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Yoga Has to Be Good For You - Awakening Alchemy

If you’ve previously read any of my articles, you’ll be well aware I am a firm believer in the “holistic” approach to health and wellbeing. There are so many ways to achieve peace and enlightenment and what I like to do is expose my readers to some of the options out there that they may not have considered previously. Yoga is something that for many seems too hard, too physical, and perhaps too time-consuming for them but, in reality, you only need do as much as you feel comfortable with.

Where Did Yoga Come From?

As with so many of the practices we have adopted in the West, yoga came out of the practices of the peoples of ancient India. There is much debate, in the academic world, about the actual origins of the practice but there is consensus that it originated in India probably around 3000BCE. Carved figures, picturing practitioners in various poses have been dated to this period. It was developed as part of the overall purpose of life – achieving enlightenment.

Yoga From History - Awakening Alchemy

The Pushupati Seal

Although most scholars are agreed that the principles of Yoga probably developed during the Vedic period of Indian history, there is some evidence that it may even be earlier. The Pashupati Seal discovered in an earlier Indus Valley civilization, excavation site, depicts a figure in a position that resembles an asana (a Hatha Yoga body posture) used in meditation. Yoga aimed to achieve harmony between the heart and the soul. Incidental to the practice of yoga came the realization that is was especially useful in controlling certain illnesses and diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, and chronic pain.

Backward Stretch Yoga Pose - Awakening Alchemy It is precisely these benefits, perhaps, rather than the search for enlightenment that saw yoga begin to take off in Western civilization toward the middle of the nineteenth century. One of the results of this rise in popularity of yoga in the western world has been the many differing offshoots and schools of practice that have developed. It is important to understand there is no right or wrong way to practice yoga, just different methods and sometimes different sought outcomes from the practice.      

Why is Yoga Useful to Us? 

Yoga can be beautifully dovetailed into a regime of meditation which I believe is an essential part of wellbeing and centering ourselves. I’ve recently had an article on meditation published in the exceptionally fine, FREE Emagazine, called Mom’s Favorite Reads. You can access the magazine and my article on meditation here from SmashWords. Yoga and meditation are intrinsically linked – one complements the other perfectly. But why do yoga at all?

For most people the idea they would have of yoga is that it is (a) physical and therefore helps with your general level of fitness and (b) mental, in that it helps you relax and gain peace of mind as well as allowing you to zone out from the worries of life, at least for a short period.

Group Yoga Benefits - Awakening Alchemy The experts, however, paint a different picture of the benefits of yoga. They would argue that the aim of yoga is to actually transcend those things of the world, meaning to move your consciousness away from the day to day hassles of life and actually discover a higher, more spiritual plane of thinking. They would suggest that other forms of exercise can achieve fitness and mental wellbeing, like running, the spin-bike or lifting weights, whereas yoga is seen as food and exercise for the soul. Whatever the reason for doing Yoga there are definitely some real benefits to be had from it:

  • Increased flexibility
  • Stress relief
  • Circulation improvement
  • A general feeling of wellbeing
  • Physical fitness

Yoga is Great During Pregnancy - Awakening Alchemy Medical reviews, such as one published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology have shown that practicing yoga will reduce the risk of heart disease as much as any of the conventional forms of exercise. On average, people taking part in yoga regularly (weekly) lost five pounds, decreased their blood pressure, and lowered their LDL (Low-density Lipoprotein) Cholesterol – also known as “bad cholesterol” by 12 points. Research is now starting to show many more health benefits of practicing this ancient art, including: controlling obesity, reducing chronic pain, asthma relief, minimizing fatigue and aiding irritable bowel syndrome.

In addition to these findings, neuroscience, using MRI’s (magnetic resonance imaging) of the brain have shown yoga reduces the decline in gray matter brain volume, especially apparent in older people. Interestingly enough, most of this brain protection appears to occur in the left hemisphere, which is the side of the brain most associated with positive emotions and the rest and relaxation response. Perhaps we have finally found the true cause of “grumpy old man and grumpy old woman syndrome”?

It certainly appears there is little to no downside to practicing yoga.         

Yoga's Spiritual Experience - Awakening Alchemy One of the interesting things that Yoga instructors and most students who progress further in the practice have noticed is that their reasons for doing yoga, change over time. What started out initially as a physical activity slowly morphs into a more spiritual and mental activity – a journey of self-discovery, self-actualisation, self-fulfillment, and reflection along with a greater capacity to care for themselves and practice self-love. By reaching back to the very spiritual roots of yoga, people, it seems, actually begin to discover the true purpose for which the practice was developed.

