Author: Mercedes Déziel-Hupé (page 1 of 18)

Nadi Shodhana – Alternate Nostril Breath

The Holidays can be a stressful time, and though we’re busy and we might be tempted to drop our meditation practice, we need it in hectic times more than ever!

Although this practice is in fact a “pranayama” (breathing exercise), I see it as a meditative practice as well, since a very basic practice involves observing our breath.

Nadi Shodhana, or “alternate nostril breathing”, is a great practice to build upon. You can start with simply breathing in one nostril and out the other for a few seconds, aiming to have the same length of the in and out breaths. I feel like 4 seconds is a great “balanced” start. You can lengthen as you build confidence and expand your lung capacity (i.e. as you learn to breathe with all your muscles, intercostals and
diaphragm). If you do not have a medical condition contraindicating breath retention (e.g. pregnancy, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, heart conditions, chronic anxiety, etc.), you can certainly grow this practice by adding short or equal length breath retentions between sides (e.g. inhale, hold, exhale on the other side, inhale on this new side, hold, exhale on the other side).

Nadi Shodhana purifies the blood and respiratory system by increasing the oxygen intake and circulation. This pranayama is also great to relieve headaches, improve concentration and help balance the nervous system.

So when you need to “take a breather”, this is a great one to sneak off and practice, even if it’s just 1 minute, hiding out in the bathroom during an eventful family dinner… 😉

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Against The Grain For Self-Care

As I mentioned in my post on how to de-stress, I tend to carry stress in my body (like most of us) and I especially feel it in my shoulders and neck. I finally decided, when I returned from my backpacking Eurotrip, to book an appointment with a massage therapist I know (thank goodness for Groupon, too!). I knew that if I wanted dominion over my body for my best health, I needed to start with self-care.

I went for a treatment and I was told I was holding the equivalent tension in my shoulders of someone who works full-time at

Cartoon of anxious girl doing yoga. Source:


a desk job (I do), moonlights as a pianist (I can’t play an instrument to save my life, unless it’s a triangle) and never stretches (I practice yoga, b*tches).


I mean, I knew I was sore and tense, but I didn’t expect it was that bad. Unfortunately, your body stops giving you a pain signal if you’ve ignored it for too long. My left shoulder was on fire (figuratively) and I couldn’t tell (I’m right-handed). That’s when the risk of injury skyrockets. Cops say that routine is what puts their life in danger because it dulls your senses. That’s what your body does with pain; it stops telling you if you don’t pay attention. I responded well to treatment but I know I’m in for a couple more. I’ll welcome them as an exercise in acceptance and welcoming care and abundance.

The challenge was when I was told to ditch the purse. Wait… I need to what? I’ve carried a purse since I was 12.

As women, we’re socialized to think we need a purse. We assort it to suit our outfit, we stuff it to the brim with a micro-pharmacy of pills, lotions and potions wherever we go. Sometimes, we squeeze in our lunches or workout gear.

We accept that this is part of being a (feminine) woman (although, that very definition is opening a can of worms). I like to look good just as much as the next gal, because it makes me feel good too. I like compliments, I like to know I’m well put-together, but I try to marry comfort, practicality and style. And as stylish as purses can be, they’re not always practical (or comfortable, when they’re full). I could go on a crusade against high heels and their impact on our hips and backs, but I digress. The point I’m making is not that we should or shouldn’t wear heels and carry purses, it’s that we don’t question it, we don’t even think about it.

Our clothing is also not often made to favour practicality. Beyond our dresses and skirts, many of our pants don’t even have pockets large enough to fit a wallet. Forget your keys and phone; you’ll look like you’re happy to see us or had some plastic surgery go horribly wrong. “What’s that sticking out of your hip…?” Our wallets are often designed to be as big as clutches and we believe we need to carry makeup with us for touch-ups. Gosh, heaven forbid you should have forehead shine.

While travelling, I was thinking how freeing it would be to never carry a purse. Was I preparing for something I knew would be necessary or was I just being rebellious? Maybe I was just craving simplicity.

Just as with anything new, I doubted the feasibility. My anxieties went to the only things that I feel naked without (after my wallet, keys and phone, of course!); what about my book, water, deodorant and toothbrush? Then, I started to wonder about my change of clothes for biking and carrying my lunch to work.

The thing is, there’s a solution for every problem. The trick is asking how to do that challenging thing you’ve decided was happening, in this case, live without a purse. Your brain will think up solutions from this problem-solving stand point. When I told Scott, he basically said: “I’ve lived my whole life without a purse. You can do it too! When I need a bag, I take a backpack, but I rarely need one.”

I decided I was going to commit a fashion faux pas by giving in to the hipster movement of… fanny packs. You read that correctly. Well, if I was going to wear one, it was going to rock my socks off, so I picked a fairly traded Guatemalan belt from a local, socially-responsible store.

Leather fanny pack from Guatemala

I love my new leather fanny pack from Guatemala!

That solved my wallet, phone and keys problem, for whenever I didn’t have pockets. It leaves my back and shoulders free and I basically wear extra pockets in the form of a belt.

I can walk and bike like that too! Yesss!

As for my lunch, clothes, books, water… I either go with a backpack (best medium-sized solution) or with a simple lunch bag, resting in my handy bike basket.

I also decided to leave spares of things at work. Shoes, toothbrush, deodorant, water bottle. It’s just easier!

Opting to trade the purse for a Guatemalan belt or simply use my pockets has already relieved my back after a few weeks. It’s a small way, in which I’m making an intentional decision about my well-being. It raises eyebrows and I’m sure not everyone likes my look, but I think being different is cool. And if a girl as awesome as Rachel Brathen can rock one, so can I!

Dr Who loves bowties!

Dr Who loves bow ties!

And if someone makes a fashion police comment, I can always say I didn’t want to be a camel when I grew up. It’s a small choice that would make a big difference in my life quality. I spend less time carrying (and worrying) about stuff I don’t need.

I’d already adopted that simple approach to travel (only ever travel with carry-on!), so it makes sense to apply it to my every day. I’ve also been reducing my possessions at a pace with which I’m comfortable. My main concern is: “Is it useful? Is it beautiful? Does it make me happy?” Eventually, I’ll get into a groove and I’ll define what simplicity really means to me. If my process means I’m going against the grain to care for myself, spend more time with people I love, doing things that I’m passionate about, then so be it!

Is there anything you have been questioning about your routine or habits? What convention could you shake up to live lighter and happier? How have you managed to simplify an area of your life?

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