Nature has a mind of its own. She can warm up your hearts on her coldest days, quench your curiosity in her steepest paths or even blow you over with her chilly winds. As adventure enthusiasts, we travel through varied moods of nature. Through her snow-laden mountains, up-in the air altitudes and weather-bound landscapes, nature shows us the way back home; to the nature within us. Through her splendid suns, oceans and moons, she connects us to the five elements within. The five elements – fire, air, space, earth and water that encompass nature also reside within us. The beauty lies in exploring these elements through nature by embracing it fully than being repelled by its challenges. Nature is constantly teaching us. In beautiful ways, nature is healing us through her five elements; also connecting us to the elements within.Nature is also constantly providing us with what we need. These healings and lessons can strike you in the simplest of ways and places. Sometimes they are hidden amongst mountains full of Deodars, Cedars, and Pines or the light at the crack of dawn. In other times, while scrambling over rocks by a ridge, stargazing through a moonlight night, a walk through a blooming; fern-filled forest or a whiff of chilly air atop a mountain.

Warming up to the frozen ‘Chadar’, Zanskar.

One such ancient technique is Yoga Mudras or Gestures. Mudras are specific hand gestures that help regulate the passage of energy i.e. Chi, Reiki or Prana through the body.  In simple terms, it’s yoga with your hands. Mudra science involves elemental exercises that connect you to the five elements within – fire, air, space, earth and water. They work towards balancing the five elements, thereby healing illnesses and diseases caused by imbalances of one or all elements. Here, each finger represents an element. The thumb represents the fire within, the index finger is the air; your breath, the middle finger defines your infinite space, the ring finger is the earth of your being, and the little finger is the water that you are comprised of. By merely connecting these fingers in several combinations can heal and balance your inner universe, which in turn affects your external universe.

Chadar trek: A frozen yet beautiful walk to remember.

Let’s travel through some of my experiences as a passionate traveller and energy healer.  For years, I have been practising these techniques on my adventures across India and other countries. I am a lover of the Himalayas, and life tends to keep me there often. And in the last seven years of living in the Himalayas, practicing Mudras have been an essential part of my daily routine. .In the winters of 2014, I set out for an adventure in the Zanskar region of Ladakh. This trek down the frozen Zanskar River is known as the Chadar .ie. a blanket of ice. On a cold night, the sky mirrored itself over the moon-like river. Parts of which were frozen yet ever flowing with life. The mountains glistened in the moonlight. I sat by my tent, uneasily witnessing the magical show the sky had put up with its full moon and stars. All this mixed up with snow -chilled sore feet yet the trust within that experiencing such magnificence comes with a lot of work and perseverance. The frozen Zanskar river had started to feel like minus forty-five degrees now. That night, the mountains had conspired to rule over the Northfaces, Quechuas, Wildcrafts and Caterpillars of human existence amidst the rawness of nature.  By merely surrendering to it, my healing had already begun. That’ what the Tashis and Tserings guiding me through the trail did. It was the reason why they often smiled through it all.  I walked through the frozen river and its watery patches practicing energy exercises that got me through the rough terrain. To add to my knowledge, one of the Ladakhi porter who was a traditional doctor, enlightened me with some breathing techniques that help one adapt to the harsh conditions.

A glimpse of Point Batian from Point Lenana summit at Mount Kenya.

Another challenging feat was my journey in the African moorlands leading me to the summit of God’s own Mount Kenya. In the dark of the night, I set out for the summit at 1.00 am. So far the African sun had been the only tasking element to bog me down throughout the trek up to the Shipton’s  – the last camp before the summit. That night until morn; Mount Kenya rose to her inner power. On herself, she wore; a blanket of snow. I walked through the dark under her snowy showers. Totally unprepared for the weather, my minimal gears bowed down to her might. I continued to walk up the summit, remembering that it’s her grace that’s challenging as well as healing me. Meditating throughout the trek ensured my energy levels stayed up all the way to the top. Similarly, an eternally parched and steep climb high up Malana village to cross the Chandrakheni pass in Himachal Pradesh, where I couldn’t find a trace of any water body around when my bottle was empty. Practising the yogic mudras helped restore the water balance and kept me energized through the trail. Connecting to these elements within while ascending the robust, wall-like Indrahaar Mountains in the Dauladhars helped me journey over it smoothly. What I was experiencing in the external cosmos was only leading me home; into my inner cosmos. And that we ourselves are nature in form. These are the lessons I carried back home from all my trekking journeys. When in nature, be it. You need not transport yourself to the states of John Krackauer’s ‘Into the wild.  In your journeys, connecting with nature and its elements is simpler than it seems. Let’s see how these simple energetic exercises can assist you on your adventures. After all, healing is in your hands.

