When a Yoga Posture becomes Uncomfortable

Eckhart Tolle explains beautifully that the pose is not a yoga posture until it becomes uncomfortable. This I have found to be very true and like many I had my resistance to this notion at first, but like I was reminded just the other day learning is painful until it has been learnt and when one becomes familiar and comfortable with what they have learnt it is no longer painful or uncomfortable.

What is then being suggested is that at the point of the yoga posture becoming uncomfortable a student is then beginning the beautiful journey of learning and because we are talking about yoga we are talking about self discovery to.

Why is it uncomfortable discovering YOU? Well your going to have to practice to find out the real answer to that question, but the key is not to get caught up in your concept of uncomfortable and painful and instead let go of your analytical mind for a moment and surrender to the experiences that you are having whilst practicing.

Simple but not easy, it’s simple to practice, but its not easy to let go of the internal chatter and that internal chatter can and often does get in the way of a regular practice, when we stop practicing due to the uncomfortable nature of our practice we loose the very essence of why we begun a practice in the first place.

I was curious and I have continued to be so and this has guided me well through my practice because rather than running away from the uncomfortable elements of practice I was curious what would happen if I persevered and carried on.

The first thing to note here, is that you soon realise the ego can get very inflated by forcing your way through an uncomfortable posture, which you come through the other side thinking you have mastered, but have actually only just begun to play with, if you continue to force your way through your practice eventually you will burn out and give up, you can only force something for so long before it gives way and this gives birth to the profound nature of surrender.

When a student allows themselves to be comfortable with the uncomfortable true transformation and growth becomes possible because you are no longer forcing anything, you are no longer trying to escape anything (when forcing you are trying to hold on until the end) when you surrender you simply accept the nature of existence in that moment, the comfortable and uncomfortable and if you truly surrender then even duality dissolves and all thats left IS, but lets stay with duality and focus on accepting both comfortable and uncomfortable for now.

To get to this level of acceptance and surrender a student must master observation, as an observer you can honestly view your reactions free from judgement and you can notice the sensations of force and the sensation of surrender when in an uncomfortable posture. When you practice you can ask yourself how does it feel to accept myself in this posture right now? If your patient with your practice the answer will come, if you will the answer to arrive you will not be paying attention when it does, hence you are an observer and a creator in the practice, but absolute knowing does not come from thought alone.

Like I said the true learning lies in the practice, Sri K Patthabi Jois once said ‘do your practice and all is coming.’ Practice now in the realms of the uncomfortable and let go, surrender to the experience free from attachment or expectation and be as curious about the journey as possible, willing yourself to be an honest observer of your practice.

I am personally very passionate about this exploration because once you transfer this way of practicing from the Yoga studio and into your everyday life true magic, transformation and growth happens. The Yoga studio is only a training centre, your life is where you apply your tools you have trained on in the studio.

To you all in great health

Matt

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Crisp Morning – Training in the Cold

I awake at 5.35am, I do what most do as the alarm on my phone wakes me from my slumber, I press snooze, the hope of eternal comfort is present in that action of pressing snooze and yet the adventure that waits in the midst of that cold mornings chill is to great for me to remain snuggled.

When I’m up I’m an up kinda of person, this maybe an advantage I’m not sure it’s always been my operating system and so I have little to compare it to, however I see the struggle that others face upon waking and I know I do not share those same battles, me I’m ready, I could if absolutely required to run a marathon 5 minutes after getting out of bed and with absolutely no need for either coffee or breakfast, no gloating here I’m simply painting a picture of my waking state.

Hot chocolate with roasted dandelion root, cloves, chai spices and some molasses to sweeten, all prepped and ready in my flask for after my mornings cold training antics, there is nothing quite like the sensation of a warm liquid running through a chilled system to heat the core and get you back to balance, needless to say I never leave home without it.

Standing on the jetty as it protrudes into the sea with a stary sky above and a chill in the air similar to as if you were standing outside in a ski resort, whilst the world around you is asleep apart from the gentle lapping of the seas water upon the shore all is quiet and still, it is in these moments I loose my breath and thoughts.