How Do I Get Started on Yoga?

The first thing to remember is it DOES NOT MATTER what age you are or what fitness level you currently have. Clearly, if you are in a major city or town, there may well be a yoga studio available for you to consult and join. If this is not an option, or you feel uncomfortable or shy, training initially with others, you can totally start to learn on your own.

  • Wear comfortable and lose clothing (yoga pants are absolutely not a requirement)
  • Get yourself a non-slip yoga mat
  • Enter the process with an open mind and be prepared to be patient – it takes a little determination but you can do it.
  • Get yourself a quality “beginners” DVD or view a “beginner’s class” on the internet. (YouTube is great for this).  

Some Beginner’s Poses You Can Try: 

  • Yoga Stretching Down - Awakening Alchemy Initially, the key to success is breathing and determination. Don’t give up just because you can’t make the pose shown on your video instruction. Do as much of the pose as your body feels capable of and breathe, always breathe, through the nose, filling your belly and keeping your body relaxed and controlled. 
  • Sit on the floor in a relaxed, easy position with your legs crossed and your back and neck straight.
  • Concentrate on your breathing – regular, slow, peaceful breaths. 
  • Once you are relaxed, stand up straight and stretch your arms as high above your head as you feel able to comfortably – breathing evenly all the time.
  • Exhale as you reach down to the ground. (Don’t get discouraged if you can’t touch the ground initially – just go as far as you feel comfortable without straining yourself).  

Once you feel good with this, you’re ready to move onto a few beginner exercises which will be on your DVD or your YouTube Channel you are watching. 

One thing that is known to put off newcomers is when they see an expert twisted into some “pretzel-like” shape and they immediately say: “OMG! I can’t ever do anything like that – what’s the point of trying?” Like I said earlier – patience and determination and who knows what you can achieve in the future.

Finally, a couple of beginner poses for you to try that absolutely will not send you running to a chiropractor or requiring your partner to call an ambulance to take you off to the emergency room to be untangled.    

Cat-Cow:

A great pose for stretching the back and abdomen.

  • Cat-Cow On Your Knees - Awakening Alchemy Begin on your hands and knees, with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees in line with your hips.
  • Keep your spine flat, like a table – the neutral spine.
  • Keep your neck in line with your spine. Don’t lift it up or drop it down.
  • As you inhale, drop your belly toward the floor and look up. Curl your toes under if this helps you reach the stretch.
  • As you exhale, pull your spine toward the ceiling, rounding your back. Your head will drop down and you can focus on your navel. The tops of your feet will lay flat against the floor.
  • Repeat this action as you continue inhaling and exhaling, working on your breath.

Downward-Facing Dog:

Another really easy yoga pose, to start with.

  • Yogas's Downward Facing Dog - Awakening Alchemy Begin on your knees, as with the Cat-Cow pose, your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  • As you breathe in, push your hips toward the ceiling, straighten your legs and place your feet flat on the ground.
  • When your legs are straight, spread out your fingers and let your head hang down between your arms. Use your quadriceps (thigh muscles) to take the pressure off your arms.
  • Once you are in position, continue working on keeping your breathing steady and rhythmical.

 

So, there we have the basics of yoga. I hope I’ve excited you enough to give it a try. Always remember two things:

  1. Nobody (and I mean nobody) cares what you look like at the moment. It’s none of their business, anyway and they, like you, all started somewhere. Everyone will be impressed with one thing – that you are giving it a go. So, don’t be afraid to try.
  2. Like everything worth having in life, it takes time, practice, and determination to achieve the tangible results you are looking for, so don’t be discouraged. I can promise you, though, if you try yoga and apply it diligently, you will start to see the incremental benefits very quickly.

Yoga Takes You Out Of This World - Awakening Alchemy There are a ton of resources out there to help you (thank goodness for the internet!) so don’t be afraid to look and if you join a structured yoga class – don’t be afraid to ask for help. We’re all ultimately seeking the same thing.

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Finally, today, please do pop on over to the section of my website that highlights my Visionary Fiction “whodunit” mystery, Spirit of Prophecy, which incorporates many of the ideas and philosophies discussed in my blog into a fast-paced, fictional, thriller. I know you’ll enjoy it. You can find that here:

Spirit of Prophecy is Magical - Awakening Alchemy

Till Next Time I’m Sending: Peace and Light

 

 

Why Is Self-Love Important? Banner - Awakenoing Alchemy

Welcome back to a new month. We hope you enjoyed our voyage of discovery into the amazing world of crystals last month. This month we will be tackling an incredibly important and fascinating subject in our mental, physical and spiritual development and growth as individuals – that of self-love. We will look at defining self-love and its importance to our lives. We will also look at some of the impediments to successful self-love and how to overcome them, plus we will touch on some practical steps you can put in place to achieve a satisfactory level of self-love and finally we will look at self-love as a “way of life”, particularly as how it applies to “new thought” doctrines.

