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Anuloma Viloma Pranayama: Yogi’s Antidote to Stress

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Anuloma Viloma Pranayama Image

Anuloma Viloma is a pranayama technique or breath exercise used in Hatha Yoga practice. It’s also known as “alternate nostril breathing”. Everyday practice of this pranayama exercise has lots of different benefits. Not only it helps to get into a deep meditative state and relax but also it helps general rejuvenation of the body.

In this article, I’ll share with you step by step guide on how to practice Anuloma Viloma, what the benefits of this practice, what mistakes people usually make during the practice, and inspire you to turn this breathing exercise into your everyday practice!

Anuloma Viloma Benefits

To get you excited about this practice I want to start with its benefits which are really incredible!

Here are the benefits of a regular Anuloma Viloma practice:

  • purifies energy channels;
  • balances the two brain hemispheres;
  • stabilizes the nervous system;
  • strengthens the respiratory system;
  • restores blood circulation;
  • relieves muscle tension;
  • eliminates CO2 and other waste products from the blood;
  • increases the resistance to stress;
  • improves mood;
  • expels stale air from the lungs;
  • improves heart and blood vessels;
  • oxygenates the blood;
  • increases concentration;
  • profoundly calms the mind;
  • increases creativity;
  • helps to activate Third eye chakra;
  • boosts intuition;
  • stabilizes blood pressure;
  • balances inner solar and lunar energies;
  • relaxes muscles and internal organs;
  • harmonizes prana (the life force energy);
  • increases blood supply to the digestive system;
  • prepares the mind for meditation;
  • stimulates various brain centers;
  • cleanses the stomach of toxic substances;
  • increases the clarity of thought;
  • improves the immune system and strengthens the body’s protective functions;
  • lowers stress and anxiety;
  • stabilizes the endocrine system;
  • purifies the Nadis (subtle energy channels);
  • boosts rejuvenation processes in the body due to regulated hyperventilation;
  • improves digestive processes.
Pranayama Image

Short-term lack of oxygen increases resistance to diseases, improves the immune system, starts the process of healing the body and cleansing of toxins.

As a result of performing Anuloma Viloma, aging of the body slows down, metabolic processes are restored and cell formation increases. When switching to the energy-saving mode, the muscle clamps relax while holding the breath.

The Essence of Anuloma Viloma

Anuloma pranayama is a fairly simple breathing practice for everyday use. According to ancient yogic texts, the human energy body consists of 72 thousand Nadi channels. For our Anuloma Viloma practice, we are primarily interested in three main Nadis: Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna.

Ida and Pingala symbolize opposites: Moon and Sun, Yin and Yang, Day and Night, cheerfulness and relaxation. Sushumna is a level of consciousness in which there are no divisions.

Main Nadis and Chakras for beginners

The basis of the practice of Anuloma Viloma is alternate breathing with the nostrils. In yoga, the left nostril is associated with the Ida and the right nostril – with Pingala. The main task of pranayama is to balance these two opposites as much as possible.

Even scientists have shown that breathing through the right nostril stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, and through the left nostril – parasympathetic. Breathing only through the right nostril increases the heart rate, and through the left nostril – reduces it.

Basic Principles

There are two main principles we should always follow while performing Anuloma Viloma.

Principle 1: the Alternation of the Nostrils

Even with the normal breathing of a healthy person, the nostrils take turns breathing every 90 minutes. When performing pranayama Anuloma Viloma it is very important that both nostrils are clean and breathing well.

Principle 2: the Exact Proportions of the Inhalation-Exhalation-Delay

Using the exact proportions and their gradual increase help to balance the flow of prana.

The Technique

Anuloma Viloma should be practiced on an empty stomach!

Sit comfortably with the straight spine.

Rest the left palm on the knee in Jnana Mudra (thumb and index fingers touching) to create a pranic circuit that drives energy toward the brain.

Place the right hand in Vishnu Mudra (by tucking the index and middle fingers into the palm). The thumb, ring, and pinky fingers will be more or less extended.

Close your eyes. Inhale comfortably. Close the right nostril with the right thumb. Exhale slowly and completely through the left nostril.

Now for the first round, inhale slowly and comfortably through the left nostril. Close the left nostril with the ring or pinky finger – and then release the thumb from the right nostril.