I must focus inwards and focus using the medium of surrender and not force, I must calm my fears and explore my curiosity, my curiosity of being at complete ease with the cold. I work through a QI Gong practice and after I sit for three rounds of deep breathing, my hands always the coldest part of me take the most convincing that what I’m about to do is a good idea.

This morning I marry focus with determination and intention, I am determined and focused to embrace the cold sea with the intention of completely embracing and accepting all experiences and dissolving all resistance.

I am in my shorts and the soft breeze offers the first blow to my determined will, I hum loudly to channel heat energy through my core and chest and leave through my breath, I slow my breathing down and with it my heart rate. I step into the sea and sink into my hips holding horse stance for a minute or so, I roar at this point and focus on my internal fire and strength then I smile to release the tension, I slow my breath and ease into the cold calm sea.

It’s electrifying, it’s nerve rattling cold, it penetrates deeper and at an awesome pace than I had anticipated. My toes and fingers begin to feel numb and my whole body feels as if sandwiched between to beds of nails, but the gaze upon the red and orange rising sun and the shimmer of light upon the seas surface offered calm and warmth, I breathed in and as I breathe out I sink beneath the sea, the rush of cold around my head and down my back was both nerving and transcendent as if existing in another reality different to the one I’m normally in.

I stay close to the breath and maintain a slow rythmn, sensation surprisingly returns to my extremities and now I even begin to feel the pulse in both my liver and stomach and whilst this to is a nerving experience I also felt very powerful and comfortable and the more I relaxed the greater the energy I received and felt.

Returning to clothes is no easy feat and I must maintain this calm and focus, it’s all to easy at this point to get complacent. The key here is focus on nothing other than the small task your are doing at that moment, don’t stop with your task keep going and before you know it your dressed.

Once dressed the greatest battle with pain commences, on the one hand you have completed your training and you relax into your warm clothing, however as these scenarios combine your body goes through a sometimes unforgiving transition, as circulation returns and flow picks up the discomfort one feels can be very intense, I have stood in a warm shower for 10 minutes before to readjust, however now I’m practicing surrender and relaxation I have noticed my bodily functions have been either not affected at all or return back to normal much quicker than before.

Tea time, ahhhhhh, that magical moment, the sun has risen, the body is feeling amazing, the mind is awake, the soul invigorated and now that brown golden warm liquid runs from the tip of your tongue to your belly and dances the dance of pure ecstasy.

I have found you can force your self to overcome obstacles and challenges, but if you embrace them and go with the flow free from expectation and attachment then the journey is that little bit sweeter.

To you all in great adventure.

Matt

Comfort – a grand disillusion 

This may take some time to digest so make yourself comfy and empty your mind.

The pursuit of happiness could just as well be called the pursuit of comfort, we could also throw in security and safety if we wanted to, but let’s keep it simple and maintain our focus on comfort or the illusion of.

It was written somewhere that we often meet our destiny on the path we take to avoid it.

That being the case, why would we avoid our destiny? Others say that one must be brave enough to first hear there calling and then more so to act upon it. One man who recently experienced success in his art was asked how he foresaw this coming of his dream, he simply replied I visualise my destiny, then I’m brave enough to speak it and when the opportunity arises I take it.

It is easy for a critic to be critical of others work, but no one remembers the critic, it’s easy to doubt and it has been written; that those who believe it’s impossible should not get in the way of those making it possible.

The common theme being painted here is simple. If it’s worth doing it’s not going to be easy and the sooner you get to grips with that then the sooner you can move from your current place of inertia and towards your destiny.

Every morning I face a battle with comfort, my bed is comfy, the warmth that a bed offers is tempting, but when I overcome those temptations I rise and go on a daily life adventure to the sea.

Today she was stormy, the sky was full of stars and a rain cloud was moving in. She crashed her waves into the sea front with speed and power and yet as I watched in a meditative state everything slowed down, you could see the rise and fall, you could see the old receding wave join the new approaching wave, you could see the single drops of water flying through the air before it rejoins the sea.

Most people these days give in to the comfort of an ordinary life missing there calling to being extraordinary, everyday a new experience is awaiting those who are willing to put comfort to one side and embrace the uncomfortable. The more you do this, the greater you connect with yourself, others and nature.

