What are the health benefits of yoga?

NHS England lists the health benefits of yoga. Benefits include improving your strength, flexibility and balance, and I know from experience that yoga helps in weight management. I’d like to describe some other health benefits I’ve noticed too.

While under lockdown, yoga was instrumental in helping me achieve a sense of peace. If you’ve ever felt the knots of anxiety, for any reason, yoga can ameliorate those symptoms, and help you regain your appetite for food. Anxiety always seems to ruin my appetite, but exercises like yoga always make me hungry!

I took online classes with theselflovehub.co.uk and learning new postures was both humbling and rewarding. It felt good to follow the instructions of a more experienced practitioner. You’re never too old to learn!

During lockdown, I didn’t have much space to practice yoga at home. If you practice in a small space like I did, you can’t help but improve your balance. At one point I was exercising at the end of my bed while gyms were closed.

Yoga in a small space helped me to focus on my balance

Today I took time out of my day to practice some yoga. Usually I speed through the postures, but today I decided to slow down.

As it turns out, this is a good idea because the slower you move through the postures, the longer you hold each stretch. This means you can go further into the stretch, and develop your skill in each posture.

NHS England reports studies have shown yoga to be beneficial for stress and depression and I can understand why. Yoga is quite meditative in nature, because it’s quite difficult so it focuses the mind. I know practicing yoga helped me to stop smoking cigarettes years ago too, and that’s a less talked about health benefit.

Finally, yoga classes can be really funny, especially when you join in with the spirit of being a learner driver. I still haven’t mastered the headstand, but that’s the thing, there’s always something to aim for in yoga, and that keeps me hopeful.

Today’s yoga video at a much slower pace

I set an intention of peace today 🧘‍♀️

They do advise you suck your tummy in while doing yoga, something I’m working on 🧘‍♀️.

Podcast: Under The Skin with Russell Brand

Unless you’ve been living under a rock since the noughties, you will have heard of the comedian Russell Brand, but have you heard of Russell Brand the meditation expert, or Russell Brand the educational podcaster?

Under the Skin on Luminary

Russell podcasts at Under The Skin on Luminary and they’re great shows to listen to at home while you’re pottering, driving, or out and about exercising.

My favourite recent episodes featured 12 Rules for Life’s Jordan Peterson, addiction expert and novelist Gabor Mate discussing the recent crisis in the Middle East, and today I listened to former trapeze artist, and Bitcoin YouTuber Andrei Jikh, answer Russell’s complex questions on Bitcoin, cryptocurrency and mining.

I walked 10,000 steps in an effort to tighten my belt as Andrei Jikh explained how I could live as a bitcoin fat cat. Not really, but Bitcoin could be a viable alternative currency to help third world countries compete economically on the global stage.

Luminary is available for a 30 days for free then the subscription fee is about £29 for a full year, and you can pay monthly. It feels right to support this artist with a Luminary subscription, especially given the amount of free content that’s available on his YouTube channels.

He’s also a Shakespeare fan and I’m curious to see the live streamed event on live-now.com on July 14 2021. “Our Little Lives: Shakespeare and Me” in July. Especially because I grew up in Warwickshire.

Book review: How to Make Money Online, Mark Nelson, Audiobook

A short and sweet audiobook full of potential online business ideas 💡

This Audible book is available for £3.23 and is short and sweet.

There are 21 chapters, each one describing ways you can earn money online with little to no experience, but it helps.

Narrated by a man called Derek, I did wonder if we would dip into wheeler dealer territory, like Only Fools and Horses, but all the methods in this Audible book are totally legit.

Cherry pick the chapters of interest

It’s recommended at the start that you pay attention to the chapters that interest you. There are no quick fixes, any online methods of earning a living take time and hard work, the same way any business does. That’s why choosing something interesting is best.

Here are a few of the good ideas

  • affiliate marketing,
  • stock market investing,
  • real estate investing,
  • freelance writer,
  • freelance designer,
  • information websites,
  • running a blog.

All of these chapters were interesting, and while there wasn’t much new to learn for me personally from the freelance writer chapter, it did encourage me.

The stock market investing chapter is worth a listen because I’ve never really understood any of that. If you ever saw the TV show The Day Today, a spoof news programme like Not the 9 o’clock News, the stock market numbers were always hilarious, and bewildering.