The ancient shrine of the goddess at Indrahaar pass, Kangra.

Be the light

The simplest way to connect with nature is to bring yourself to an awareness that everything is energy, including us. Take a moment to feel, absorb and fully appreciate the light, sound, taste and touch of your five senses. Start with a simple exercise. Rub your palms and draw them closer; you will surely feel a ball of energy between your palms. Though it may seem inexpiable in the beginning, but you will gradually begin to feel more connected with regular practice.  Another exercise that helps bring this awareness is Prana Mudra or Life Force gesture. Allowing life force to flow through you without blockages is essential. Joining your ring fingertip and little fingertip to your thumb tip opens the inner gateways and instantly energizes your mind, body and soul with a surge of life force. The Prana mudra aims at activating dormant energy in the body and bringing awareness to the energy that’s constantly flowing through you, under any circumstance. Practice it to breathe fresh air into your life.

Prana Mudra

Stay rooted

The earth of your being lies in your ring finger. Connect to your earth; your existence with the Prithvi Mudra or Earth hand gesture. So while you set your heart on climbing a mountain, ground yourself to the earth with a simple gratitude prayer, asking it to guide and protect you. Grounding helps connect to the earth’s healing energies. Life force is flowing continually through nature and all its living beings.  Relax into the feeling, close your eyes, visualize roots growing out of your feet and connecting deep into the earth. Join your thumb tip to your ring fingertip to form the Prithvi Mudra. This lets you connect with the earth’s energies and also channel its flow into your body. While you walk up a trail, this exercise will ensure that you stay balanced. Whenever you experience instability or fatigue while climbing, this gesture can heal it.

Prithvi Mudra

Hold your space

Reach out for the infinite skies within with the Aakasha Mudra or the Sky Gesture. It helps ‘center’ your energies and nourishes any part of your body that is lacking. Understanding that you are infinite energy in motion lets you unblock the limits you have set for yourself. Beat the high altitude mountain sickness and vertigo blues with the Akaash Mudra. Sit yourself down and join your middle fingertip to your thumb tip while extending other fingers for relief.

Aakasha Mudra

Dive deep into your ocean

Let the rivers and seas within cleanse and energize your body by connecting your thumb tip to your little fingertip. The Varuna Mudra or Water Gesture increases the water element in your body, thereby imbalances caused by lack of water in your body. Performing this mudra increases the water content of the body by suitably affecting the water metabolism. Thus, it helps rehydrate cells, tissues, muscles, skin, joint-cartilage, etc. Since the element water is also associated with tongue and taste, this mudra can be used to overcome disorders like loss of taste-sense, dryness of mouth, dehydration, cell re-hydration, tissues, muscles, skin and joint-cartilage and other water-related disorders. This is your to-go water bottle.

Varuna Mudra

Wake up to the light of your sun

Let the sun of your spirit warm up your journey and bring light. When the cold of the terrain gets tough on you, awaken the sun within through the Surya Mudra by placing your ring fingertip on the base of your thumb and resting the thumb tip on the ring finger. Another easy exercise is forming the Linga Mudra which increases fire and metabolism within. To do this, bring both hands in front of your body and clasp them so that the fingers are intertwined. Ensure that the left thumb is pointing vertically upwards and encircle it with the thumb and index finger of the right hand. These gestures increase the fire element within the body. They help regulate your body heat naturally in the coldest of temperatures. Practicing these mudras can heal you in cases of normally low body-temperatures, the coldness of skin, body, limbs, hands, feet; intolerance to cold, shivering, slow metabolism, obesity, progressive weight-gain, loss of appetite, indigestion, constipation and other such disorders caused by lack of heat. Now who needs those bulky and expensive winter clothing? Here’s to a lighter backpack.