The cold sea as it embraces your naked skin sends a surge of energy through you that is almost undefinable and unmatched by comparison, but one of the main lessons is that we are stronger than we think, we can have a greater experience of life than we are currently experiencing and its this that the greats discovered, they simply went against the grain and lived, the effort became effortless, so rather than seeking comfort we arrive at comfort from the complete opposite path; it finds us.

It’s not about disregarding comfort, I wore an all purpose weather jacket to the sea this morning to help with the high winds and rain, but it is about not becoming helplessly dependant on these comforts, it’s at this point of helpless dependence that the real problems occur.

Domesticated animals by there nature are not as strong or wise as there wild oppositites, they have no need to be, but what do they loose by not being as strong or wise? It’s worth noting humans are domesticated animals, we rely on our comforts so much that in the wild most would not survive.

This is not a good place to be in and it’s each persons responsibility to re-wild themselves, that is to encourage yourself to become adaptable to all environments regardless of perceived comfort.

This is important because the human being is a remarkable entity that’s true potential is being wasted. Being a fan of potential and wellbeing the more we connect with nature the greater our potential and wellbeing becomes.

Comfort is not in and of itself a bad thing and I’m not attempting to suggest that it is. I love many creature comforts, however potential, greatness, creativity, wellbeing, vision and I could keep going are found not through the comfort you perceive, but in finding the comfort within the uncomfortable.

When you can truly relax in stressful situations you are powerful, when the situation is off Center and yet you can remain focused and calm you are stepping into your power, when you are faced with an obstacle greater than you and you can approach it with truth and grace then you are getting close to be the greatest and most authentic version of yourself.

I believe we all have an artist within us and that our creativity is stifled by our inability to be at peace with who we are and where we find ourselves, we believe that things would be better and easier if certain factors were changed in our favour, this is our desire for comfort and dreams will not be achieved from this mind space.

Change the perspective and nothing is unachievable.

Go take a 3 minute cold shower then sit down and have a hot chocolate and notice how you feel. You may feel so alive after your cold shower that you don’t want the hot chocolate anymore.

To you all in great health and comfort.

Matt

The Morning Sea Swim 

The alarm rings at 5.35am, the snooze button is the obvious reaction, the desire to cling to comfort for those extra 5 minutes surfaces.

Dressed and ready with a flask of loose leaf tea, I meet my friend Steve and his partner Susan who had prepared the most amazing hot drink consisting of cacao, mushrooms and other delights.

We head on foot to the sea front and enjoy insightful conversation and lighthearted jesting.

To sit upon the pebbles of the seafront before a calm sea in the company of friends is one of life’s treasures, to breath deeply into the experience and pause in the moment of retention and feel the vibration of life all around and within you takes you on a magical journey.

Bending the knees and sinking into the hips, moving towards my discomfort allowing my body and mind to move, to feel the pain and yet to free myself of the pain, creating a freeing feeling from within.

The body warm, the mind calm. The time has come to approach and connect with the sea.

Always excited and apprehensive in equal measure. The sea does not allow you to see the moment the pebbles become sand, nor does it allow you to know the depth you will reach before that transition, she keeps everything Unknown a mystery that lures you into the depths of your very being.

The cold embraces the skin, the concept of the cold encourages tension and resistance to this natural phenomenon. On 3 I dive beneath the sea with my eyes closed and the cold gripping my being I glide through a dark abyss of which I have no power or control over and yet a willingness to accept and connect with.

I rise from under the water to grasp the air and release my fears of the Unknown. 

I return to the breath and begin to embrace the play of the sea, this ability to relax creates an inner fire which warms the whole of my being.

The birds fly over head and the sun begins its accent to the heavens, peacefulness I am, alive I feel.

That magical drink that was made for us was divine, it ran through to the very core of my being.

Grateful I Am.

Matt

The Yoga Health Coach

Simply Cold yet surprisingly WARM

Sea Compilation YouTube
The current sea temperature for Brighton is 14.4 degrees C/58 degrees F. Throw in a storm at 6am in the morning and your beginning to get the picture, COLD.

The type of cold that makes your duvet irresistible especially at 5.3oam on a winters morning.

