Towards the end of this blog, I will provide you with tips for balancing your life, improving your recovery, experience more meaningful relationships and feel better in your body. Keep reading if that interests you.
For me training, movement, exercise and physical exertion has been an entry point in to varied states of awareness. However, there has been an evolution in this. In my early years when I discovered movement (running, sports, biking, martial arts, kettlebells, etc) it was more around an innate curiosity for the exploration of my body.
What could it do, how far could I push it, how could I aesthetically improve it or change it? Couple that with hormones, there was really more of an outward focus on training. Like many of us, I went through the “body building phase” of exercise where it was all about strength and show. At that time in my teens I didn’t really understand and did what those around me were largely doing BUT there was something that was pulling me towards internal performance.
So, I explored this. I explored challenging my body beyond aesthetics and I went in to the realm of mindset and emotional resilience. I asked how mindset and our emotional self plays a role in high intensity physical training and what can we gain as holistic beings from this? As I began to explore this realm of movement I also began to realise I could take my mind and body to some extreme places and I noticed that as a result I could conveniently “forget” about life (especially if it was painful).
I learned to use exercise as a coping strategy to deal with my stress, but in more extreme ways. As a teenager and young adult, I was troubled and made decisions that were not healthy nor conducive to the health of my relationships – excessive alcohol, pornography, infidelity, mixing with the wrong crowds, etc. I was defining my place as a man based on the risks I would take and I would leverage my physical fitness as a means to be more in the world.
The alcohol didn’t last long because I valued my health, however the pyscho-emotional damage I was doing to myself and my behaviour in relationships was still unhealthy. I was so “yang” in my approach to life. I lacked balance and I lacked deeper heart-based introspection. I was way too much in my head and not in my heart. My physical practice was still too grounded in the physical. It was more about proving to others or the world what I could do as opposed to what I could feel for myself.
I was still using exercise as an avoidance strategy to deal with my internal issues. All of life is intertwined, right? We like to think we can “separate” and compartmentalize our lives, however the reality is each AREA of our lives impacts the next. So, it wasn’t until I hit rock bottom in my romantic relationship that I was able to take a full spectrum look at who I was and how I was behaving. Where was I being imbalanced and extreme and what was the “why” behind each of my actions? This particular relationship breakdown was essentially a catalyst for deeper exploration, massive change and growth in to every area of my life.
I began to specifically observe the psychology behind my actions with respect to my health and fitness. What was emotionally driving me? The truth is no matter how well we hide it, our thoughts and behaviours are reflections of and are ruled by either our deepest fears or our deepest love. I was living in fear. I was all about the outward energy and lacked sincere inner focus. I looked at how extreme I was in my performance. Pushing every session and not really recovering? What was I hiding from?
Working inwardly is just as important as “working out”. We require balance. I began to experiment and as I tool myself deep in to external performance I began to observe my ability to go deep internally. I would breathe with greater awareness, I was more deliberate in slowing down my physiology when I wasn’t exerting energy. I was more mindful around where can I rest and slow my thoughts, emotions, observations and movement down.
I began to notice my overall performance improve. I had greater endurance, more strength, more focus, I stopped running from my mind and ceased to use exercise as form of escapism. I spent equal or more time in deliberate stillness and for me it gave me an opportunity to know myself at greater depth with more awareness.
I now used exercise as a more profound exploration in to the wholeness of who I was. I still pursued performance (more load, faster times, punch faster, last longer, hit harder, more control, etc). However, I knew how to recover with greater efficacy. I utilised specific breath practices to explore alternative states of consciousness and to also recover with greater prowess. I became more body attuned and knew intuitively what my body needed, because I began to create the space for it. This equated to far less injuries and more enjoyment.
I stopped over training and training in isolation so much (as I thought this would make me tougher – yes, it did, but I was doing it in excess) and opened up opportunities to train more with others and share that space.
The point is we require balance in our lives. Working inwardly is an opportunity to connect to the whole of who we are. When we avoid parts of ourselves we are fractured. When we own all of who we are, we feel whole, we feel free. This is a more optimal state of being. And balancing our lives with a solid practice of an inward focus is truly liberating.
Some tips to get you started in no particular order.
Have a morning breath practice such as box breathing that you can allocate a few minutes to everyday. An example would be: 4 sec inhale / 4 sec hold / 4 sec exhale / 4 sec hold – repeat. This will train you to learn to relax. We live in a very uptight world.
Be aware of your thoughts when you are training and exercising. Simply begin with observation as a starting point.
Actively close your eyes and engage in long cycle, deep breathing at any opportunity you get to rest between your sets or movements. You get to learn to switch off and switch on, whilst recovering at deeper levels
Take an inventory of your self-talk. Every hour set an alarm on your phone and gauge how you are feeling. Do this for 30 days and notice any commonalties. Our thoughts (conscious and unconscious) influence our feeling state and how rested we are. Healthy thoughts equate to healthier expressions in life.
Remember, YOU are in mastery of your own faculties. Own your life – own your day!
One is glad to be of service. Stefanos Sifandos.
ABOUT Stefanos Sifandos:
Stefanos has been immersed in deep men’s empowerment work and the exploration of intimate and sacred relationships. Merging the best of eastern and western methodologies and philosophies to promote balance, union and power in life and love.
Using integrative techniques and methods, such as neural-empowerment, Shamanic Praxis, holotropic and biodynamic breath work, trauma release and integration, western psychology, Eastern Mysticism and more, Stefanos has created programs, models and systems to enhance the quality of your life, your intimate relationships and in essence bring you closer to your potential.
Having worked with thousands of men and women from all over the world, elite special forces soldiers, Olympic gold medalists, some of the best fighters (multiple world champions) and leveraging physical challenge as an opportunity for transformation and expansion, Stefanos has learned much about the male and masculine condition and as a result deep insight in to the feminine and female condition.
Having also traversed the depths of his own pain, suicidal thoughts and fears profoundly, He has overcome destructive patterns and has faced and overcome multiple ‘ego deaths’. Stefanos understands there is difference between culturally defined masculinity and sacred masculinity. He further explores what it means to be a GOOD man and to be GOOD at being a man in today’s world.
By restructuring and reframing his own masculinity and movement through the world as a man relating to himself, his environment, women and his purpose, He has discovered and created methodologies and innovative models for navigating the often-difficult path of contemporary manhood and intimate relationships.
Stefanos places his focus and energy towards evolving the nature relationships in contemporary times. An advocate and proponent of “sacred union”, Stefanos believes cultivating healthy relationships to self, ideas, others, our lovers and the Earth will liberate humanity towards a new empowered expression of itself.
Through a deeper connection to God, Earth and self, Stefanos realised the power of the human spirit. We often avoid challenge, fear and pain, however for the modern man (now more than ever), they are tools for transformation that help us heal universally.