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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Barefoot – Set your feet free.

It was reading the work of Clint Ober that inspired myself and my wife to experiment going barefoot and has encouraged us to raise our son Ulysses and when she is old enough our Daughter Ostara barefoot, to let there little feet connect with the earth and develop a full range of motion.

Clint was a retired billionaire maybe millionaire either way he was financially secure. One day he was sitting down watching the world go by when for some reason he cannot explain; his attention was drawn to the shoes, trainers/sneakers and other footwear that people were wearing and found it funny and curious, his curiosity encouraged him to remove his shoes.

After removing his shoes he noticed his connection with the earth he noticed that he felt better and then he asked himself a question – what would I feel like if I could spend more time of the day connected to the earth than disconnected? From this question he went on to create the Earthing brand, which provides grounding sheets and products that essentially bring you closer to the earths vibration more of the time.

Clint’s work explores how reconnecting back to the Earth reduces inflammation, stress, anxiety, improves sleep and encourages the body to self heal, there were a lot of other benefits, but the one that stood out for me was self heal.

Through going barefoot and earthing through the night Clint found you could heal a whole range of conditions, I was interested by this and from the moment Ulysses could find his feet we had him barefoot and whilst he does love to wear his wellies and has a pair of trainers you will find him climbing trees and running along a pebbled beach barefoot, when I first observed Ulysses running along the pebbled beach and digesting Clints work I knew I only had one thing left to do!

I winced at the thought of it and as my sleeping feet tried to communicate with the uneven attack of the pebbles below I knew this was going to be a painful journey; no one likes being woken up and my feet were no exception, they had become very accustomed to the sheltered life of a whole array of footwear, I did not understand to what detriment this was though until I took my shoes off. I have found also that through self healing the teacher is generally pain and so I took this discomfort as a positive sign, but also as a sign to be patient and nurture myself through this transition, Ulysses was running along the beach with no discomfort, how come I felt pain? That simple observation helped me to acknowledge the power of self healing potential in going barefoot.

Now I have practiced Yoga for many years and we even attempt to knead our fingers through our toes to encourage them to open up in yoga practice, however it was Clint’s insight that was key! he observed that just 20 or so minutes a day earthing (going barefoot) was a huge imbalance when you consider there are 24 hours in a day, the benefits would only be recognised through regular practice, which is similar of course to yoga and any practice.

To increase my practice time I purchased a pair of Vibrams, which are barefoot trainers and wear them as often as possible, I go to the sea most mornings braving the pebbles barefoot and I also climb barefoot.

Since increasing my barefoot time to a daily practice I have found my feet have finally begun to wake up and it is through this waking up that it was confirmed to me that most of us live with sleepy feet, which is probably why they ache and are stiff, they have been cushioned for far too long.

The thing is when you walk or climb or whatever your doing if you do it barefoot you have to pay greater attention too or you could say be more mindful of where and how you are moving; at first this actually increases the levels of tension and stress no different to any new practice, however when you get into it the freedom you have to move is unbelivable because the whole of the foot is moving, your ankle wakes up and your knees and your hips, in fact the whole of you wakes up to a whole new potential of movement.

Now this takes time it doesn’t happen overnight and yes it comes with a portion of pain and discomfort, let me tell you the pebbles in Brighton on a cold December morning are unforgiving, technically they are unforgiving all year round I have discovered, however they are particularly unforgiving in the winter, but worth the pain plus as time has passed the pain has lessened and the body has almost fully adapted, I will not be racing my son just yet, but I am getting there.

I mentioned I am excited about barefoot practicing as a self healing tool and I want to re-iterate that, as with all my recommendations don’t take what I say as a truth get out there and try it for yourself, feel the sand between your toes, feel the mud beneath your feet, climb a tree and feel how much more grip you have, plus doing all this is fun (ok not so much fun on those cold December mornings), but its summer time now.

Your feet will not be use to going barefoot so do take your time, wear flat shoes as often as possible (I do wear boots, this is not a complete removal of all footwear, I would happily place my feet in my snowboard boots to go snowboarding). Understand that the more often you go barefoot your body will begin a process of adaptation and change (back to your original design), this change can feel uncomfortable, but if you persevere you will reap the rewards.

Have fun with it, be curious and remember you were not born with shoes on or clothes for that matter (we will visit that at a later date), I encourage you then with this simple knowledge that if you were not born with it you may not need it as much as you think you do!