I’m not selling this well am I? That’s cool.

After battling the comforts of warmth it’s time to head down to the sea front.

Upon arriving I set my eyes upon the waves and ears upon the wind to determine what lessons are coming your my today.

Seated meditation mixed in with deep breathing exercises sets the mind and soul for the task ahead.

After meditation we rested our backs against a wall, this was almost a monumental mistake, comfort and lethargy began to set in, but with a roar from within we mustered our strength removed our clothes down to our shorts and headed into the sea.

That first step in was breathtakingingly cold this morning, I had to chant and make sounds to build my internal fire and overcome the challenge of the cold,

Once that initial obstacle was overcome the strangest thing happens, on one level you know it’s cold and yet internally you are warm, your breathing is fluid and omits a pleasure to be playing in the sea on a November morning.

This deep awareness of self is one of the great benefits of training in the cold, you become less reactive to the stressors of life and instead open yourself with an active relaxation to the experience of life.

A warm tea is always welcome after a play in the sea.

Dive in deep and enjoy the ride.

Matt

The Yoga Health Coach

Cold Training – Personal Growth & Transformation

Simply Rolling Stones – a sneak look at the potential fun side of cold training.

When we hear the word ‘COLD’ almost instantly a shiver runs down our spine and through our whole body, the knees go weak and the mind quickly comes to the conclusion, hot chocolate and a warm fire to sit by will solve this problem.

I am a fan of both of those ventures – hot chocolate and warm cozy fires that is, however I have also become a fan of Cold Training.

What is cold training? and why am I and a number of people becoming interested in what sounds like a purposeful journey into hell? Only this hell is not an inferno in fact its the complete opposite, but still a place most do not want to be and with good reason cold training is COLD brrrrrrr.

It is the journey into the unknown which scares us most and yet provides us with the greatest potential for personal growth.

Cold training can be practiced down at the sea, taking a cold shower, dipping into any body of ‘cold’ water and Ice baths. Yes people do take ice baths…

Now might be a good time for that hot chocolate…

For those who practice cold training in the sea, an opportunity to be fully immersed from head to toe in cold water (depending on which sea you go into, some are warmer than others) presents itself, for many this offers a spiritual cleansing, which can also be called a re-birthing experience and emotional healing. Why?

On most occasions you are faced with fear when entering the cold seas, fear of drowning, fear of hypothermia, fear of being dragged out into the abyss all present themselves, most of the fears like the ones mentioned are irrational and each time you confront these irrational fears you develop a new sense of self, you begin a journey of self discovery, which improves your connection with you, with others and with nature.

Through this discovery of self you also begin a journey of self-healing, which occurs largely on the emotional and spiritual self.

The more times you enter the sea the greater you begin to understand its mood, it may sound crazy, but it communicates with you, you no longer swim frantically trying to stay afloat instead you begin to glide through and with the water effortlessly and let me tell you when the sea is angry there is no forcing your way through she will win every time; instead you have to surrender, let go and trust; have faith that everything will be ok.

It is through the release of control and the surrendering of self that one truly begins to heal the wounds within…

It can be hard to motivate oneself at first to consciously go on a cold sea adventure; it is not usually the top of the to do list and we generally want really good reasons for putting ourselves into an uncomfortable and painful situation, interestingly though the first battle is not with the cold but instead a battle with the pillow, a battle with comfort, a battle with stagnation and a battle with yourself.

Here again is an opportunity for personal growth and self-healing, by overcoming our limitations and developing a strong sense of self we can achieve great personal growth in all areas of life, when you get up early – 5am early on a Winters morning and go for a swim in the cold sea then there is very little in life that you can not achieve.

The days get shorter, the temperatures get colder, on occasion I am sure I competed with the banshee; for the cold brought out a roar from deep within, but I always felt great and still do during and after every dip in the sea.

Brighton sea temperatures peak in the range 16 to 19°C (61 to 66°F) on around the 17th of August and are at their lowest on about the 1st of March, in the range 7 to 8°C (45 to 46°F) [http://www.surf-forecast.com/breaks/Brighton\_1/seatemp]

One of the surprising challenges lay in getting out of the sea, Brighton is a pebbled beach, let me tell you those stones take no prisoners during the winter months.