What is Self-Love?

Perhaps it’s best if we start by defining what self-love is NOT:

Self-love is NOT narcissism and self-love is NOT arrogance, NOR overbearing pride.

Shadow Woman Making Herat With Her Hands - Awakening Alchemy Self-love is analogous to self-care and many people prefer to use the term self-care precisely because of those negative connotations that are sometimes ascribed to the term, self-love. However, whatever you call it self-love can best be summed up in the following affirmation: “self-love is the understanding and belief that I am a unique human being with talents and abilities that nobody who has ever lived or will ever live, possesses. I am worthy of love, I am worthy of respect and I am the equal of any person, anywhere.”

That definition may sound a bit daunting to those of us who suffer from self-doubt or consider ourselves innately shy and reticent but trust me – “you are an incredible human being who is blessed and talented”. We all are, which is why self-love is important to our own self-esteem and beliefs.

If you have doubts – well, let’s just listen, for a minute, to some of the greatest leaders, teachers and visionaries who ever walked the earth and really absorb what they are saying about YOU:

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”

Buddha (Leader of Buddhism)

 

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson (American Lecturer, Essayist & Philosopher)

 

“If you don’t love yourself, nobody will. Not only that, you won’t be good at loving anyone else. Loving starts with the self.”

Wayne Dyer (New Thought Author)

 

“Drop the idea of becoming someone, because you are already a masterpiece. You cannot be improved. You only have to come to it, to realise it.”

Osho Rajneesh (Indian Spiritual Leader)

 

Maya Angelou Quote: Love Liberates - Awakening Alchemy “You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anyone.”

Maya Angelou (American poet, writer and activist)

 

 

For me, personally, the whole concept of self-love is perfectly encapsulated in a quote from Rhonda Byrne in her seminal work, The Secret:

“Treat yourself the way you want to be treated by others … love yourself and you will be loved.”

Why is Self-Love Important:  

As each year passes, life it seems gets busier and busier. We live in the age of technology, of labour-saving devices, of instant communication and yet, somehow, we seem to have less and less time to devote to the most important thing in our lives – ourselves. How many of you reading this are nodding your heads, sagely and thinking, “yep, you got that right, for sure”. Whether it is our work, our partner, our children, our community groups, our commitments to others, we seem to have little or no ability to spend time with ourselves and more importantly, time to love and pamper ourselves.

Quote: Love Is All You Need - Awakening Alchemy Self-love, or self-care, if you prefer, is critical to our physical, mental and spiritual health and yet we invariably CHOOSE to put it at the bottom of our priority list. Why is that? Are we not important enough to put ourselves at the top of our priority list? The truth is – many of us think we are not and I’ll go into why that is so and how to overcome these impediments in our next blog on this topic, however, for now it is important to understand that we are the ones making the CHOICE to ignore our own needs for the needs of others – we are the ones who control our own lives and yet we choose not to and do so at our peril.

Even from the standpoint of putting others in our lives first, self-love is critical. How can we be effective and helpful to our employers, our family, our partner and everyone else in our life if we neglect our own health and well-being? Not taking care of ourselves leaves us depleted, ineffective and lacking energy. What good are we to others in that condition? When we are physically, mentally or spiritually exhausted we struggle to keep our relationships fresh, healthy and vibrant. Over time this will chip away at our self-esteem and confidence.

Simply put, self-love means accepting who you are, completely and fully, always aware that you are a unique, vibrant and special human being who has much to offer to the world. By treating yourself with kindness and respect, you truly will begin to grow, mature and develop that self-esteem and confidence you always dreamed of having. People with confidence and self-esteem don’t get given it by others, it comes from within – the power is inside of you.

What many people fail to grasp about self-love is that it isn’t just about “pampering” yourself – taking yourself out for a treat or giving yourself a bonus (although those are good things in their own right), no, self-love goes much deeper than the surface and deeper than those things of this world. Self-love encompasses what you think about yourself – your thoughts and beliefs about who you are and what you are. If you are continually complaining to yourself about your body shape, or comparing yourself, detrimentally, to others, you are not practicing self-love. When someone “burns” you with a nasty comment about your body, your looks, your intelligence, your work performance, or just your mere existence as a human being – it hurts, right? It damages you, right? Well it shouldn’t and here’s why: What anyone thinks or says about you is irrelevant – it’s just their opinion and you shouldn’t give a toss about what they think of you. The only thing that really matters is what you think of yourself.

