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

 

 

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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 2- 30/9: Ulleri to Ghorepani (14.21 kms)

Mantras

A mantra is a sacred utterance, a numinous sound, a syllable, word or phonemes, or a group of words in Sanskrit believed by practitioners to have psychological and spiritual powers. The repetition of a mantra is thought to affirm its meaning to ourselves and change our thought process. It has the potential of cementing a belief into our core being. Mantras tend to be short so they’re easy to remember and can be said repeatedly.

What are personal mantras?

Whether you’re aware of it or not, everyone has personal mantras. You may be good at maths and have a mantra such as, “I find maths easy” or “Maths is/was my strongest subject at school”.

But, for as many positive mantras we have, we also have at least as many negative mantras, such as: “I’m too fat”, “I’m not as pretty as…”, “I’m not good at…”, etc. Negative thoughts that shape our opinion of ourselves are cemented by repetition. We live our lives acting out of negative thoughts and behaviour until we make them a reality.

Why do we use them?

Now that you know this, you can do something to change your negative personal mantras to positive ones, switching your negative thoughts to positive ones… and trust me, this will have a profound effect on your life.

How can we use them?

When your focus lies solely on repeating a mantra, your mind will have little time to fluctuate and produce new thought patterns. Using mantras as a form of meditation makes it easier to concentrate on one thing because you have a mantra to bring your focus back to. Anytime your mind starts to drift, you can simply shift back to the mantra.

My most recent Mantras-

Today was my 2nd day of trekking in Nepal and I was finding it rather difficult (See my travel blog: Ulleri to Ghorepani). I had difficulty breathing, and my knees, feet and legs were sore and tired from all the steps. I decided to try some positive personal mantras to help me carry on. Below are the 2 mantras to helped me hike over 12 kms today in hard terrain from Ulleri to Ghorepani.

“My feet, knees and legs are a pillar of strength.” I repeated this mantra 3 times and then I finished each round with: “Thank you feet, knees and legs for everything that you do for me.” Feeling gratitude as I uttered thanks.

My lungs are big and full and I breathe easily.” I repeated this mantra 3 times and then I finished each round with: “Thank you lungs for everything that you do for me.” Feeling gratitude as I uttered thanks.

I was astonished at just how simple but effective these two positive personal mantras were. So, next time you are finding something difficult, perhaps you too can try a positive personal mantra to get you through.

Examples of other official mantras-

You may have heard some of the following Sanskrit mantras in some of your yoga or meditation classes:

  1. “Aum” or “Om”

Translation: “In Hinduism is known to be the source of all mantras. Om is believed to be the primordial or the ‘first’ sound of the universe generated by the cosmic vibration that resulted in all creation”

  1. Om Namah Shivaya

Translation: “I honor the God within”

  1. Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu (My all-time favourite mantra)

Translation: “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

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

 

P.S. If you like my posts, please click on the like button below this post or click on the follow button to get instant notifications to keep up to date with my latest posts. Xo

Kathmandu to Pokhara via White Water Rafting

As I floated down the river in the raft during our white-water rafting trip in Nepal (See Kathmandu to Pokhara via White Water Rafting if you are interested in reading my travel blog in Nepal), I thought of a quote that I re-read recently:

“Rivers know this, there is no hurry. We shall get there someday.” –AA Milne

And that made me think of Winnie the Pooh peacefully floating down the river with me with one paw in a pot of honey. For a bear with nothing but fluff inside his head, he sure thinks and says some amazingly insightful Buddhist-sounding things. While I am pretty sure Pooh has never studied Buddhism, I did wonder if he (and Buddhists) had the right idea in regards to time and hurrying and I have often wondered if we (‘Western’ countries) could learn something from them.

So, now some life philosophy from our smallest to our mightiest rivers. Even our smallest rivers don’t suggest you stand there and take what life has to give you without fighting back. You just have to look at how a river forges its way through rocks, over trees and through tight spaces with ease and grace to know this is true.

Nor does it suggest that you should stand and watch life go by without you. What is does suggest is there is an art to moving forward. It takes patience and time; flowing instead of rushing. If you flow instead of rush, you will get there someday and maybe do it with some beauty and grace.

Speaking of beauty and grace, makes me think of one of my favourite poses, Dancer’s Pose. This pose makes me feel weightless, limitless, graceful, confident, and perfect in the body I have. I hope it does the same for you!

 

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Dancer’s Pose at Lake Phewa, Pokhara

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.