The benefits of the pebbles is worth mentioning. At the beginning they literally killed my feet and they too had a re-birthing experience in-store for me, my feet were asleep they were use to being protected and had gotten comfortable and lazy, however the more I woke them up the more they showed me just how asleep they and I was.

I begun noticing that our feet act as a direct connection to the earth, this is more than just foot touching earth its more like roots moving from the sole of your foot into the earth and giving you a bounce in your step and movement throughout the whole foot and body that was not there before.

I was Grounding, which alone can boost your immune system, it has many benefits including reducing inflammation, the book Earthing by Clint Ober is worth a read, on another level allowing your skin to come into contact with your environment again improves your connection with the real world, which increases your sensitivity or you could say communication with the subtle energetic world we live in.

You will literally feel this connection for water conducts heat at 25 times the rate of air, which simply means you loose more heat quicker in the water than you do to the air. The key becomes to not fight this connection by trying to hold onto the heat, instead by surrendering to the flow of heat and maintaining a sense of calm through deep breathing and conscious awareness of self the heat that leaves is regenerated and continues the cycle of in and out.

Interestingly the body is such an impressive inferno that the fear of hypothermia whilst it is a potential danger is not as great a danger as one may have previously thought! It takes roughly longer than 30 minutes of submersion in cold water (no matter how cold the water) before the effects of hypothermia begin to manifest.

Potential hazards that one does face when approaching cold training and should be aware of are:

‘The Grasp Reflex’ or ‘the cold shock response,’upon entering the cold water a very natural reflex is to open ones mouth and take a lung full of air into the body, if that person then goes under the water and begins to grasp for more air they are in trouble, so try not to jump in to soon, give yourself a chance to get use to cold temperatures before diving in head first.

Cardiac arrest or more commonly a heart attack is also a potential risk factor, along with the cold sapping your strength to the point where your muscular force can be as much as 25% less in the cold, the opportunity for a bad ending to a good story begins to rise.

The cold water has the ability to turn a great swimmer into a good swimmer, a good swimmer into an average swimmer and an average swimmer into! You probably should not be going in to deep if your swimming ability is anything less than good. Remind yourself though that as you progress with cold water training that vice versa will occur – an average swimmer will grow steadily to become a great swimmer.

### The Good News!

In recent times we have seen many pioneers of cold water training step forward and despite the risks share forth their success!

Anthony Robbins starts every morning with a dip into a 57℉ pool. Tony Robbins is such a fan that he has claimed the following:

Cold water training when practiced regularly can have long-lasting positive effects on the lymphatic, circulatory, immune and digestive systems.

When jumping into cold water it is commonly agreed that the muscles contract, that shivering that you experience when cold is your muscles contracting in an attempt to produce heat.

This contraction of the muscles also triggers a contraction of the lymphatic system, which encourages the immune system to gear up and deal with whatever has been released from the lymphatic system.

It has also been claimed that one reason athletes jump into ice pools after strenuous workouts is because the cold water lowers the damaged tissue temperature and constricts the blood vessels resulting in less swelling and inflammation and for an extra bonus due to its numbing of the nerve endings it acts as a painkiller.

Another benefit that has been proposed is that it has the potential to relieve symptoms of depression. It has been found that cold training prompts the release of happy, feel good neurotransmitters, leaving you feeling happier, healthier and more vital.

Wim Hoff in particular has done much to move along our understanding of the potential benefits of cold training.

Wim holds numerous Guinness World Records in the field of cold training such as a barefoot marathon in Lapland wearing nothing more than shorts. Yes you read that right; Wim completes a variety of Cold Training disciplines in sub-zero conditions wearing nothing but a pair of modest shorts.

He recently trained 12 volunteers in his methods alongside a control group, at the end of his training all 24 participants were exposed to a common flu bug, all 12 participating in Wim’s training methods showed excellent immune response and none fell ill, however all 12 of the control group fell ill for up to 3 days.

Wim believes firstly that the cold has the power to show us our true human potential, he believes that its his ability to maintain core temperature through breathing exercises that anyone can master, which helps him train in the cold and enjoy benefits such as increased immune strength.