Exhale slowly and completely through the right nostril. Now breathe in through the right nostril. Close the right with the thumb, release the ring or pinky finger from the left, and exhale through the left.

This completes one round. Practice 5 to 10 rounds.

Advancing Anuloma Viloma

In the beginning phase, the inhalations and exhalations should match, and the breath is never held. Master this technique before moving on.

Next, the inhalations and exhalations can be extended gradually up to a count of 10.

The next stage is to incorporate internal breath retention and to begin extending the exhalation. After inhaling for 4 counts, hold both nostrils closed for eight counts, then exhale for eight counts.

The next stage is to move on to a 1:4:2 ratio (inhalation: internal retention: exhalation). According to ancient yoga texts, this ratio has profound psychological effects. Inhale for 4 counts, hold for 16, and exhale for 8. Work with this ratio for weeks, months, or even years until it feels comfortable and natural. Slowly, increase the count to 5:20:10, 6:24:12, or even 7:28:14.

Anuloma Viloma Preparatory Level Image
Anuloma Viloma Table

There should be no hurry in mastering any pranayama. All attention and efforts should be directed to the correct development of the technique. Only after one hundred percent development of one of the stages you can move on.

Possible Mistakes

Read this section again after several sessions of Anuloma Viloma. After real practice, you will be able to assess your capabilities in a different way and identify your own mistakes.

When practicing Anuloma Viloma make sure you are NOT:

  • Using the left hand instead of the right;
  • Hunching over;
  • Using the wrong fingers;
  • Tensing the right shoulder;
  • Dropping the chin;
  • Inhaling too deeply;
  • Exhaling too quickly;
  • Keeping your eyes open.

Conclusion

Anuloma Viloma is breathing pranayama that purifies you on the energy level. And with a certain persistence in its development, this practice helps to get rid of diseases and even rejuvenates the body. By simply practicing it 5-10 minutes twice a day in 2-3 months you will feel significant changes in your body!


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Vishnu Mudra for Bringing Peace and Harmony Into Your Life

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Vishnu Mudra Image

Vishnu mudra, also known as “Universal Balance Gesture“, represents Lord Vishnu, who maintains the illusion of the manifested universe. The subordinated to Vishnu universe unfolds from the primordial unity as an endless interaction of opposites: creation and destruction, feminine and masculine, darkness and light. Combining these polarities through yogic wisdom is the highest level of understanding of the essence of things. And Vishnu mudra can help us with this!

In this article, I will share with you what Vishnu mudra is, what are its benefits and how to perform it correctly.

What Is Mudra?

Mudra” can be translated as “seal”, “mark”, or “gesture”. Hence Mudras are symbolic gestures practiced with the hands and fingers.

Connecting the fingers in certain combinations, we can activate the meridians and direct energy throughout the body. Different positions of the fingers have the ability to close or clear the energy channels. In addition, performing this or that mudra, we affect the biologically active points of the palms and fingers.

Mudras are invented for the correct redirection of energy in the body, for the control of prana and for changing the psycho-emotional state. Also, with their help, you can eliminate problems in the body and in the mind by pressing on particular acupuncture points.

Vishnu Mudra

Lord Vishnu Image

In Indian mythology, Vishnu is the protector of the world. He is a Hindu deity whose mission is to protect humans and to keep the Universe in balance. Thus balance and harmony should be our main focus when we are practicing Vishnu mudra.

This mudra helps us to attain balance through the activation of the energies of the first three chakras: Muladhara, Svadhisthana, and Manipura. We activate Muladhara chakra for grounding and stability. Svadisthana activation brings us enjoyment and harmonious relationships. When we activate Manipura chakra we open up our inner power and inner fire.

Vishnu Mudra Benefits:

  • Brings balance and peace;
  • Detoxifies the body;
  • Boosts immunity;
  • Reduces stress and anxiety;
  • Calms the nervous system;
  • Balances hormones;
  • Brings balance to the right and left hemispheres of the brain;
  • Supports respiratory health;
  • Infuses the body with oxygen;
  • Cleanses lungs;
  • Encourages mental clarity and focus;
  • Increases the positive effect of pranayama if performed with it.

How to Practice Vishnu Mudra?