If you’d like a quick lowdown on good ways to earn a living online, I recommend this book. It won’t break the bank and it might spark something within you, like it has for me.

I am not an affiliate for this book, I just thought it was good.

Grateful for a quiet space for today’s Yoga practice with a peace intention

It is still quiet at my gym, giving me more space than usual to workout, something I never take for granted. I resorted to doing yoga on the landing and in the small space at the end of my bed during lockdown.

I set my intention for today’s practice as peace, and as much peace as the world needs. I hope you have somewhere quiet and ethereal you can escape to from the busy- ness of life today too.

Black and white yoga video for serenity

A quiet yoga practice today with a peace intention

Now is a good time to join a gym if you ask me, because they are so quiet. I have a feeling it won’t be like this for long.

Life is short, why don’t you do that thing you wanted to do?

Pastel drawing of flowers

Of all the self help books I’ve read, there’s a golden thread of truth running through all of them. The importance of making the time to do things that you truly enjoy doing.

It doesn’t matter if you love scuba diving, petting cats and dogs, walking in wildlife and bird watching, collecting fossils or spare parts for a vintage car you’ll never finish, drawing sketches that noone will buy, or telling jokes noone finds funny, apart from mum (thanks mum), whatever you enjoy, make time to do those things.

The time is nigh

I know, it sounds obvious doesn’t it. I have to earn a living, I haven’t got time etc, but if you’ve got time to read this blog post then you’ve got time to think of something you would rather be doing instead.

I used to love art at school but I gave it up after a B at GCSE level. I didn’t think I was good enough to pursue art academically or as a career, but now I realise, so what? I enjoy making art, end of story. So today I splashed out on a sketch book and pastels.

I am inspired by Impressionists like Manet
Thus one is inspired by Sunflowers by Van Gogh

Book review: The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama

Hope is totally audacious. Forgive me, it was Bill and Ted day on Twitter the other day, yet I suspect Obama would be an advocate for “being excellent to each other.”

Published in 2006 before his 2008 election as the 44th POTUS, this book is a well written insight into the mind of a politician who believes strongly in the American Dream for every American.

Barack Obama explains his views on policies and contentious issues

This book tackles all kinds of policies and doesn’t shy away from heavy topics like faith, racism and the war and American military occupation in Iraq. Politicians visiting Afghanistan, as Barack did, can expect a bumpy landing.

Yet even though the author is writing about complex ideas, the book is an easy read, all credit to the writer. I found myself understanding laissez-faire economics, the correlation between Conservative Christians and family values, the Republican grassroots movements, and the challenges Democrats face in being prochoice for abortion, as Obama is.

Barack Obama sees off a political opponent who stooped low

Obama’s Christianity was trolled by a political opponent, who said “Christ wouldn’t vote for Obama”, the first time he admitted feeling annoyed by an opponent, forcing him to keep his cool in public debates. Again, Barack Obama is very relatable.

He certainly displays family values with a successful marriage and two daughters who keep his feet firmly on the ground. His opponent naturally lost.

Read this if you’re interested in American culture or politics

There is so much good to write about in this book, and I finished it feeling smarter than before, having filled many gaps in my knowledge. The founding fathers are present, references to FDR, Lincoln, Reagan, Bush I and II, Clinton, Jefferson, the book just *feels* presidential, so in hindsight, I can see that he was clearly on the right trajectory in 2006.

You also gain a sense of the man he was before becoming President and honestly, its obvious how much this man loves his country.

Because when it comes to a choice of faith, hope or love, the greatest is love.

BetterPoints App can turn your workouts and dog walks into donations

What if I told you that you could be paid by an App for your dog walking? Your cycling, high street shopping, workout, or any outdoor activity? (keep it clean, folks).

Not only that, you can donate your points to good causes too! I’m not an affiliate marketer for this App, I just think it’s a nice idea.

Download the BetterPoints App from GooglePlay or the AppStore.

Scan the QR code on your gym equipment or workout outside and the geotracker tracks your activity.
Choose from local challenges to participate in.

Your activity is then converted into points.

You can convert your points into:

  • High Street vouchers to treat yourself to some new gym threads, for example.
  • A High Street voucher gift to a cause or person of your choice.
  • Donate your points to a good cause.