His breathing exercises are akin to the ones practiced by Tibetan Monks, a practice which they call Tummo, where the focus is placed upon the retention of the breath, which then encourages an ‘internal fire’.

Scientists believe through study that what Wim and the Tibetan Monks alike have managed to accomplish is to take control of a system within the body that was considered to be involuntary.

Scientists have observed that through the meditations and breathing exercises practiced by Wim and the Tibetan Monks significant blood flow and electrical activity to the frontal cortex and hypothalamus is achieved; these regions regulate peripheral nerves and veins involved in the regulation of body temperature.

It is this connection that was originally considered to be governed by the autonomic nervous system, however this is now considered to be potentially manually controlled through a variety of training methods.

For those who do not have access to the sea then a cold shower is a great place to start and some have reported that in as little as a couple of weeks of taking 3 minute cold showers every day you will begin to notice health benefits.

I would take this into consideration, Cold Training like any training method requires a period of adaptation and will first put the mind and body under stress, this stress response will overwhelm the immune system at first, with this in mind if your immune system is already dealing with a variety of stresses and you’re not sure this will help then first take it slow and get some extra advice, if however you persevere with this type of training your immune strength will improve dramatically.

How then does cold training improve our immune system? the answers are in the experience my friends, by overcoming each subtle battle internally and committing yourself to a daily practice your mind and body naturally strengthen, which in turn leads to the strengthening of all internal systems including the immune system.

You may find and more than likely will find a thousand reasons why you should stay comfortable and not do it, but if your curious and patient then time and practice will deliver remarkable results.

I highly recommend cold training for everyone, you can start slow, maybe a cold bowl of water to immerse your hands is enough, or simply stepping your feet into the sea will prove powerful enough for you to feel a connection, or maybe you need to go all out and throw yourself in.

Remember you can always have that cup of Hot Chocolate in reserve for after your Cold Training experience.

Enjoy.

Blue Moon (Ambessa Chant/meditation)

yesterday was a blue moon, which simply means that in the month of July we had two full moons and the second full moon is called a blue moon. We have all heard the phrase ‘once in a blue moon’ and that’s because a blue moon doesn’t come round that often and in some cultures the calendar year is extended to 13 months in the year of a blue moon.

We were all excited to get to the woods after dark and build a fire to honour this natural cycle, we joked that on a Friday night in a busy city we were heading into the quiet and darkness of the woods whilst the city was coming to life with all the late night parties and functions that occur on a Friday night!

We found a spot and built a fire, even at this point it feels as though the primal clocks are taking you back to a near forgotten time, a time where gathering wood to make the fire, banter about life and the actual common-unity with nature and man is being left in the rear view mirror.

With the fire burning we offer piece to the north, east, south and west, our gaze rests upon the ever changing flickers of flames that dance from the wooden embers from which they rise.

It is time for AMBESSA! Ambessa is the inviting of the lion spirit within you to surface and come out, to move away from the flock of sheep and roar your true self into the present. It is not easy to burn the shackles of illusion for they are welded together deep within the temple of your being, but as you step upon the earth in the face of the fire and the wind; as you chant the Ambessa a primal force rises and breaks through the restraints you find yourself bound by and a free dance of liberation pours forth from the inner essence of your being. At first you tug upon your chains afraid to break them, at first you fear the unknown that freedom offers, but as you let go of your fears as you dance your dance with reckless abandon the chains will break the fear will dissolve and liberation will be yours.

We then sat in seated meditation and traveled with the freedom of spirit that knows no boundaries, sound filled the air a chant begun and union was felt and finally silence except for the sounds of nature was embraced.

To finish this offering to the blue moon we shared tea and light snacks whilst the flickers of the Flames gently died down.

Life is found in these simple moments.

A couple of hours later we were awake and down by the sea front for mountain practice although today’s was a lighter more peaceful approach and I am left feeling light, energised and deeply grateful for natures playground and the people whom I get to share that playground with.

Below is a link to a YouTube video on our Mountain Practice.

Mountain Practice
To you all in great health.

Matt

The Yoga Health Coach