiet, peaceful place where you won’t be disturbed. This is your time, so make the most of it. You may want to turn off your phone, hang a do-not-disturb sign on the door, and really give yourself over to the peace and serenity that is always ready and waiting for you deep within.

Find a comfortable position, either lying down or sitting in a straight back chair, whichever feels best to you today. Take a few nice deep breaths, bringing your awareness fully to the present moment. Let go of any busy thoughts preventing you from tapping into your inner essence.

Now you are ready to scan your body. As you scan your body, if you encounter tension anywhere simply use the power of your mind to melt it away, as easily as warm water melts ice.

Starting at the top of your head, relax your scalp completely. Feel the skin of your forehead and temples relax. Allow your eye muscles to release, your jaw to soften, and let your ears, nose and chin, teeth, tongue and gums relax. Now, just let this peaceful feeling flow down your neck. Feel it soothe your throat and dissolve any tension on contact as it glides down to your shoulders, upper arms, forearms, wrists and hands.

Let this peaceful sensation of relaxation begin to fill your torso. Feel it relax your chest, giving your heart more room to grow and expand; more loving, giving and forgiving. Soften your belly muscles and let this relaxation penetrate even deeper, releasing any tension from your internal organs.

Now let it wrap around you, enveloping you in love and peace as it softens all the back muscles all the way down to the base of your spine. Continue to breathe in deep, fluid breaths. Breathe in health, happiness and harmony, breathe out any tension, toxins, worries or disease, allowing anything that does not serve you to leave your body like a dark cloud.

Send this peaceful feeling into your hips and buttocks. Let it glide down your thighs, relaxing your legs completely as it flows down to your knees, calves, ankles and feet. Allow any remaining tension from anywhere in your body to flow out your toes, leaving your whole body feeling very comfortable, peaceful and relaxed.

Continue to breathe deep relaxing breaths, feeling your belly rise on the inhale and fall on the exhale. Notice how the air feels cooler as you breathe in, and warmer as you breathe out. Now, imagine a golden glowing ball of light about 30 cms above the crown of your head. On an inhalation, breathe that light in through the top of your head through the centre line of your body, right down to the tailbone. On the exhalation, breathe that light back up the way it came and out the top of your head. Repeat this 2 more times at your own pace.

Now, place your hands either in prayer position or flat on the centre of your chest bringing your awareness to this area. Visualise a beautiful emerald green or a soft pink glowing ball of light.

This is your heart chakra, the chakra of love for yourself and others. Let it glow, bringing gifts of compassion, self-acceptance, and the ability to love deeply. Breathe in pink or green and let these feelings expand, seeing yourself living in perfect harmony with everyone in your life. Feel your heart swell with compassion and forgiveness for yourself and others.

Visualise your loved ones smiling at you and smile back at them. Picture them happy, healthy and full of love and gratitude. Let this image fill you with gratitude for the opportunity to live in this wonderful world with so many amazing, loving, caring people.

Let this chakra continue to glow and spin for as long as you want. [If you are recording this, you may want to have up to 5 minutes silence on the recording here].

Now it is time to gently reawaken your body and mind.

Keeping your eyes closed, notice the sounds around you. Feel the cushion or floor beneath you. Feel your clothes against your body.

Wiggle your fingers and toes.

Shrug your shoulders.

Open your eyes, and remain lying or sitting for a few moments longer.

Straighten out your legs, and stretch your arms and legs gently.

Sit or lie for a few moments more, enjoying how relaxed you feel, and experiencing your body reawaken and your mind returning to its usual level of alertness.

Slowly return to a standing position, and continue with the rest of your day, feeling re-energized.

 

I hope you enjoy this meditation. Showing love and gratitude is so important. Not only today, but every day. Make it a habit to appreciate the small things and notice the abundance of love in your everyday life. Your future self will thank you for it.

 

Namaste,

Natalie

Day 1- 29/9: Nayapul to Ulleri (12.21 kms)

Wabi-sabi

The Japanese have a marvellous word, wabi-sabi which celebrates the humble, hidden beauty of incomplete and imperfect things.

In nature we see Wabi-Sabi all the time: a jagged cliff’s edge, eroded rocks jutting out of a mountain face or gnarled branches in an untamed forest. As I walked from Nayapul to Ulleri, (See my blog entitled Nayapul to Ulleri for a traveller’s point of view of this leg of our journey), I realised just how many examples of imperfection we find in nature that we deem to be beautiful.

Everywhere nature’s imperfections were being ‘Ohhhed’ and ‘Ahhhed’ over and the best travel pictures always highlight the way the light hits the tangle of the trees or the asymmetry of the mountains.

Nature, as is life, is imperfect. And so are we.

“Wabi-sabi reminds us that we are all transient beings on this planet- that our bodies, as well as the material world around us, are in the process of returning to dust. Nature’s cycles of growth, decay, and erosion are embodied in frayed edges, rust, liver spots. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace both the glory and the melancholy found in these marks of passing time.” (Source: http://www.utne.com/mind-and-body/wabi-sabi).

So, my advice to you is stop and enjoy the imperfections in nature, try not to take yourself too seriously, look beyond what’s on the outside and try to see the beauty (or the wabi-sabi-ness) in everyone and everything.

With that been said, today I’d like to introduce you to a fun and a little kooky pose called Alternative Cactus Pose. Despite looking imperfect, asymmetrical and TBH a little strange, this pose is guaranteed to make you smile, and to love that imperfection that your body is creating. It is a good pose to practise after the traditional Tree pose, which is a more graceful, symmetrical standing balance. 

Disclaimer: While I am a certified yoga teacher, if you have any issues or concerns, please check with your doctor before performing the pose below. As always, listen to your body and modify as necessary.

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Alternative Cactus Pose

Alternative Cactus Pose (above):

  1. Come out of Tree Pose [optional].
  2. Stand tall, raising and bending the right leg and taking hold of it just below the knee with the right hand.
  3. Balancing on the strong, left leg, use the right hand to open the right leg out to the right side slightly.
  4. Bend the left arm and raise it slightly, opening out the left palm and fingers.
  5. Breathe into the balance.
  6. Then repeat on the opposite side.
  7. Finish with traditional Cactus Pose (below) [optional].
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Cactus Pose

 

Namaste,

Natalie

 

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