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!

What is it and why should we do it?P1140105

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

 

 

 

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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

Being healthy in Ayurveda

flowerspinkAccording to Ayurveda, someone who is healthy has all three Doshas in balance, a wholesome appetite, strong digestion, all body tissues functioning favourably, regular excretion, and their mind is in a state of bliss, in tune with the spirit.

There are many ways in which you can begin to balance your Doshas, one way is obviously through the food we eat but another way is engaging in a regular routine of looking after your health and wellness of your mind, body, and spirit.

 

That daily routine is called Dinacharya. Below I have simply listed the steps in an Ayurvedic daily routine. If you are just starting out I recommend trying to implement just 1 or 2 of these steps and establish a good routine before taking on any more steps to avoid feeling overwhelmed and then giving up altogether.

Dinacharya: Your Daily Yogic Routine

The Ayurveda practice of Dinacharya, or “law of nature,” consists of daily self-care routines, which provide structure for instilling balance and establishing cohesiveness in the physical, mental, and emotional bodies.

1. Wake up in the morning before sunrise.

2. If easy and natural… eliminate: empty bowel and bladder. Don’t strain. Ayurveda never wants us to resist healthy natural urges, or strain by trying to force them. If you have trouble emptying your bowels every day, you can always try these reflexology points to help you naturally and easily relieve minor/ temporary constipation.

3. Wash your face and splash cold water in the eyes. Our eyes work very hard all day and they tend to accumulate a lot of heat. Splashing a bit of cold water into each eye in the morning helps to cool, soothe, and relax the eyes, but also helps us to feel more vibrantly awake.

4. Scrape your tongue (yes, I know it sounds revolting and it is gross but now, 9 months in, I can’t stand not doing it first thing in the morning as my mouth feels so much better for doing it). Please see my Blog “Tongue Scraping & Oil Pulling” for more information on how to do this.

5. Oil pulling (once again it is something that takes some getting used to but once you get used to it, it is addictive). Please see my Blog “Tongue Scraping & Oil Pulling”.

6. Rinse mouth thoroughly and brush your teeth.

7. After this is a good time to drink a cup of water.

8. Skin brushing. Please see my Blog “Abhyanga & Skin Brushing” for more information on how to do this.

9. Perform Abhyanga- warm Ayurvedic oil self-massage- which oil to use depends on your Dosha. Please see my Blog “Abhyanga & Skin Brushing”.

10. It’s best to wait 10-15 minutes for the oil to soak in between your massage and shower. If you don’t have time, immediately jumping in the shower is OK.

11. Shower using warm rather than hot water.

12. Perform Yoga Asanas (poses/ postures) and Pranayama (breath work).

13. Practice Meditation starting with just a few minutes each day and working up to twenty minutes.

14. Eat a light breakfast.

15. Then… work or school- you are ready to do this

16. Make your biggest meal your lunch.

17. Go to bed early.

 

The above are only a select few options on the full menu of Dinacharya offerings. Obviously, you will already be doing some of the things listed above and won’t need to add everything to your routine. Try one or try all the offerings. I suggest taking on adopting one or two practices to start with and continue to build your routine. The adoption of two Dinacharya-inspired changes can make a difference when enveloped into your day-to-day routine. For example, since January I have implemented oil pulling and tongue scraping into my daily routine and my mouth is thanking me for doing so! We are all works in progress and I continue to work towards building other practices into my daily routine.

The implementation of a personal Dinacharya ritual can serve as powerful and effective insurance for physical, mental, and emotional health and wellbeing.

I hope this has been helpful.  🙂

Enjoy!

Reaching for the stars

stars-moon-quote-facebook-timeline-cover-2621“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist.

As you may have noticed I have already used a few quotes from the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I can’t remember how long I had to wait before I actually got my hands on it but it must have been at least 4 or 5 years. Whenever I passed a bookshop, I would pop in to see if they had a copy only to be disappointed when they said ‘Not at the moment’. Whenever I visited the library someone else always had it out.

You see, it would seem that the universe was actually conspiring against me by preventing me from reading this book until I was ready to fully appreciate what it had to offer. Obviously I wasn’t ready until the end 2014.

I had spent years trying to locate a copy of this book and then one day, BAM! there it was… in the hands of a stranger sitting across from me in the lounge area of a cruise ship. From where I was sitting, I could see that he was almost finished it so I plucked up my courage and approached the guy. As he closed the book and rested in on the table in front of him, I politely asked him if he would mind if I borrowed it when he finished reading it. He said yes but on 1 condition: that when I return it to his cabin I was to let him know what I truly thought of the book and he would do the same for me. We agreed, he handed over the book and we parted ways for a few days.

A few days later I knocked on the guy’s door with the book in hand. I handed it back to him and once again thanked him for lending it to me. This was followed by a long awkward silence. Eventually he cocked his head on the side as if trying to read my mind and let out a long slow “Sooooo???” Even though I knew that he was going to ask me what I thought I didn’t know what to say. I mumbled something that was pretty unintelligible, listened to what he had to say and went back to my room where I wondered why I couldn’t articulate what I had gained from reading this book.

For years I have wondered this until recently when I came across the abovementioned quote and I realised what it was about this book that had the greatest effect on its readers- it wasn’t the plot, the characters, or the setting, it was his quotes that have inspired millions of readers. Paulo Coelho’s comments on life are life-changing, thought-provoking and the mark that he has left on my soul is indispensable. Simply put, his words are words to live by.