Feel free to share any barefoot adventures you go on, I hear that you can do barefoot marathons for the runners out there! Wim Hoff completed a barefoot marathon across the arctic!!!!

to you all in great health

Matt

The Yoga Health Coach

Sea Dip in the early morning, Why?

So many ask why? Why do I wake most mornings regardless of the weather and head down to the sea to meditate and take a dip?

My answer not that it’s a total overview of the whole underlying reasons behind waking early and making the journey to the sea; is this!

My senses wake up; they experience a real sense of being alive, I can hear the subtle sounds of a calm sea and the roaring of the crashing waves as a storm builds and releases its accumulated energy, I can rest my gaze upon the effortless motion of nature; being treated to a new vista everyday – the way the rising sun dances upon the surface of a calm sea is a breathtaking moment and in these moments I feel the subtle vibration of life.

I go because it’s peaceful, because I give myself an opportunity to empty my cup a cup that is often full of worldly stuff that can weigh heavy on the heart and soul; when the cup is empty pure happiness and joy is felt and I realise it’s ok that the cup will refill with the stresses of life because the letting go feels awesome.

I go because it makes me stronger both physically, mentally and emotionally, it makes me happy, it re-energises me, it gives me a sensation of feeling light and I go because it gives me the opportunity to re-connect with nature and myself. It also allows me to give more to the people I love I find I can be stronger for them, I have greater compassion and patience and more understanding of there journey and obstacles, this relationship becomes a two way process – I can give more to them and they act as a tool of motivation for me not to give up thus building my strength. It is these connections and plays of life that make the practice all the more special and beneficial for everyone.

I am therefor very happy to encourage you not to take my experience as absolute or even knowledge for that matter, but instead to give a gentle nudge to inspire you to dive into natures garden; it matters not the form of her garden: sea, mountain, woods or forest. It simply is waiting for you to go and create your own experience and story.

Another reason I love going to the sea is I get to practice my spiritual, physical, emotional and energy practice – Infinity Movement Arts. Hope you enjoy the short film..
Enjoy the journey

Matt Allen

The Yoga Health Coach

Many Paths to the Same Goal

Recently I had a discussion with a friend about how he never really wanted to be at school, school was not a place of interest for him and so he found himself having to take part in something against his will whilst being pressured into performing to a level that would be deemed successful by society, but was not in tune with how he felt about himself.

These early experiences of being pressured into doing things he did not want to do led to a behavioral pattern that spilled over into his spiritual practice years later. As everything is connected, the vibration of our past is the vibration of our present and future unless healed. Consequently many students are seeking teachers who can help with this process, which can be a wonderful healing opportunity for both parties, but can also be detrimental if they do not understand the person before them.

My friend has a Buddhist practice and through his practice has also explored Yoga and it’s many paths. Along this yogic path came the structure, the expectation and the pressure to perform. The past had met with the present in unlikely circumstances!

My friend mentioned that during school he would feel trapped as if in a cage and that freedom to be himself would not be felt until the final bell rang. The analogy of a ‘cage’ struck a cord with me! A couple of years back a friend of mine who was highly trained in the martial art system of Kung Fu asked me a very potent question, “Have you ever considered that the mat is the Yogi’s cage?”

If it is a cage, what cage had I walked into? Was it of my own free will? Was it a choice? What were its limitations if it is indeed a cage? I do not believe in coincidences and so this conundrum sat with me and vibrated around my inner being . Were we all caged animals wanting to be set free? Do we exchange one cage for another and simply move when metaphorical claustrophobia sets in? In many respects Pattahbi Jois had the answer “Do your practice and all is coming.” My practice would now leave the mat for my curiosity had to be explored; what potential lay in my practice and in my teaching of Yoga if I ventured from my proverbial cage?

There are many paths to the same goal; I love using the example of Shifu from Kung Fu Panda to convey this message. Shifu is at a loss as to how to train Po to master Kung Fu, the old ways were not working for Shifu however, one day he noticed that Po was moving with great flexibility, agility and strength performing a full splits 10ft off the ground and soon realized that he could not train Po the way he did his other students. The way to nurture and grow Po’s Kung Fu was through the use of. Food! Po had managed to get into the full splits; 10ft of the floor because that’s where Monkey had hid his cookies.