Vishnu Mudra Practice Image
  1. Come into a comfortable seated position.
  2. Breathe easily and focus on your breath.
  3. Keep your spine straight.
  4. Place your hands on the thighs or knees with palms facing upwards.
  5. Raise the right hand with the elbow bent.
  6. Curl the forefinger and middle finger in towards the palm of the hand. Allow your thumb, ring and little finger to extend.

This mudra can be performed during pranayama practice – specifically, Nadi Shodana (alternate nostril breathing).

How Does It Work?

When the fingers of our hands are connected in a certain mudra, we are in connection with the power of the cosmos and the energy of the Universe. Each of our fingers is a symbol of connection with a certain planet and life-creating elements.

Each finger of the hand corresponds to certain energy. And each phalanx of each finger is responsible for a specific part of the body.

In addition, each finger is connected with different parts of the body and internal organs. By performing mudras with your hands, you definitely stimulate those parts of the body and organs that are directly connected to the energy channels that pass through the palms and fingers.

Fingers Corresponding to the 5 Elements image

The thumb symbolizes the Fire element and is linked to the Manipura chakra.

The ring finger represents the Earth element and is linked to the Muladhara chakra.

The pinkie is associated with the Water element and is linked to the Svadisthana chakra.

By extending these fingers you are encouraging the flow of energy to the corresponding elements within you. The other fingers bow down to allow space for these to expand and flourish.

Additional Recommendations

  • It is best to practice Vishnu mudra on an empty stomach. Early morning before breakfast is a perfect time for this practice.
  • Start with practicing this mudra for 5 minutes a day. Then gradually increase the time. But keep in mind that a maximum duration for this mudra is 15-20 minutes.
  • Make sure your breath is smooth and full. You should be relaxed and focused on your breath while practicing this mudra.


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Aparigraha: An Essential Step In Your Spiritual Evolution!

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Aparigraha image

Aparigraha is one of the moral rules described in the ancient philosophical text, ‘The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’. In this ancient text, they are called “Yamas” and help regulate your relations with society, gain self-awareness, transform negative energy into positive, and cultivate a deep sense of inner peace.

In this article, I will share with you the essence of aparigraha, different ways to practice it and will explain why it is so important to practice it for your spiritual evolution (especially if you practice yoga asanas).

8 Limbs Of Yoga

Each of the eight limbs of yoga is not easy in their own way. The first two of them, perhaps, are the most important, because they teach psycho-hygienic rules of life. If there is not enough desire, discipline and willpower to make them your way of life, moving on to the next stages is simply meaningless.

8 Limbs Of Yoga Image

The first limb: YAMA

Yama is a set of ethical norms that teach us to communicate with others in the right way. To be brief, it means one thing: treat people the way you want them to treat you.

Second limb: NIYAMA

The limb of forming the self-discipline and uplifting spirituality. This limb involves regular visits to temples, meditative practices, a study of nature, thinking and walks.

Third limb: ASANA

Asana means ‘posture’ or ‘pose’. So by saying ‘asanas’ we mean body poses.

Fourth limb: PRANAYAMA

Pranayama is the ability to control your breath. It is a set and a system of special techniques that make it possible to establish a relationship between breath, mind, and emotions.

Fifth limb: PRATYAHARA

‘Pratyahara’ means ‘gaining mastery over external influences’.

The purpose of this limb is to achieve a state of the distraction of the senses from the surrounding reality and the circulation of the gaze and consciousness inside of you.

Sixth limb: DHARANA

Dharana means ‘concentration’ or ‘single focus’. By concentrating and abstracting, we get distracted from external ‘noise’.  This is how we can calm down our minds, which distracts us from knowing more than we are able to understand.

Seventh limb: DHYANA

Dhyana means ‘contemplation, reflection’ and ‘profound, abstract meditation’. This is the stage of the full development of the properties of meditation and concentration. 

Eighth limb: SAMADHI

Samadhi is the highest stage of meditation, in which a person experiences oneness with the universe. In samadhi, the mind becomes still. You become totally aware of the present moment.

