Friday, 16 November 2018

Vishnu Mudra, why it is used in Anuloma-Viloma or Nadi Shodhana

I facilitated a wonderful group at the Avon Library this week at the Breath Workshop.  One of the questions that came up, which has come up in past Breath Workshops, is why do we use Vishnu Mudra?  I have continued to search for the answer and I am excited to finally have an answer to share!  This comes from Indu Arora in her new, comprehensive book, "Mudra, the sacred secret."  Enjoy!

"In this mudra, the right hand is used, as it is associate with giving, while the left is associated with receiving...The Vishnu Mudra helps in balancing and filtering of the Matuta (air element) to form Prana, as it triggers the Phana marma points on either sides of the nostrils, due to the position of the thumb and fingers on the nostril...The energies of fire (thumb), earth (ring finger), and water (little finger) elements are allowed to flow freely, whereas the energies of air (index finger) and ether (middle finger) current are harnessed in the formation of this Mudra."  - Indu Arora, "Mudra, the sacred secret"

Vishnu Mudra
Art from

Non-Attachment in giving and receiving

The holiday season and end of the year is filled with giving in so many forms.  The Yama, Aparigraha or Non-Attachment, is a reminder to focus on our state of mind as we give.  So much of the holiday season is about the external: gifts, food, parties, and traditions.  These can start to take on the form of obligations, 'have tos,' and expectations, which end up creating a more heavy feeling rather than coming from a place of joy and gratitude.

Aparigraha or non-attachment applied to giving allows us to come back to focus on the intentions of giving, rather than the outcomes.  If you've been upset because you gave to someone and they didn't give back or when you gave there wasn't are attached to the outcome of your giving, which means there is an expectation of "if I give, this person will feel/act by doing _____."  When they don't, our reaction is anger and resentment. 

Instead, come back to why are you giving in the first place?  If it's because of a 'supposed to' or 'it's expected' or 'it's just what is done,' again, this is rooted more in an outcome and not really based out of a loving place.  Giving, when done from a place of love and joy, is more satisfying and meaningful than when done out of obligation. The other piece with coming back to the intention of your giving that is the action of giving can then being done without attachment to the outcome.  Have you ever given to someone who had no idea it was even you?  It can be an amazing feeling because it's more about the intention of bringing joy to another rather than wanting the gratitude of the person in return. Which is ultimately about ourselves, rather then the person we just gave to.

The other side of the coin is receiving.  Ooooooo, can this be a challenge!  Again, so many times when someone gives to us, there can be a feeling obligation or guilt...maybe a of feeling now I have to give to that person.  Again,this is an attachment to a belief that it's not okay to just receive.  This can come from a cultural belief of being independent.  When someone gives to us, there is connection, which we all need.  But, our belief system can get it mixed up with feeling dependent on that person.  The other thing about struggling to fully receive, is that this energy can rob the joy for the other person who is giving and it keeps us from showing full gratitude to the other person, just by enjoying what was given.  So many times we are all searching for ways to help others, especially in a world we feel so separate from each other at times.  The act of receiving, as well as giving, helps to foster connection. Being able to receive gracefully is just as important as giving.

In yoga, the practices of restorative yoga and yoga nidra are wonderful exercises in just taking time receive.  Giving yourself a gift of pampering, time to go inward, time to rest are also wonderful ways to practice giving and receiving to ourselves.

Breathing practices are another a way to practice giving and receiving.  When we inhale we receive, when we exhale we give.  The breath techniques of equal inhale and exhale with abdominal breathing or Coherent Breathing are examples of this.

My encouragement to all this holiday season is to pause, come back to your intentions of giving and be open to receiving with no energetic strings attached to the outcomes.  Just let your abundant joy and love shine through!

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Finding peace in a fear based world

As November begins, it is the month in the USA that we celebrate giving thanks, being grateful for all that we have and the people who are in our lives.  It is more important than ever to keep this practice going all year long as our culture has moved more and more into being fear-based. When we focus of fear, we are only getting half the story, and I truly believe that going with fear keeps us from seeing reality for what it is.  Fear covers up the positives and the abundance in our lives.  Here are some specific practices to do throughout this month and through out the following year to cultivate more positivity, gratitude, and peace in each day.

1. The practice of gratitude.  This is such an important practice.  Every time I do it, I feel lighter and more connected to humanity, trust and faith.  There are a number of ways to practice this.  The important part is that finding ways of coming back to gratitude throughout your day which then starts to cultivate more of a gratitude lifestyle. 

First, is keeping a gratitude journal.  There's something about writing down these positive statements.  Maybe doing three a day in the format of "I'm grateful for _______ because ______.  If writing is not your thing, taking a moment at the end of each day to think about three things you're grateful for or even doing this with a family member out loud.

Second, you can connect coming back to what you're grateful anytime you feel sad, angry, or jealous.  Reminding yourself that there may be these emotions and there can still be gratitude. IT may even help you respond to the situation you are in with more intention and kindness.

Third, writing notes to a different person once a week to communicate why you are grateful for them. Spread the love!

Here are a couple of other resources to help with the gratitude practice: "The Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life," by Janice Kaplan; "The Little Book of Gratitude: Create a life of happiness and wellbeing by giving thanks," by Robert A. Emmons PhD.

2. Focusing on Abundance!  We tend to focus on lack...what we don't have, why we aren't good enough, comparing ourselves to others and thinking how much better they are than ourselves.  This only brings in self-judgment and criticism, which fosters negativity.  

When you find yourself doing this, STOP!  Then change your awareness to all the abundance in your life, everything you do have and what is going well.  We all have wonderful things in our life, even just as simple of having a roof over our head and food to eat.  Challenge yourself to come up with 10 things.

Another way of doing this is focusing on what is pleasant now.  Look around the room you are in and notice what parts of the room or items in the room that are pleasant.  Focus on why they are pleasant to you. Shift your awareness and find another item.  You can do this at anytime, anywhere.  When we focus on pleasantness, we are activating the reward part of our brain, which can release oxytocin, a relaxing chemical.  Try it and notice what happens.

3. Seek out positive things.  Traditional 24 hour news stations are filled with negativity and what they report on is not the only things happening in our world.  Seek out positive news and stories to connect with the amazing loving kindness that humanity is capable of. is a great place to start.

Seek out inspirational people and quotes.  Put inspirational quotes up around your home so you see them every day as reminders.

Listen to inspiring music or podcasts.  Fill your ears with positive thoughts and ideas.

REMEMBER: You have a choice on what you surround yourself with and where you put your focus and awareness.  Make a conscious choice, rather than letting the external world choose for you.  Yes, there is suffering and tragedy.  There is ALSO loving kindness, joy, and human beings doing wonderful things to lift us up. 

I'll leave you with this Cherokee Indian legend to ponder:

 An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”