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

 

Get more out of nature

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Grampians, Victoria.

Besides the clear health benefits gained by walking (strengthens your heart and lungs, releases feel-good endorphins while reducing stress and anxiety, and tones muscles to name a few), walking provides time to think, meditate and step out of the rapid pace of modern life.

 

Victorians are lucky to have an abundance of bushwalks that are spectacular, safe and easily accessed. For my husband and I bushwalking is a cheap and easy way to get fit, a great way to de-stress, a perfect opportunity to leave the suburban life behind, and most importantly, reconnect with nature.

This weekend in Victoria is a long weekend, so my husband and I have packed up our tent, sleeping bags, camping chairs and camp stove and have headed off for a weekend in nature with the plan to go on several bushwalks…

Well with the endorphins still pumping from our afternoon hike, I’d like to share with you some ways in which I enhance my bushwalks (and how you can too).

  1. Connect with your body:

Take the time to sense your body as you walk. Feel your feet supporting you as you walk, your lungs expanding and contracting, and your heart beating in your chest. Send good thoughts to them, appreciating how much they do for you every day. Observe any aches and pains and send good thought to them too.

  1. Mindful walking:

Try switching off and really focus on your surroundings. Utilise all of your senses- listen to the grasshoppers hopping from strands of grass, the cicadas chirping, the birds singing and the lizards rustling in the dry leaves and bark. Inhale the fresh eucalyptus-smelling air, feel the uneven ground under your feet, look up and observe how the light filters through the leaves creating patterns against the clear blue sky, notice the puffy white clouds float through the sky or feel the rough and smooth textures of the bark on the trees as you gently brush your fingers along their trunks as you pass.

  1. Take a moment to meditate:

Find a peaceful spot, take a seat, keeping your back straight, close your eyes, and just practice sitting.

  1. Grounding:

Find a good earthy spot, take your shoes and socks off and just walk on nature. Stand for a while and imagine you are an ancient tree with roots that feed down deep into the soil connecting you to the earth, supporting you and keeping you upright. This type of grounding visualisation works with the root chakra and will help you feel grounded, safe and secure.

  1. Socialise:

Walking with friends or family and talking to them is far more personal than talking to someone on the phone/ over Facebook, etc. If your friends or family don’t share the same interests as you, why not try joining a meet-up walking group? When my husband is not available, I sometimes meet up with walking groups around Melbourne. It is a great opportunity to walk with like minded people. Meeting new people can also allow you to share ideas or just give you an opportunity to listen to a different point of view.

 

Walking connects you to the earth, reconnects you with nature and is a great way to distress. If you are already a walker, why not try some of my suggestions above! And if you aren’t already a walker, why not get out and try it for yourself?

Namaste, Natalie