In western modern society, we usually associate yoga just with asana practice. We call people ‘yoga instructors’ although all they teach is asanas during their classes. It would be more appropriate to call western yoga instructors ‘asana instructors’ because physical exercises – asanas – are only one of the 8 limbs of yoga. Asanas are the third step of yoga. And before starting the practice of asanas (and other limbs of Ashtanga yoga), it is recommended to establish yourself in compliance with moral and disciplinary regulations (Yama and Niyama), including aparigraha.

This recommendation has an important reason behind it. You see, in the process of performing yoga asanas, we increase the amount of energy. And if we have not learned how to control it, if we do not understand what’s the right way to invest this energy in, then we risk building negative karma.

What Is Yama?

What Is Yama image

Yama is the second limb of yoga. The 5 Yamas represent a series of “right living” or ethical rules. It means “reining in” or “control”. These are restraints for Proper Conduct as given in the Holy Veda. The 5 Yamas are a form of moral imperatives, commandments, rules or goals.

The 5 Yamas are:

  1. Ahiṃsā (अहिंसा): nonviolence, non-harming other living beings.
  2. Satya (सत्य): truthfulness, non-falsehood.
  3. Asteya (अस्तेय): non-stealing.
  4. Aparigraha (अपरिग्रहः): non-avarice, non-possessiveness.
  5. Brahmacharya (ब्रह्मचर्य): chastity, marital fidelity or sexual restraint

Mastering these 5 Yamas is necessary in order to practice niyamas, asanas, pranayama and all other stages of the “eight-step path of yoga”.

Now let’s dive deeper into the essence of aparigraha and why it is so important to follow this principle.

What Is Aparigraha?

What Is Aparigraha Image

Aparigraha is the virtue of non-possessiveness, non-grasping or non-greediness. ‘Aparigrah’ is the opposite of ‘parigrah’, and refers to keeping the desire for possessions to what is necessary or important, depending on one’s life stage and context. The precept of aparigraha is self-restraint from the type of greed and avarice where one’s own material gain or happiness comes by hurting, killing or destroying other human beings, life forms or nature.

What’s your real Worth?

We live in an era of hyper-consumption. And we never have enough. It’s not enough to have 2-3 pairs of shoes. We are no longer satisfied with a simple phone model, we need the latest one. We like to surround ourselves with cute (and seemingly necessary) trinkets. Many of us have closets full of clothes that we haven’t worn for several years. And many modern families today own more than one car, apartment, house, or even yacht!

We are not satisfied with public transportation or bicycles – we need cars! We are not satisfied with the suburban house – in addition, we need a vacation house! We can’t wear the same outfit for different special occasions, we feel embarrassed if someone sees us in the same outfit twice. Some of us even are not satisfied with driving and in addition to cars will start buying helicopters and jets. Do we really need all this? Or are we just trying to fill the emptiness inside? Or maybe we are trying to hide our insecurities behind the stuff we surround ourselves with?

People can’t see our souls, our hearts, our ‘shadows’ but they can see the stuff we own so we can make them think that we worth something. But what’s our real worth? Money, gold, success, cars, jets, homes… have nothing to do with who we really are.

We were taught that. We have to make money to fulfill our desires. But is it really necessary? How does the fulfillment of our desires affect us, our beloved ones, our planet, our collective consciousness? Is that new car you’re dreaming about a necessity or simply a way to feel better about yourself, to hide your insecurities, to make people notice you? Does your child need that video game or he’s just trying to escape from this reality? Were those leather shoes you’re dreaming about a product of someone’s death? Do you really want to invest your money in animal cruelty and/or sponsoring someone’s death? These are the questions that need to be answered before you decide to spend your money.

Don’t Be That Monkey!

monkey trap image

We all need to realize and accept the fact that our material possessions control us. To understand how this works, I will give an example.

Indian farmers use a special technique of catching the monkeys that were destroying their crops. Because they practiced compassion, shooting or killing the monkeys was not an option. They had to find a way to capture the monkey, and then return it to the jungle.

After observing the monkeys, one farmer found a way. He cut a small hole in a coconut, just big enough so that the monkey could slide its hand through. He put a banana inside the coconut, then tied it to the side of a tree. The monkey came up, smelled the banana, and stuck its hand into the coconut to grab the banana. When it tried to pull its hand out, because his hand was clenched in a fist holding the banana, it did not fit out of the small hole.  And because the monkey refused to let go of the banana, the farmer was able to capture it.  If the monkey just let go, it would be free.