Picture of Former First Lady: Eleanor Roosevelt - Awakening Alchemy “No one can make you feel inferior, without your consent.”

Eleanor Roosevelt (American First Lady)

Loving yourself and believing in yourself doesn’t mean you will always feel positive about yourself. We all have self-doubts creeping in from time to time as that pernicious little gremlin in our heads (our ego) keeps reminding us of our past failures and our past beliefs. No, feeling temporarily angry, upset, or disappointed with yourself doesn’t mean you don’t love yourself anymore. I mean, you get angry with your children or your partner from time to time but do you stop loving them? Of course not! And the same applies to yourself. What we need to do is to cultivate an environment and a meticulous habit of loving ourselves.

The Mental-Health Benefits of Self-Love:

We live in a fast-paced world that often seems scary and out of control. It is so easy to allow ourselves to be sucked into the vortex of despair and fear that the events around us seem to be conspiring to create. Our mental health can suffer dramatically because of this – we only need to look at the suicide and attempted suicide rates worldwide to realise that, for many, this world has simply become too hard for them to cope with.

World Health Organisation Logo - Awakening Alchemy The World Health Organisation presents us with some incredibly sobering statistics: They estimate that approximately one million people commit suicide every single year – that’s a global mortality rate of 16 people per 100,000 or one death every 40 seconds – horrifying, isn’t it? Worse, they predict that by 2020 it will be one death every 20 seconds.

  • In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide.
  • Suicide is now one of the top three leading cause of death for both sexes aged: 15-44.
  • Suicide attempts are estimated at 20 times more frequent than completed suicides.
  • Mental health disorders (particularly depression and substance abuse) are associated with more than 90% of all suicide cases.

As a world-wide society we are becoming sicker and the reason, to me, is fairly obvious: As a people, in the pursuit of some overarching societal expectations and goals, we have completely forgotten to love ourselves first and foremost and to follow our own dreams, goals and desires. Simply put – we’ve forgotten to “follow our bliss”. (Much more about this in later blogs)

Simple Practical Steps to Achieve Self-Love:

(I’ll go into this in much greater detail in Blog Three of this series, but for now, I’ll just give you some food for thought on how you can begin this journey to self-love).

  • Silhouette of Two People Jumping For Joy at Sunset -  Awakening Alchemy Say positive things to yourself (“I am unique – I am amazing”)
  • Forgive yourself if you mess up (We all mess up – we shouldn’t unduly berate ourselves over it)
  • Prioritize your own health and well-being (Put your own oxygen mask on first)
  • Don’t let others take advantage of you (Your time is as precious as theirs)
  • Don’t let people denigrate you (Don’t respond – just laugh and walk away)
  • Spend time around positive, supportive people (You are the sum of your five best friends)
  • Ask for help, if you need it (It’s not weak to ask for help – it’s strong)
  • If you hurt someone – apologise (An apology is NEVER a sign of weakness)
  • Let go of anger and never hold a grudge (Anger hurts you – never the person you are angry at!)
  • Treat yourself occasionally (especially healthy treats – you deserve them!)
  • Accept that you are not perfect and love yourself anyway

I’ll finish today with one of the best quotes I know to sum up this whole area of self-love, self-care, self-belief, and self-esteem. It’s a quote from Richard P Feynman, an American theoretical physicist who was part of the Manhattan Project which developed the first nuclear bomb.

“You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.” 

Next week we will look, in much more depth, at the impediments to self-love. What stops us from achieving what I hope you will now agree is an important level – the ability to love ourselves, in all our uniqueness and all our flaws? You won’t want to miss that.

If you enjoyed this Blog and would like to read more spiritual and metaphysical issues plus lots more besides, please do join our website and you will receive a notice whenever a new blog is posted, as well as special promotions and the opportunity to win prizes. We will never spam you, though. You can join here:

If you liked what you read here, please do check out our previous blogs. The last four can be found here:

You may also wish to avail yourself of our fantastic FREE report: 3 Proven Ways to Pull More Prosperity to You in 30 Days. You can grab your copy of this here:

Finally, today, please do pop on over to the section of my website that highlights my Visionary Fiction “whodunit” mystery, Spirit of Prophecy, which incorporates many of the ideas and philosophies discussed in my blog into a fast-paced, fictional, thriller. I know you’ll enjoy it. You can find that here:

Quote: Think It, Believe It, Do It - Awakening Alchemy

Till Next Time I’m Sending: Peace and Light