It’s a cool way to motivate yourself isn’t it?

Go to the App Store or Google Play and search for BetterPoints. I’m going to use this App as motivation to exercise.

What I know about comedy would fit into one blog post

Smile, it might never happen

Watching Victoria Wood singing “Beat me on the bottom with a Woman’s Weekly” was a highlight of my childhood.

Comedians I admire talk about the subjective nature of comedy. One man’s wince is another man’s lol. I’ve seen more than one comedian get it wrong- my own vain attempts included. 

Read all about it 

I prefer reading funny things to writing them in all honesty. It’s therapeutic. Comedy is great for mental health because who doesn’t need a good laugh now and then? Comedy should be prescribed by the NHS because “laughter is the best medicine.”

But, there is a fine line between being laughed with, to laughed at, isn’t there. I know The X Factor auditions, for example, at some point started to feel like vulnerable people were being made to look silly. 

Although, equally, some contestants were deluded in their level of ability and had a bad attitude, so perhaps being made to look silly brought them down a peg or two? In which case, fair enough. Life has a tendency to keep our egos in check, doesn’t it.

The Nice is Right

When I write my reviews I try to “accentuate the positive” and “eliminate the negative” because in my experience, it’s so much harder to create something than to write about someone else’s work. Something I’ve learnt from writing reviews.

I have also learnt to walk away from the table when respect is no longer being served.

Book review: “Stop Thinking, Start Living” by Richard Carlson

Is it me or are self help book titles becoming ruder? I saw my brother in law yesterday, and told him about this book I’m reading; “Stop Thinking, Start Living.” He enjoys the self help genre too, and his current tome is called “How to get your shit together.”

“That’s a bit harsh Dave” I said. He says it’s one in a series of three books, the other two presumably called “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” And “Why are you so fucking shit?”

It’s not about procrastination

With a title like “Stop Thinking, Start Living” I was expecting a meditation on procrastination, the art of overthinking being the enemy to action, à la Hamlet. But it isn’t. It’s about positive thinking and it has a handful of key points that it repeats to hammer home the message.

It’s all about how to achieve happiness in the present moment, because the present is all we have. Here are the techniques Richard Carlson prescribes:

-live in the present moment, allow thoughts of the past to come and go without attachment

-don’t analyse bad experiences 

-catch your negative thoughts and dismiss or change them

-stop believing you would be happier if certain extraneous circumstances were met e.g. “I’d be happier if I got that dream job”, “I’d be happy if I had loadsa money” , “I’d be happy if I had bigger tits”, etc

-forgive the bad stuff that’s happened.

-gratitude, gratitude and more gratitude. For everything.

Oh brother

Discussing the finer points of self help with my brother in law, I told him I still felt bad my effort to start a business last year belly flopped and landed embarrassingly in the shallow end in front of all the cool kids.

His sage words were that at least I had the balls to try. That life is about failure and about how you pick yourself up and dust yourself down, and try again. With my nephews in earshot, I know he’s right, and I want them to see that too. 

Then we had a chat about David Bowie, we’re both fans. I mean, self help books are great and everything, but have you ever spent an afternoon listening to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, man?

Whiling away an afternoon

“Selected Poems” by Rumi are pure joy

Rumi was a Sufi and founder of the Whirling Dervishes, who wear gowns and spin ceremoniously to connect with God

I’ve read a lot of topical books lately, so for a palette cleanser, I’m reading Selected Poems by Rumi, the 13th century mystic and Persian poet, translated by Colman Barks, a Professor of English at the University of Georgia, Athens.

“The lover wakes and whirls in a dancing joy, then kneels down in praise”

Rumi

Rumi’s poetry is timeless, using nature, faith, God and love as reference points. Opening with poems on the theme of tavernas and drinking, “Whoever brought me here will have to take me home” could be a Country & Western song, or dare I say, a Morrissey lyric. “This drunkenness began in some other tavern. When I get back around to that place, I’ll be completely sober.”

He contemplates the limits of language and poetry in “A Thirsty Fish”, but I don’t know why, because his language is so effective even though he prefers the divine; “I have a thirsty fish in me, that can never find enough of what it’s thirsty for” …. “when I finish a poem, a great silence overcomes me, and I wonder why I ever thought to use language.”