Interestingly, just like the monkey with the banana, we have a tendency to hold on to things — things that don’t necessarily serve us. And it’s not just our material possessions but also our old habits, behaviors, relationships, the results of asana practice, pleasures, etc.

Unfortunately, attachment is a very natural part of modern people’s life. But sometimes those things that we’re attached to are the very things that hold us back, even causing pain in our lives.

This is What Happens When You Don’t Practice Aparigraha

Everything that belongs to us is supported by our energy. And this applies to anything, even the smallest thing that we own. Yes, you read it right – we basically give our energy to every little thing we own – books, statuettes, decorative items, shoes, clothes, cars, etc. Thus, when we don’t follow aparigraha principle we lose our vital energy.

If you’ve ever done decluttering in your house you probably understand what it’s about. Usually, after decluttering people start feeling happier, more inspired and energized.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali points out that following the Aparigraha principle allows us to gain knowledge of past incarnations and the next rebirths.

How To Practice Aparigraha?

how to practice non-possessiveness image

Now that you realize how important it is to follow the Aparigraha principle you may wonder: “How can I practice Aparigraha living in modern society?”. Here are some ways you can do it!

#1 Get rid of unnecessary things

Start with decluttering! Get rid of everything you don’t use anymore. Give away the stuff that can be useful for someone, donate the clothes that don’t fit you or you just don’t like anymore, donate books to the libraries, etc. Make sure you give away the stuff that can be still used by someone in need and throw away the rest.

#2 Inner yoga practice

Yes, yoga is not just asanas but also a deep inner work aimed at self-discovery and self-transformation. Internal yoga practices will help clear the mind of ignorance, misconceptions, misunderstandings, incorrect knowledge (Avidya). Avidya is a state in which we take “the non-eternal for the eternal, the impure for the pure, evil for good and non-self as self”. It is not just ignorance, but ignorance of its true nature. It is Avidya that prevents us from achieving ultimate success in spiritual practice.

Therefore, it’s essential to make time for meditations and introspective work.

#3 Cultivate awareness

When inappropriate thoughts disturb the mind, you should focus on what is opposite to them. For example, a sudden desire to act rudely or encourage or accept rude actions should be restrained by awareness of harmful consequences. Very often such actions are reflections of our anger, greed, or biased judgment. Regardless of our motives, awareness of such consequences can prevent such actions.

#4 Always keep in mind the importance of Aparigraha

You should always remember the impermanence of all things. Nothing in this world belongs to us. Treat everything material that you have as tools that are given to us by Higher Powers to achieve the higher goals and complete our spiritual mission. At the same time, make sure you are not falling into extremes and fanaticism: a car, a house, a computer, a phone — all this can be used for the benefit of the development of this world. It is important not to be tied to these benefits of civilization but to use them as practical tools for accomplishing your higher goals. And if you lose something material make sure you’re easily letting it go.

#5 Trust the Universe

Trusting the Universe‘ means understanding and accepting the fact that we already have everything we need and we will have everything we really need. Be grateful for what you have even if you have very little.

The Bottom Line

Aparigraha is an essential yoga practice that should become a part of your life principle if you consider yourself following a yoga path. The practice of non-possessiveness will help you to examine your assumptions and will guide you back to healthy relationships with others.


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Yoga

Naked Yoga: a Powerful Self-Discovery Practice

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Naked Yoga Image

Naked yoga is increasingly gaining popularity. Asanas are performed without any clothing. It can be practiced by either individual classes or in a group.

The practice of naked yoga is a total exit from the comfort zone. What could be more awkward than naked people around you performing the Cat-Cow pose? But the naked practice is aimed at getting rid of the psychological and emotional blocks, physical body attachments, insecurities, low self-esteem.

After naked yoga practice, most people notice the feeling of liberation. Many people also note that it is very comfortable to perform asanas without clothes that constrain the body. Of course, it may feel awkward at the beginning but the benefits of this practice are simply amazing and definitely worth trying it!

In this article, we will share with you what naked yoga is about and those amazing benefits that may inspire you to try this practice.