Dancer’s Pose:

  1. Shift your weight to your right foot and send your breath down to that leg to help you balance.
  2. Bend the knee of your left leg and grab the left foot with the left hand.
  3. Hold your right arm out front to help balance.
  4. Start to lean your upper body forward, balancing on just the right leg. If you are comfortable in the balance, start to press the left foot against the left hand holding it, and move the foot away from the body slightly.
  5. Feel the grace and lightness as you inhale and exhale in this pose and remember to be like the river and not rush getting into or out of the pose!
  6. Come out of the pose gracefully and repeat on the other side of the body.

 

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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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” for more information on how to do this.

 

  1. Rinse mouth thoroughly and brush your teeth.

 

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

 

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

 

  1. Perform Abhyanga- warm Ayurvedic oil self-massage- which oil to use depends on your Dosha. Please see my Blog “Abhyanga & Skin Brushing” for more information on how to do this.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. Shower using warm rather than hot water.

 

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

 

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

 

  1. Eat a light breakfast.

 

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

 

  1. Make your biggest meal your lunch.

 

  1. 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!

The 12 Laws of Karma that will blow your mind

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Karma is the law of cause and effect– an unbreakable law of the cosmos. Your actions create your future. The reason your fate is never sealed is because you have free will. Therefore, your future cannot already be written. That would not be fair. Life gives you chances. This is one of them.

 “A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.” – Ghandi

 

 

  1. The Great Law/ Law of Cause and Effect: “As you sow, so shall you reap.”
  • The simple explanation of the Great Law is: our thought and actions have consequences- good or bad.
  • Energy (thought, action) that we put into the world has a consequence, immediate or not.
  • To receive happiness, peace, love, and friendship, one must BE happy, peaceful, loving, and a true friend.
  • Whatever one puts out into the Universe will come back to them.
  1. The Law of Creation: “What we desire comes through participation.”
  • Life requires our participation to happen. It does not happen by itself.
  • We are one with the Universe, both inside and out.
  • Whatever surrounds us gives us clues to our inner state.
  • Surround yourself with what you want to have in your life and be yourself.
  1. The Law of Humility: “Refusal to accept what is, will still be what is.”
  • One must accept something in order to change it.
  • We must first accept the present circumstances in order to change them.
  • In focusing on the negative instead of making changes to address the negative, we’re committing to a zero-sum result.
  1. The Law of Growth: “Our own growth is above any circumstance.”
  • “Wherever you go, there you are.”
  • The only thing we have control over is ourselves.
  • True change only occurs if we make the commitment to change what is in our heart.
  • It is we who must change and not the people, places or things around us if we want to grow spiritually.
  • When we change who and what we are within our hearts, our lives follow suit and changes too.
  1. The Law of Responsibility: “Our lives are of our own doing, nothing else.”
  • When there is turbulence in one’s own life, there is often turbulence internally. If we’re to change our life, we must change our frame of mind and surroundings.
  • We mirror what surrounds us, and what surrounds us mirrors us; this is a Universal Truth.
  • One must take responsibility for what is in one’s life.
  1. The Law of Connection: “Everything in the Universe is connected, both large and small.”
  • Our past, present and future are all connected. As such, we must put in the work to change these connections if we desire something different.
  • The smallest or seemingly least important of things must be done because everything in the Universe is connected.
  • No step- first, intermediate or last- is more important in the accomplishment of a task. All are required.
  • Each step leads to the next step, and so forth and so on.
  1. The Law of Focus: “One cannot direct attention beyond a single task.”
  • We cannot have negative thoughts or actions and expect to grow spiritually. We must direct full attention to achieve any desired task.
  • One cannot think of two things at the same time.
  • Always think thoughts of love.
  • If our focus is on Spiritual Values, it is not possible for us to have lower thoughts like greed or anger.
  1. The Law of Hospitality and Giving: “Demonstrating our selflessness shows true intentions.”
  • What we claim to believe must manifest into our actions. Selflessness is a virtue only if we’re accommodating something other than ourselves.
  • Without a selfless nature, true spiritual growth is nearly impossible.
  • If one believes something to be true, then sometime in their life they will be called upon to demonstrate that truth.
  • Here is where one puts what they claim to have learned into practice.
  1. The Law of Change: “History repeats itself unless changed.”
  • Conscious commitment to change is the only method of influencing the past. History will continue along an unconstructive path until positive energies direct it elsewhere.
  • One cannot be in the here and now if they are looking backward to examine what was or forward to worry about the future.
  • Old thoughts, old patterns of behaviour, and old dreams prevent us from having new ones.
  1. The Law of Here and Now: “The Present is all we have.”
  • History repeats itself until we learn the lessons that we need to change our path.
  • Looking back regretfully and forward pointlessly robs oneself of a present opportunity. Old thoughts and patterns of behaviour negate the present chance to advance ourselves.
  • Live in the here and now. Practice Mindfulness.
  1. The Law of Patience and Reward: “Nothing of value is created without a patient mindset.”
  • All Rewards require initial toil.
  • Toiling away cannot be circumvented through wishful thinking. Rewards of lasting value require patient and persistent toil, nothing else.
  • Rewards are not the end-result. True joy comes from doing what one is supposed to be doing, and knowing that the reward will come in its own time.
  1. The Law of Significance and Inspiration: “The best reward is one that contributes to the Whole.”
  • One gets back from something whatever they put into it.
  • The true value of something is a direct result of the energy and intent that is put into it.
  • Every personal contribution is also a contribution to the Whole.
  • The end result is of little value if it leaves little or nothing behind. These lesser contributions have no impact on the Whole, nor do they work to diminish it.
  • Loving contributions bring life to and inspire the Whole.
  • Energy and intentions are vital components that determine the significance of an end-result. Ideally, love and passion embody the motives of one that resolves to leave a lasting impression on the Whole.

