World Earth Day 2018

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Monteverde, Costa Rica

Today, April 22nd, is World Earth Day and this year’s campaign is entitled “End Plastic Pollution”. Plastic pollution is poisoning our oceans and land, injuring marine life, and affecting our health. This year’s campaign is dedicated to providing the information and inspiration needed to fundamentally change human attitude and behaviour about plastics.

Watch this short video for background to this blog if you like (not essential but I think it is a good video to put the issue in context): The Majestic Plastic Bag – A Mockumentary.

Why is plastic an issue?

The headlines about the current state of the environment are grim- icecaps melting, species disappearing, water tables drying up, or one of the most devastating environmental issues to date: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch which is twice the size of Texas, has 7 million tons of garbage up to 2.7 metres deep in some places, and is destroying our ocean and murdering our marine life.

It is estimated that 80% of the plastic in The Great Pacific Garbage Patch originates from land; floating in rivers to the ocean or blew by the wind into the ocean. The remaining 20% of the plastic originates from oil platforms and ships.

But don’t lose hope, something inspiring and exhilarating is happening- and if you pay attention, it just might reinvigorate your motivation to help make a better world. There is a global outpouring of passion and ingenuity to solve our eco-troubles.

So, how does this relate to my yoga and lifestyle blog?

Be the change you want to see in the world

Yoga is more than just sitting on a mat and doing some asana (physical movements), pranayama (breath work) and meditation. It is about observation, dedication, peace, and love not only for ourselves but for our fellow humans, animals and our planet. We must make our way back to the basics and align ourselves with the original intention of what a yoga practice truly means, which I believe, is living a complete, peaceful, balanced, liberated and compassionate life, in which asana is only one small part.

So, I urge you as part of your yoga practice that you take it off the mat, look further than to yourself and think about the kind of planet you want to live in, the kind you want your children and grandchildren to live in and then be the change you want to see in the world. No act is too small.

“The beauty of small acts is that they cannot be stopped. There is no inconsequential action, only consequential inaction. Real transformation originates from the bottom and moves outwards.” – Paul Hawken

 

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For a beautiful ocean for our children’s children, say no to plastics today!

 

How can you make a change?

Take some time to be in nature. Spend quiet, reflective moments in meditation. Ask yourself what kind of world you want to live in and what you can contribute to the quality of life on Earth. Then offer up your best!

Here are some things that you might like to think about changing immediately: Stop using plastic bags at the supermarket, refuse to buy packaged food- especially fruit and vegetables, pre-packaging them is unnecessary and wasteful, stop buying bottles of water, or think of creative ways to reuse plastic items that you have already purchased, so they don’t end up getting washed into our rivers and eventually into our oceans.

Some things that you might like to think about changing in your community: Write to your local government with suggestions about improving recycling in your town/city or contact your local supermarkets (if they still use plastic bags) and demand that they stop using them.

Some things to think about on a broader scale: What is your country doing to clean up the mess their oil platforms they have made in the ocean?

If you’d like to get started straight away on this special day, you can make a pledge to reduce the amount of plastic that you consume on the following link: I pledge to reduce my plastic usage or for more information about this year’s campaign: Plastics campaign 2018.

 

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For a beautiful Earth for our children’s children, say no to plastics!

 

Lokah samastha sukhino bhavantu (A powerful mantra for peace)

This Sanskrit phrase translates into English as ‘May all beings be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and freedom for all.’

 

Namaste, Natalie

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The butterfly inside us

 “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.” – Jason Woodring.

If you have been visiting both of my sites: Inspire & Nat’s Travels, you may have noticed that I like butterflies. Whenever a butterfly flutters by, time just stops and I can’t help but admire its beauty but even the smallest of creatures can teach us something… if we are prepared to listen and learn.

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“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” – Maya Angelo

 

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.

Chitwan Elephant Breeding Centre

I saw them in the distance, one of my favourite animals: swinging their trunks and tails in all possible directions but as I neared them I saw why they were doing that. Chitwan National Park is also known for its elephant safaris but to be honest, knowing how it is possible for humans to ride on the back of an elephant has made me never want to be involved in such an archaic and cruel practice. As I approached the shelter, I saw them paired, chained, hot and distressed: Mothers with their little babies, one as young as 10 months…

Today’s inspiration has come from my disturbing experience at the Chitwan Elephant Breeding Centre in Nepal (if you would like to read about this and get the word out to other fellow animal lovers, please click on the following link: Chitwan Elephant Breeding Centre. Read, like and share- Get the word out that exploitation of animals is not alright and we do not support this archaic and cruel industry).

Yoga is not only about finding inner strength, peace and love on the mat, it is also about finding that in the real world, when you are off the mat, when it really makes a difference. To stand up and say when something is wrong, be the voice for the unheard, to not do something you know to be wrong just because it is easier or because ‘everyone else is doing it’.

When faced with a decision or a problem, it is sometimes easy to ‘go with the flow’ and do what everyone else is doing but it is far more important to stick to our morals, to break away from the pack and do the right thing, after all:

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Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu is a Sanskrit mantra which means:

“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”

Namaste,

Natalie

 

Peace Pagoda & Lake Tewa

Peace Pagoda & Lake Tewa

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Today we visited the Shanti Stupa, shanti being Sanskrit for peace and stupa being pagoda, an immaculate white shrine atop Ananda Hill that was built by a Japanese monk.

Balanced on a narrow ridge, 1,100 metres above sea level, the brilliant-white World Peace Pagoda was constructed by Nipponzan Myohoji clan monk Morioka Sonin. The entire initiative was led by Nichidatsu Fujii, the founder of Nipponzan Myohoji clan of Buddhism who is famously known as the initiator of constructing Peace Pagodas across the world.