“Quietness” is a comforting call to end one way of life and be reborn in a new one, metaphorically.

“Inside this new love, die. Your way begins on the other side. Become the sky, Take an axe to the prison wall Escape.”

Quietness, Rumi

“Spring” is seasonal and makes use of allegorical elements; it’s one of my favourites. 

“Again, the violet bows to the lily. Again, the rose is tearing off her gown! The green ones have come up from the other world, tipsy like the breeze up to new foolishness…”

Spring, Rumi

Rumi muses on the foolishness of love, and concerns himself with spiritual matters, so in many ways he is aloof to carnal desires. 

“I would love to kiss you. The price of kissing is your life. Now my living is running toward my life shouting. What a bargain, let’s buy it.”

Rumi

Parable poems

Then there are parable poems. Stories with a moral message, such as “Muhammad and the Huge Eater”, a message about gluttony, and the fabulously titled, “Sexual Urgency, What a Woman’s Laughter Can Do, and the Nature of True Virility” which is a parable about fidelity.

The nature of love

I love the sentiment of “The Vigil” where Rumi prompts us all to pull an all-nighter : “Don’t go to sleep one night. What you want most will come to you then….One night Moses stayed awake and asked, and saw a light in a tree….Muhammad rode his horse through the night sky. The day is for work. The night is for love.”

A light in a tree

Warnings for lovers

Ofcourse, you can become drunk on love; in “Each Note” he warns, “Advice doesn’t help lovers! An intellectual doesn’t know what the drunk is feeling! Don’t try to figure out what those lost inside love will do next!” There is a similar feel to “Music Master”

“Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.”

Music Master, Rumi

There are some great observations of human nature. Rumi was a spiritual man, but he understood the base nature of mankind’s emotions and actions:

For instance, wanting and needing are two different animals.

“I plot to get what I want and end up in prison. I dig pits to trap others and fall in. I should be suspicious of what I want.”

Who Makes These Changes? Rumi

Of course we all face judgement eventually “On Resurrection Day”, when:

“your body testifies against you. Your hand says, “I stole money.” Your lips, “I said meanness.” Your feet, “I went where I shouldn’t.” Your genitals, “Me too.”

On Resurrection Day, Rumi

“Like This” is both spiritual and loving, and considers the beauty of love not the carnal nature of it:

“When someone mentions the gracefulness of the night sky, climb up on the roof, and dance and say, Like this? When someone asks what it means to “die for love,” point here. If someone asks how tall I am, frown and measure with your fingers the space between the creases in your forehead. This tall.”

Like This, Rumi

Morality and judgment

There are messages of profoundness on the nature of soul and how to rid ourselves of faults; in “Childhood friends” two friends talk candidly, one of them is Joseph from the Bible- the technicolor dream coat Joseph. He gives his friend a gift.

“I brought you a mirror. Look at yourself and remember me….Whoever sees clearly what’s diseased in himself begins to gallop on the way…. put your vileness up to a mirror and weep.”

Childhood Friends, Rumi

Metaphorically speaking….

A parental advisory sticker is needed for “The Importance of Gourdcrafting” about a woman’s amorous encounter with a donkey, although in fairness it’s in a chapter titled “Rough Metaphors.”

By stark contrast, the next chapter features “Jesus on the Lean Donkey” a parable about a sleeping man – a snake sneaks into his mouth. Jesus, witnessing this, forces him to eat rotten apples, and beats him until he’s so full of rotten apples, he vomits up the snake.

The man realising why Jesus beat him, is hugely grateful. Jesus in the poem says

“If I described the enemy that lives inside men, even the most courageous would be paralyzed. No one would go out, or do any work. No one would pray or fast, and all power to change would fade from human beings.”

Jesus on the Lean Donkey, Rumi

Connection with the Divine

It was Plato who said that at the touch of love every man becomes a poet. In Rumi’s world, I’d say it was the touch of God.

His philosophy is that we are guardians of our bodies and not to be troubled by emotions, because we are like a “Guest House”, “Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”

“I don’t care if you’re dead! Jesus is here, and he wants to resurrect somebody!”

Rumi
In December 1273 when Rumi died, representatives of every major religion came to his funeral. In the midst of the crusades and violent sectarian conflict, he said “I go into the Muslim mosque and the Jewish Synagogue and the Christian church and I see one altar.”