Two years ago I ushered in the new year on a snowy mountainside, practicing healing breathwork meditation, walking across hot coals. Last year I sat on a boulder by the ocean, breathing calmly, and contemplating putting my feet in. This year, on a chilly Florida Saturday, I worked the breath again, and submerged myself in ice water.
The “secret” to getting this done was the breathwork. When practicing with my teacher, David Elliot, there is a kindness and gentleness to the work, with ultimate goal of healing through (self) love. I find that my fellow practitioners can be as excited and animated as the next guy, but they all lovingly go into leading the work and regardless to how difficult the practice gets for me, there is a level of peacefulness and joy in the journey.
This year I attended a breathworking session in the Wim Hof Method (WHF). Lead by former professional athlete, entrepreneur, and gifted motivator, Pavel Stuchlik, the hours long session stimulated my senses in a completely different fashion.
When I say I’ve “studied breathwork”, I mean it as the most elementary student. I’ve read the science and the research studies of all of the well known styles of modern breathwork as well as traditional yogic pranayama. And I’ve practiced all of them at some point; to say I am a master or even well practiced would be ridiculous as I’ve only been investigating for a decade. But I do know this..practicing pranayama is life altering because it is state of consciousness altering.
Altered states of consciousness, sometimes called non-ordinary states, include various mental states in which the mind can be aware but is not in its usual wakeful condition, such as during hypnosis, meditation, hallucination, trance, and the dream stage. Altered states can occur anywhere from yoga class to the birth of a child. They allow us to see our lives and ourselves with a broader lens and from different angles of perception than the ordinary mind. (The free dictionary by FARLEX)
Back to the ice immersion…I initially got myself there by remembering my sit in a therapeutic cold bath with a well known Navy SEAL. It’s another story with the take-away of “Ma’am, cold is cold to everyone. It’s just cold.”
As I stood outside on this brisk windy day, however, I was immediately transported to a bike crash I had in 2009. As I laid out on the “cold” and shaded February concrete awaiting an ambulance for an hour, I knew that shivering was not going to help stabilize my spine. So I quickly slowed my breathing and stopped my shivering. Because the state of my neck required it. I watched a dislocated wrist relocate and a photo shows me smiling as I knew all would be just fine. And now, standing by the ice pool, I just took a deep breath, slowed my breathing, and stopped shivering. I got in the pool and submerged to my chin, laid my head back, and calmly sat, Even as the person next to me tensed.
For me, the session was not magic…like the fire walk, if thousands of people who thought they COULD’NT do it have succeeded…but it was a lovely reminder:
- That cold is just cold.
- That I can get an attitude adjustment whenever I want one.
- That I am capable of changing not only my mental state but also my physical state.
- That in this physical body of mine, energy and spirit also meet; those experiences continue to be at my beck and call.
- That anything I chose can be “non-ordinary” and “altered”; I have the ability to change my view of my life with a quick lens adjustment.
This year’s balance project will, indeed, have more pranayama practice.
And if you’re in the Tampa Bay area, I lead a couple of classes at Bella Prana Yoga & Meditation. Tuesdays at 9:15am it’s Yin and Pranayama; Thursdays at 12:15pm its Healing Breathwork Meditation. I’ve got some pop-up small group sessions coming soon as well as private sessions.
Happy (Re)New(ed) Me!