Ancient Practice of Naked Yoga

Naked yoga practice image
https://www.instagram.com/nude_yogagirl/

We used to think that the naked body is related to sexuality and some people even find it vulgar. But we, modern human beings, should remind ourselves that nudity is a natural state of our body. Naked yoga brings us back to our nature and roots and allows us to work with what we have — with all our folds, flaws and shortcomings.

Despite the fact that naked yoga seems to be another marketing move (like goat yoga or cat yoga), in fact, nudity was present in many ancient practices to get rid of attachments to the material.

Naked yoga (Sanskrit: “nagna yoga” or “vivastra yoga”) has existed since ancient times as a spiritual practice. It is even mentioned in the 7th-10th century Bhagavata Purana and by the Ancient Greek geographer Strabo.

In the Bhagavata Purana (written c. 800–1000 AD) it says:

”A person in the renounced order of life may try to avoid even a dress to cover himself. If he wears anything at all, it should be only a loincloth, and when there is no necessity, a sannyasi should not even accept a danda. A sannyasi should avoid carrying anything but a danda and kamandalu.”

Alexander the Great reached India in the 4th century BC. Along with his army, he took Greek academics with him who later wrote memoirs about geography, people and customs they saw. One of Alexander’s companions was Onesicritus, quoted in Book 15, Sections 63-65 by Strabo, who describes yogins of India. Onesicritus claims those Indian yogins (Mandanis) practiced aloofness and “different postures – standing or sitting or lying naked – and motionless.”

The practice of spiritual nudity is common among Digambara Jains, Aghori sadhus, and other ascetic groups in the dharmic religions. The order of Naga Sadhus, conspicuous in the processions and bathing ritual at the Kumbh Mela, uses nudity as a part of their spiritual practice of renunciation.

Naked Yoga Benefits

This ancient practice has lots of wonderful benefits that you may find very inspiring. Here are some of them.

#1 It helps you accept your body

self love yoga image
https://www.instagram.com/nude_yogagirl/

Unfortunately, in our modern world there are lots of people who are dissatisfied with their bodies, find them shameful and even ugly. If you feel like it’s not easy for you to see your naked body without judgment or desire to improve something in yourself, if you feel uncomfortable to get naked even in front of your partner, then a naked yoga class can be good therapy for you.

Practicing naked yoga will help you reconnect with your own body, stop being ashamed of it, learn to accept yourself, and increase your sense of self-worth.

The vulnerability of the naked body can help bring people together, make them understand that each of us feels insecure about something, but we are all beautiful in our own way.

Naked yoga can help you overcome the rejection and shame about your own body, cope with the psychological blocks associated with your body, and look at yourself in a new way. It will teach you to love your body the way it is, see your body as a beautiful temple for your spirit, and love your shortcomings.

#2 It boosts your confidence

The naked practice is a way to learn how to interact with your body, feel it, and become more confident. This is an opportunity to really see your body and stop taking it for granted.

#3 It motivates

body shaming healing image
https://www.instagram.com/nude_yogagirl/

Nude yoga classes motivate you to master your yoga practice. This is due to the ability to see how each of your muscles moves and how it responds to each exercise. Practicing yoga naked, you are more likely to understand which parts of your body need to be worked out more. You can see and understand more clearly what muscles are too tight and what parts of your body need more stretching. Moreover, you will be able to see where your blocks are located. When you see what your body needs, you can change the content of your classes to suit your needs by targeting the right muscles and body areas.

#4 It makes your skin “breathe”

When you exercise and sweat in your clothes, it adversely affects the skin, because the clothes prevent it from being cleansed. When you sweat naked, your skin can breathe.

Wearing clothes during your yoga class may dry your skin and increase the appearance of wrinkles.

One way or another, clothing always restricts our movement. But when we are performing asanas naked it becomes so much easier for you to improve your practice and reach a new level of mastery!

The Bottom Line

nude yoga benefits image
https://www.instagram.com/nude_yogagirl/

We should always remember that our body is a temple for our spirit. Therefore we need to treat it with love, care, and respect. Even if you want to change something in yourself, it should not be accompanied by self-torture and criticism. Treat your body with care and without excessive fanaticism in the pursuit of ideals.

Would you like to try naked yoga? If your answer is “definitely not”, then think about what kind of mental blocks stop you from doing this? We are all born and start this life without clothes, so why not to try to reconnect with our true natural selves?


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