“When you desire something, the world will conspire to help you realize your dreams. That’s why the best things take time. Require patience. Endure tragedy. Failure. And find their way through impossible.”

I have found that in my life that even when I haven’t got something that I desired something better has come along, the world conspired to help me realise my dreams, even though at times I didn’t even know they were my dreams until I got there. I have experienced failure, endured tragedy and had my patience tested time and time again while finding my way through life’s ups and downs but I am where I want to be and I am happy and grateful.

So my advice for my readers is to learn from your failures, grow through your tragedies, be patient and most importantly, recognise and appreciate what you have.

 

Shoot for the moon and if you miss you will still be among the stars- Les Brown

 

Namaste, Natalie

Just Breathe (less)!

Nowadays most people are running around from one task to the next. We can barely find time to cook and enjoy a proper meal let alone find time to slow down and take some deep breaths. There is a lot of talk in the yoga community that suggests that the way we breathe is crucial for good health.

As mentioned in an earlier Blog “Open your heart & Set the Foundations (Yoga Teacher Training)”, before I started yoga, I had little awareness of my breath. Apart from when I would find myself puffing and panting and gasping for air because of childhood asthma, I gave little to no thought on how and why I was breathing they way I was.

In my Blog entitled “Life’s Lessons” I spoke about how breathing exercises are a huge part of any yoga practice and how they can also be a very useful tool in our daily lives but in this post I would like to expand on those ideas a little further.

Breathing is a rhythmic, involuntary process regulated by our respiratory system but it can also be voluntary such as when we hold our breath or engage in pranayama techniques.

According to my past yoga teachers (and many other creditable sources), most of us breathe incorrectly, meaning most people do not know how to breathe so as to take full advantage of the nourishing, health-giving properties of the act of breathing. What is the first thing a person says if someone is stressed or having a panic attack? It is usually something along the lines of “Just Breathe!” Breathing has direct connections to emotional states and moods– observe someone who is angry, afraid or upset, and you will see a person breathing rapidly, shallowly, noisily and irregularly.

I’m a sucker for interesting trivia so when I watched a yoga documentary (sorry I can’t remember the name) that spoke about the correlation between how certain species who breathe fewer times a minute tend to live longer than species that breathe a comparably greater number of times per minute. The doco gave the example of the giant tortoise who only takes about four breaths per minute. So out of interest I did some research to find that an elephant only takes four to five breaths per minute, and when resting, an alligator may only take one breath per minute. While elephants (60-70 years) and alligators (30-50 years) don’t live quite as long as a giant tortoise (average 100-150 years), they’re undoubtedly on the high-end of life spans in the animal kingdom. Dogs, who average 10-13 years with 10-35 breaths per minute, as well as other animals like cats (12-18 years) and mice (2 years), take many more breaths per minute and live an unequivocally shorter period of time. Human beings, however, exist somewhere in between the dogs and the giant tortoises in both life span and breaths per minute. Humans tend to take between twelve and twenty breaths per minute, and they tend to live between 60 and 100 years.

So with this knowledge in mind, does longer breaths, resulting in fewer breaths per minute, equal a longer life? Paramahansa Yogananda’s book ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ seems to suggest this is the case. This leads me to wonder if we can we increase our longevity by changing how we breathe and how often we breathe? If there is a way of increasing your longevity, it would have to be by implementing the Full Yogic Breath.

A full yogic breath is experienced through deep, full inhalations and long, slow exhalations. Rather than trap yourself in a frantic, high-energy breathing pattern, emulate the slower, deeper habits of the giant tortoise and work to take five to seven breaths per minute. When practiced over time, it has been suggested that this habit could lead to a much longer, disease-free life.

Since breathing has never hurt anyone, why not try it now? Get yourself into a comfortable seated or lying position and try Full Yogic Breathing for just 5 minutes.

Now, once you are comfortable, gently close your eyes and take a few moments to settle in. Close your mouth and breathe only through your nostrils. Breathe in deeply beginning by expanding the lower abdomen, moving up through the mid-torso and then to the upper-chest (feeling the collar bones lifting slightly). Then exhale by lowering the collar bones as the air leaves your lungs and push all of the air out by contracting your stomach and drawing inwards towards the spine to complete one round of Full Yogic Breath.

After several rounds of Full Yogic Breath (try to do it for 3-5 minutes but you can go up to fifteen minutes), allow your breathing to return to normal for a minute or two before gently opening your eyes and bringing your practice to a close. Before you move on to your next activity, pause briefly to notice how you feel. Are you more refreshed, awake, and relaxed? How did your practice affect or benefit you today?

By focusing on our breath, we are able to feel a connection between mind, body and spirit. Knowing how to perform simple breathing techniques can help lower your blood pressure, calm a racing heart, or help your digestive system without taking drugs. When the mind is focused on the breath and the nervous system is calm, there is less stress on the body. Your body can also experience better digestion and elimination through Full Yogic Breathing as fewer, fuller breaths help to reduce one’s appetite and keep the emotions and senses under control. Finally, you cannot be angry, upset or anxious if your breathing is slow, deep, quiet and regular.

I hope reading this Blog and completing 3-5 minutes of Full Yogic Breathing has helped bring a little bit of calm into your busy life. As you become more comfortable with the practice of Full Yogic Breathing, you can integrate this style of breathing more and more throughout your day-to-day activities for longer lasting benefits.

Breathe less, be happier and perhaps live longer.

 

Namaste, Natalie