Surya Mudra

Breathe life into you

Connect to your intuition, stay positive and focused on your path with the Gyana mudra by joining your thumb tip to your index fingertip, keeping other fingers straight but relaxed. This gesture connects you to universal life force and helps channelize this energy. Practicing the Gyana Mudra is believed to help instill wisdom and spiritual enlightenment. This is why the Gyana Mudra is widely used in many yogic meditation poses such as Pranayama. Practiced for thousands of years by yogis, it brings peace, calm, expansion of knowledge and spiritual progress.So while you set your eye on the road, let there be light in your adventures.

Gyana Mudra

Keep going

If you feel weak in your knees for any reason but the mesmerizing beauty of the mountains, sit meditatively forming the Vata Naashak mudra with your eyes closed by pressing down your index and middle fingers firmly with your thumb. Hold for three to five minutes and release. This gesture brings vitality, strength and immunity; also reduces bodily heat and metabolism. It helps in treatments of intolerance of cold weather or the wind, emaciation, fatigue, fear and inexplicable weight loss.This gesture heals numbness in the body parts, tremors, shivering, unsteady gait, Parkinson’s, giddiness, vertigo, creaking joints, osteoarthritis, and cold.  So go ahead, shed those inhibitions and climb that mountain fearlessly.

Vata Naashak Mudra

Bring your inhibitions to point zero

An empty self is essential to receive new experiences. Practice the Shoonya Mudra -the zero gesture to bring clarity of mind, eternal bliss and peace. If the cold gets to your ear, heal the pain with Shoonya Mudra by placing your middle fingertip on the base of your thumb. It relieves earache and heals ear disorders. Shoonya mudra heals conditions like vomiting, vertigo, numbness in any part of the body and thyroid problems. On a deeper level, it helps one hear the unheard, one’s inner voice and clears inhibitions. So when what voice inside is calling out to you, just respond with a ‘yes!’

Shoonya Mudra

Tune in and harmonize:

Bring together the tips of all fingers to balance all five elements with Samana Mudra. Regularly practicing this gesture can heal most illnesses in body, mind and spirit. It’s perfect for bringing harmony to your soul.

Samana Mudra

Open your heart

Connect with your heart through the Hridaya Mudra or the heart-opening gesture. Heal all pains and blockages throughout the trek with Hridaya mudra by placing the index finger tip on the base of the thumb and simultaneously bringing together the tips of your middle and ring fingers. The middle and ring fingers relate directly to the meridians connected with the heart while the thumb closes the circuit.  This gesture helps release pent-up emotions and unburden your heart, and emotional conflicts and crisis. So fall in love with that mountain, go to that place you haven’t been before and let in new experiences. An open heart is all you need.

Hridaya Mudra

For some extra love, go and hug the Deodars, Pines or any tree you fancy on the trail or refresh yourself under a spring. Most importantly, breathe fully and let go. Let every inch of nature you feel outside lead you inwards. This universal energy binds all living beings and subsequently is all beings.

Soak in the love of the forest.

We are nature. We are the Deodars and Rhododendrons, growing and expanding in our existence over years. We are deeply rooted to Mother earth, just as the Banyans of this magnificent nature. We are beyond an organic mass of skin, bones and organs.  We are a body full of Chakras set in motion, transforming into petals of joyful creation in this universe. We are as eternal in our existence as every other breathing particle. We are one.  As we step away from our logical perceptions, we can expand into our cosmos. Every inch of us this universe; – the atoms, cells, human beings, the trees, the earth, the sky, the sparkling stars and distant galaxies integrate and function as an all-encompassing body. We are energy. It is constantly flowing like an endless river, changing and transforming into waterfalls to rivulets; enriching ourselves and others in its journey.  It’s the wisdom of the Universe. As we become clearer channels, the awareness of our connection to all things increases. It expands in ways beyond our limited imagination. We understand there is an infinite abundance of energy in the world around us. So climb that mountain you feel drawn to. Open your heart to your sun that lights up your existence. Explore the infinite space within through nature. Let your inner universe find its skies. Let the seas and rivers within flow free as the Amazon, Nile, Zanskar, Chenab and Brahmaputra; deep into your soul. Let the moon of your soul rise through your journeys on our magnificent earth.  May you seek yourself somewhere along a narrow path high up in the mountains.

Chandrakhani Pass, Kullu Valley: Just breathe and embrace the path of mountains at your own pace.

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