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The Uncomfortable Comfort Zone

2014-10-18 18.11.32

I often tell my students we must find our uncomfortable comfort zone on the mat.  So what is this paradoxical state I’m professing?  Some like to call this state our edge.  I think our uncomfortable comfort zone is a bit different from finding our edge.  I like to use the word ‘uncomfortable’ because it reminds us of reclaiming uncomfortable moments we have been conditioned to run from that stem from a fear based mentality.  Sometimes the truth is hard to relay because it’s uncomfortable, we fear if we are honest we will be rejected.  This same dynamic can play out on the mat.

Choose your pose you find most challenging or choose your life situation that you find most challenging to face.   Now imagine yourself in the pose or the situation and when you get to that tough spot, either where you will decide to give up trying in a pose or in your life situation, and instead of giving up and running away from the fear, you walk through it by making your breath more steady and deeper.  Our power, which is our medicine, is in our breath and learning how to use it.  When we use the word edge, it certainly speaks some similarity of pushing through and that we are on the brink of something; however, it takes us away from really tuning into the word uncomfortable and linking that word with it’s okay to be uncomfortable, because it’s life.

So, how then do we get from an uncomfortable state to something I’m calling a comfort zone state?  That uncomfortable feeling is temporary and when we breathe deeply through it, when we most importantly, breathe through it with intention, we find ourselves in a new comfort zone with more resilience and more perseverance than we ever thought we could have within ourselves.  When we realize that we made it through the uncomfortable places in our poses, then we realize we can do that exact same thing off the mat in our own lives from a place of awareness and love because our main tool, our deep intentional breath, was our guide.

Finding our uncomfortable comfort zone takes practice.  Maybe for you it’s sitting in meditation for more than 5 minutes, or for someone else it’s going upside down in a handstand.  The key to finding our uncomfortable comfort zone on the mat is following through with the process of practice and engaging in more static poses where we focus on the energy running through the body and our breath for longs periods of time, at least around 10 breaths in any given pose.   In my opinion, it’s harder to find our uncomfortable comfort zone if we are flowing along in a vinyasa style practice.

Certainly, the thought of just forming our bodies into a pose that strikes fear can immediately put us at our uncomfortable comfort zone, but what happens when we start holding Warrior II for longer than 3-5 breaths?  Our thigh will start shaking and our ego may talk us out of letting go.  Perhaps all sorts of insults about ourselves and others will come up while holding the posture, such as, “This #$%^ sucks, when can I get out of this?!”, “I can’t do this, I’m so tired.”, “I really don’t like this teacher today, what’s wrong with her?!”, “What’s the point in this anyway, my thigh is screaming at me!”  Sound familiar?  Well, if that’s running through our head, it’s a sure thing we aren’t breathing to walk through our uncomfortable comfort zone, we are trying to talk our way through it our out of it.

Ever heard of paralysis in over analysis?   That’s what our ego likes to do sometimes when not balanced with a deep awareness through our deep breath.  We can become paralyzed with our own mind webbing that we tie our own selves up in the web and become stuck.  Next time you find yourself singing ego tunes to yourself, notice it and breathe deeper and longer.   You may just notice that instead of focusing so much on the quivering thigh or the fear of going upside down and falling or being completely honest with someone and getting rejected, that well, those things just might happen and it’s ok.  They might be uncomfortable and that’s ok too.  And if you are concerned about what the yogi next to you is thinking, don’t be, because they are likely thinking the same things you are or have elevated their practice to deep intentional breath awareness and are only tuned into what is going on with their body and their breath they have no idea what you are doing. And, that’s as is should be.

We must shake off this “What will other people think of me?” attitude and get really fascinated with what is your spirit telling you about you at the time of the pose or situation in life.  We must also shake off the fear of getting to know ourselves very intimately. Increased awareness brings intimate connection and intimate connection brings increased awareness.  This is the cycle we want to follow.  We can only get there with trust and deep intentional breath and we gain trust in ourselves when we connect to our uncomfortable comfort zone through our deep intentional breath, and can do so anytime and anywhere.

So, let’s get busy breathing deeply with intent and walk through our uncomfortable comfort zone with grace.  We might just begin to really understand at that crossroads what it’s really like to be our own medicine.

Om Shanti Om ~ Athea


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  • Mark Wardell October 31, 2014, 3:03 pm

    “We might just begin to really understand at that crossroads what it’s really like to be our own medicine.”

    OMG…. If I would eat right I am sure my results would be manifold/exponentially magnified. As it is I came for the healing to yoga three times (all are healed). Once for a serious neck injury. (C4/C5 extrusion). Once while working through a complex divorce – Yoga really deals with the matters of emotional healing nicely. This year / time for an ankle injury that has been persistent for 30 years. It would re-injure every couple of years and then this year I took Yoga at its promise in a persistent/enduring manner. In 2014 I envision completing 320+ asana practices. My ankle was tender and wrapped in an ace bandage for the first 40 days of practice this year. I am now able to run on it successfully. Recently the foot doctor xrayed for another incidental issue was able to still identify it. So it is still below the surface and in waiting. But the main point about yoga being medicine (Me being my own medicine as Athea states here) is that I can confidently use my ankle now. It was a source of “justifiable anxiety” for me for years. When it would flare up it would bring me all the way down to the ground sometimes ripped pants and once even during a date. Yoga as an every day practice provides complete fitness and recovery on the same or by next day. Not all the mental gymnastics of a “training plan” and recovery plan. Yoga is pure recovery, its side effect is functional and total fitness. If you follow this path every part of your body is summoned in to a gentle care and during a given week of asanas from a variety of teachers. One of my mentors, Bryan Kest, is fond of explaining there is no one part of the body that is less important than others. For if any part of the body falls in to disrepair it can wreak havoc on all the remaining members. Yoga as he goes on to explain is the only thing he knows of which gently cares for every part of your body.

    Yes Athea I like your article! I am my own medicine. As I contemplate the year changing I will have to decide in 2015 whether to take the medicine or leave it – I hope I decide to take it… Peace to you OUR dear Athea… Light and gift to the world and any who would listen to you!

  • Athea Davis October 31, 2014, 4:30 pm

    Great comments and insights into your personal healing journey, Mark. Thank you for sharing and what an honor to get to read a piece of your own story. I trust the medicine will continue to deliver great results in 2015. You and your journey are such an inspiration. Indeed, to mimic Kest, all parts of the body are linked and we are only as strong as our weakest link. Love and Hugs ~ Athea