With this in mind, as teachers we need to pay attention to the student’s needs and not simply prescribe methods just because they have worked for others and for ourselves. I must confess I too have been found wanting on this matter and this is why I share it with you now so that teacher’s and students alike can recognize each other and dance in a symbiotic way that serves the growth and development of both parties. Like Shifu, despite being a master of Kung Fu, still had to adapt his ways in order to clearly communicate with his new student, we too need to be as flexible in our teaching as we are in our practice.

If we do not explore the many paths to the same goal both as a teacher and a student we will find ourselves one day to be stuck. A great teacher of mine once imparted this very wisdom upon me and has shown to be true to his own teaching ‘never get stuck’. I’m not saying you should abandon your Yoga mat simply because it has been suggested to be a cage. I love the ritual of rolling out my mat, but I also love practicing off my mat as well. The first time you take your students off the mat you will discover a new path to the same goal.

Taking students off their mats is a simple example of how we can empower students to keep practicing in all areas of life. My friend has found chanting to be a wonderful journey and treads his path in his own way. One day I hope he will find himself back in a Yoga class and hopefully with a teacher that has the vision to see what the student needs and not only what their ego wants to prescribe.

Love to you all

Matt Allen

The Yoga Health Coachhttp://www.theyogahealthcoach.co.uk

Twitter-@mattallen16

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/TheYogaHealthCoach

Infinity Movement Arts

After many years exploring yoga, martial art movements and Qi Gong I have decided to integrate the practices, take them outside into nature’s back garden and be curious about the potential for healing, growth and movement that they offer!

I was amazed at how I felt as I stood before the sea and begun my practice, the energy was intense and the emotion was raw, to take these practices outside has filled me with vitality and a deeper connection with myself and nature and now I hope to share this journey with you all.

Hope you enjoy and if you want to learn more about the practice get in-touch.

Matt

The Yoga Health Coach

Bowing Meditation (day 100)

100 days ago begun a journey and this evening has seen its completion. The journey was simple – 100 days with a minimum of 300 bows completed each day (the bow consists of starting from a standing position then bending down to a kneeling position, bowing and then moving back up to a standing position) simple, but not easy.
In the beginning the physicality of the practice was the most demanding aspect, my knees, ankles and shoulders would all ache, but as the days and weeks passed the body grew stronger; I must admit I originally was not sure my right knee would make it through 100 days straight I have had an on going injury and general weakness there for years, but to my surprise and despite the pain my right knee has grown in strength and range of movement and now the pain is almost gone.
One of the most interesting experiences I had came when I was suffering, the thing is bowing is similar to juice fasting! It cleanses the body and mind and pushes out any toxicity that may have been residing in the cellular tissues, when the body detoxifies it is common to suffer a healing ‘crisis’ it’s not really a ‘crisis’ that’s simply the popular term used; it’s simply an uncomfortable healing experience that feels a lot like the flu, but despite the flu (head cold, weaknesses, aching ect) I bowed and even though that session was one of the toughest to get through I was amazed at how it cleared all my symptoms in one session.
Bowing on Christmas Eve and day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day were new experiences for me; I would be upstairs bowing whilst the family were down stairs taking part in he festivities, I am glad I bowed I felt great for looking after my body, mind and soul and I learnt that no matter the occasion I could do it.
I must also confess that almost every day I did not look forward to bowing, once I bowed at 4.30am it was energetically amazing, but I cursed being awake at that time – my soul was still sleeping. My preference was after 7pm in the evening after my son had gone to bed and dinner had digested, but over the 100 days I think I covered most hours of the day even finishing some session at 12 in the evening, but no matter what time I bowed I lacked enthusiasm, but I never gave up something every day inside of me kept urging me to take to the mat and complete my bows.
I have been gifted and cursed with a complex, analytical mind that has only recently discovered that it has never rested, it has never really been present, it has never truly listened or seen the now, but as I neared the end of my 100 days I began to find quiet moments during the practice, moments that were peaceful, effortless and free, where I new I was in my body and the experience and not thinking and stuck in my mind, if you like its akin to hearing without thinking about what you heard, for example you hear a car but you do not think of the car instead you simply be with the noise the car makes. This was amazing and I have enjoyed developing this side of the practice and will continue to do so.
I could keep writing about the experiences I have had over the past 100 days but I am not going to, instead I am going to offer my gratitude to the practice of bowing meditation, it has taken me on an unexpected journey and changed the course of my path.

Matt