 

Namaste,

Natalie

 

P.S. This list was adapted from several websites. The words above are not my original thoughts or words. For further reference you can visit the following websites where I obtained this information:

https://www.davidwolfe.com/12-laws-of-karma-change-life/

https://www.stevenaitchison.co.uk/12-little-known-laws-of-karma-that-will-change-your-life/

https://www.powerofpositivity.com/12-laws-of-karma-that-will-change-your-life/

 

My Ayurvedic Journey

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I’m not going to pretend that I am an expert in Ayurveda. The information that I am presenting to you throughout this series of Blogs is knowledge that I have gained from my own research (websites, online articles, books, Ayurveda cookbooks, talking to others in the know and speaking with my Ayurveda practitioner). Studying Ayurveda can take up to 5 years, so while I feel like I have a good basic understanding of the practice, there is so much that I don’t know. My purpose for my Blogs is to ignite interest, instil curiosity and hopefully inspire others to look deeper into their own lives, especially their health and wellbeing through yoga, meditation and healthy lifestyle practices and maybe even be curious enough to go out and try Ayurveda.

For the next few Blogs (this will probably end up being about a 15 part series) I am going to focus on my Ayurvedic Journey that I started during my Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) and have recently become more serious about. I hope you enjoy reading about my Ayurvedic Journey and are inspired to also look deeper into this ancient natural medicine system!

What ignited my interest in Ayurveda?

During my YTT Amanda introduced us to Ayurveda. Of course this was only the briefest of introductions as there is so much to learn and know about Ayurveda that we could not cover everything in a 200 hour YTT course!

Immediately I was fascinated by this approach to health as it sits well within my beliefs around health and wellbeing- take care of yourself and prevent illness and disease, simple right? However, without the knowledge, it is sometimes difficult to know just how to look after yourself effectively and with so much information and misinformation out there about what you should and shouldn’t be doing, how does one know what is best for them?

Listen to your body

After my accident, I became highly in tune with my body. What it could do, how far I could push it, what it needed and so forth. But sometimes that isn’t enough. Sometimes when our bodies and minds are out of balance, they can trick us into thinking that certain foods or behaviours are what we need when really they aren’t. So while this is an important first step, it is sometimes not enough.

What is Ayurveda and why am I writing about it in my yoga journey?

During our YTT Amanda told us that Ayurvedic medicine (Ayurveda for short) is one of the world’s oldest holistic (whole body) healing systems that was developed thousands of years ago in India. Unlike Western medicine, its main goal is to promote good health, not fight disease. Ayurveda does this by focusing on the prevention of diseases before they can occur in the body. Of course if you are sick, Ayurveda is there to help you too as treatments can be geared toward specific health problems.

Ayurveda is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit which it is why it marries so well with yogic philosophy.

Time to see an expert

After an amazing 5 weeks in Thailand doing my YTT I had to return to Melbourne and go back to work. This term was difficult with my husband getting sick and hospitalised for 2 weeks and work stresses mounting up with new responsibilities and a total change in routine, I felt like I had spent 10 weeks treading water. So at the beginning of the school holidays I decided that I would go and see an Ayurvedic practitioner to shed some light on some of my health issues and bring some balance into my life again.

Wish me luck!

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