Situated high above Phewa Tal, the Pagoda is one of the major tourist attractions of Pokhara. It has got two tiers for tourists and religious people to circumnavigate. The second tier consists of 4 statues of Buddha gifted as souvenirs from Japan, Sri Lanka, China and Lumbini (the birth place of Buddha) in Nepal.

Shanti Stupa is the shrine built as a symbol of peace which got me thinking, there are so many definitions of peace and different types of peace from inner peace to world peace.

I found this quote that talks about peace of mind that I really like:

“Peace of mind is not the absence of conflict from life, but the ability to cope with it.” ~Unknown

What is your favourite peace quote? What does peace mean to you?

Om, Shanti.

 

P.S. Please feel free to add your favourite quotes in the comments section. 🙂

P.P.S. If you would like to visit my travel Blog, please click on the hyperlinked title above.

Day 10- 8/10: Australian Base Camp to Pokhara via Khare

The Magic of Metamorphosis

“We are all butterflies. Earth is our chrysalis.”-  LeeAnn Taylor

Today was our last day of our trek in the Annapurna region of Nepal (See: Australian Base Camp to Pokhara via Khare to help me celebrate this amazing feat). As I reflect on the last 10 days; the beauty I have witnessed, the happiness of the people and the serenity of nature. All of what I have experienced reminded me of a poem that I read a long time ago and resonated with me deeply. I feel that this poem encapsulates my experiences trekking in Nepal.

“-We need more love, to supersede hatred,

-We need more strength, to resist our weaknesses;

-We need more inspiration, to lighten up our innermind.

-We need more learning, to erase our ignorance,

-We need more wisdom, to live longer and happier,

-We need more truths, to suppress deceptions,

-We need more health, to enjoy our wealth,

-We need more peace, to stay in harmony with our brethren

-We need more smiles, to brighten up our day,

-We need more hero’s, and not zero’s,

-We need more change of ourselves, to change the lives of others,

-We need more understanding, to tackle our misunderstanding,

-We need more sympathy, not apathy,

-We need more forgiveness, not vengeance,

-We need more humility to be lifted up,

-We need more patience and not undue eagerness,

-We need more focus, to avoid distraction,

-We need more optimism, not pessimism

-We need more justice, not injustice,

-We need more facts, not fiction,

-We need more education, to curb illiteracy,

-We need more skills, not incompetence,

-We need more challenges, to make attempts,

-We need more talents, to create the extraordinary,

-We need more helping hands, not stingy folks,

-We need more efforts, not laziness,

-We need more jokes, to forget our worries,

-We need more spirituality, not mean religion,

-We need more freedom, not enslavement,

-We need more peacemakers, not revolutionaries…with these, we create a heaven on Earth.” – Michael Bassey Johnson

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What type of Earth do you want to create?

Namaste,

Natalie

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 8- 6/10: Jhinu to Tolka (16.94 kms)

The Chakras

Hey Natalie, why am I hearing about the chakras a lot lately?

Lately, the concept of a mind-body-soul connection has become more popular and accepted within many ‘Western’ cultures, but it has been a governing philosophy in many Eastern cultures for thousands of years. Let me take you back a step first…

What are the chakras?

There are many powerful energetic centres located in the human body, and they are most commonly referred to as “chakras”. This Sanskrit word originated in India, and literally translated, means disk, vortex, or wheel.

In yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda, the chakras are said to draw energy from the world into our bodies while simultaneously sending energy from our bodies out into the world, connecting us to our environment on a deeper level.

Although our bodies consist of a number of energy centres, we tend to focus on the seven major chakras, which align the spine, starting from the base of the spine through to the crown of the head. Each chakra comprises of energy relating to specific life lessons and experiences, and each one is associated with a particular element and colour based on the frequency of vibrations (please see below).

To visualize a chakra in the body, imagine a swirling wheel of energy where matter and consciousness meet. This invisible energy, called Prana, is vital life force, which keeps us vibrant, healthy, and alive.

What are the 7 major Chakras and what do they do?

RootThe Root Chakra

Functions: Safety, grounding, right to live

 

 

SacralThe Sacral Chakra

Functions: Emotions, creativity, sexuality

 

 

Solar PlexusThe Solar Plexus Chakra

Functions: Will, social self, power

 

 

HeartThe Heart Chakra

Functions: Compassion, love, integration

 

 

ThroatThe Throat Chakra

Function: Personal truth, etheric, expression

 

 

Third EyeThe Third Eye Chakra

Functions: Extrasensory perception, intuition, inspiration

 

 

CrownThe Crown Chakra

Functions: Wisdom, transcendence, universality

 

 

Why am I writing about Chakras?

Well, I am currently on my last few days of trekking in Nepal (See: Jhinu to Tolka if you want to find out where today’s inspiration came from) and it is my belief that not only is hiking good for the physical body, mind, and spirit but also for our chakras. This is because each chakra also relates to a sense and an element:

  • First chakra (Root) = smell/earth
  • Second chakra (Sacral) = taste/water
  • Third chakra (Solar Plexus) = sight/fire
  • Fourth chakra (Heart) = touch/air
  • Fifth chakra (Throat) = hearing/sound
  • Sixth chakra (Third Eye)= “sixth sense”/light
  • Seventh chakra (Crown) is off the body and unrelated to the sensory world, so it has no associations, except to pure consciousness.

Therefore, when you are hiking you are stimulating all your senses (smell, sight, touch, sound, and taste- as taste and smell are strongly linked- or so my friend, who is a scientist, tells me). You are also connecting with the earth with every step you take, fuelling your body with water, filling your lungs with pure fresh air (most people hike in pristine locations not dirty, polluted ones), indulging in the sounds of nature and exposing your bare skin and eyes to light. I cannot think of a better way to heal and awaken your chakras.

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