Benny Fergusson, aka The Movement Monk, joins Mason on the podcast for an insightful discussion around how we can be more adaptive in our physical practices, embody flexibility with integrity, and bring a broader range of diversity into the way we approach movement. Bringing 20 years of experience and wisdom to the table, Benny comes versed in many forms of physical practice; Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Shaolin Kung Fu, Martial Arts, Yoga, Bodyweight training, to name a few. But what really lights him up and continues to evolve his work is providing people with unhomogenised frameworks of physical movement; Connecting them back to their unique bodies, their nature, and supporting them to thrive and achieve what they never knew was possible. Through his business (The Movement Monk), Benny and his team offer personal support, coaching, and an epic range of transformational online courses that hone in on movement exploration, better physical performance, and personal growth. In this episode, Benny explores many notions of movement and flexibility. He encourages the listener to look beyond mainstream prescribed ideas of physical workouts towards a limitless realm of movement exploration; One that isn't bound by body image, a singular goal, or a season. Mason and Benny also move around the concept of approaching both life and physical practice with more flexibility and connection to the body/self; With less dogma and more diversity, allowing us to change and adapt with ease as we go through the different seasons of life. Benny is a pioneer revolutionising the way we approach movement. Tune in now.
"With regards to movement, the body is always changing. My body now, in my thirties, is different from what it was in my twenties. There's a different context, and it's going to continue to change and evolve. And because of this, I need greater diversity to choose from. So I can adapt to an ever-changing environment, to the different seasons and how I'm feeling. In times where I'm feeling more lethargic. How do I work with that? There might be times when I'm feeling less grounded; How do I work with these things? There might be times when I'm feeling tired or when I'm feeling looser. To be able to continue to look at things and then go, oh, okay, cool. I have a series of choices that I know that I can make continually to keep the process of life going".
- Benny Fergusson
Mason and Benny discuss:
- Embodied flexibility.
- The quality of flexibility.
- Flexibility, stability and injury.
- Benny's process of movement.
- The explorative mobility method.
- Sustainability in physical practice.
- Chronic tension and pain in the body.
- Not letting our bodies do not define us.
Who is Benny Fergusson?
After living with chronic scoliosis and pain for years, getting no lasting relief from mainstream fitness and therapies.. Benny embarked on a journey to heal his body and get to know himself better. Through years of research and the practice of movement & meditation arts, Benny found a way to restore his physical freedom, leading to profound personal growth. Benny now shares his findings with his students at MovementMonk.xyz
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Check Out The Transcript Here:
Hey, Benny. Welcome back.
Benny Fergusson: (00:01)
Thanks for having me again, Mase. It's good to be back
[crosstalk 00:00:03] Yeah. You've been on long enough. I think you'd say friend of the podcast. Regular.
Benny Fergusson: (00:10)
Friend of the podcast.
Yeah. You're a regular. I think it's been a decent amount of time since we've been chatting on here.
Benny Fergusson: (00:19)
Even as much for the people that haven't met you before, but for those who haven't heard you for a year and a half or two years since you've been on. Do you just want to give them a little bit of an intro to what you do? But for you, where you're at with your movement practise that could just help frame out what you're doing in the world a little bit?
Benny Fergusson: (00:44)
Yeah, well, a little bit like you, a lot can happen... I'm always evolving. I'm always growing. I'm someone that I never rest on my laurels. I love this work. I love the process of having a body and exploring it and how that then intersects with who we are as people and what life is and what it can be. So, I'm always growing. Flexibility practise is something that just continues to be a cornerstone of my life. I think because my body is always reflecting back to me. Flexibility is very symbolic of how I meet my edges in life, how I adapt and stay supple. I continue to run a business, Movement Monk, and we provide online education and I'm always looking at how can we serve our members better?
Benny Fergusson: (01:50)
How can we get the message out? There's just so much homogenised physical exercise out there that doesn't open up people to themselves. So, I'm always pushing my edge within myself to see how I can educate better and also see what I'm made of. So, I've been continuing to grow in my personal practise. One thing that has continued to evolve is looking at the same situation, say like a stretch. What are the multiple ways that we can look at that so that we can be adaptive? Like when we're talking about embodied flexibility and that whole notion of what it means to embody something. In this case, the quality of flexibility. It's something that is not just... you're not a one trick pony.
Benny Fergusson: (02:52)
It's not just like I stretch in this way and then that just works infinitely. I've tried that and it doesn't actually work like that. You start to stagnate. We see this in so many different schools of thought, Philosophy, movements where you become a product of your own dogma, and then you're no longer living. You're just a series of regurgitated thoughts and actions repeated and nature doesn't work in that way. It's always adapting. It's going through so many different cycles. Having gone through this, maybe the hard way, I don't know, doing it for 20 years, you start to come to these realisations and realise that you need greater biodiversity in the way that you approach things. I'm really interested in that from a physical practise perspective.
Benny Fergusson: (03:53)
With regards to movement, the body's always changing. My body now, in my thirties, is different to what it was in my twenties. There's different context and it's going to continue to change and evolve, and I need a greater diversity to be able to choose from, to adapt to an ever changing environment, to the different seasons and how I'm feeling, whether there might be times where I'm feeling more lethargic. How do I work with that? There might be times when I'm feeling less grounded, how do I work with these things? There might be times when I'm feeling tired or when I'm feeling looser. To be able to continue to look at things and then go, oh, okay, cool. Maybe not have all of the right answers, but I have a series of choices that I know that I can make continually to keep the process of life going.
Benny Fergusson: (04:51)
So, these are the things that have been evolving. Like when I started this process with Movement Monk, and even this course in body flexibility, it happened around the same time, about nine years ago, in the online space. I was inspired by Shaolin practises, particularly Shaolin Qi Gong and stretching practises and that came through a lot in that process. That's where it was a lot about not just stretching for an end result, but also who you become in that process. Then, you put it out in the world. I was stoked about sharing that and I'm like, "oh, I've got to get this out to people, It's really helped me". Then, you get almost 3000 people come through and you get all this feedback, and it's just wonderful and it's humbling and you get all these different perspectives and then you come back and [inaudible 00:05:50] and you saw it and you go "okay, what can I do with this feedback?"
Benny Fergusson: (05:53)
How can I continue to grow and be better and provide something that is able to go to that next level, rather than be overly prescriptive of "do this, do that, do what I do and get what I got". It's now more about, these experiences have helped me, but use this process as a way to get to know yourself, and at the end of that, then you've got these tools to start to go "okay, how would I like to apply it? I can actually keep using these skills for a long time."
Benny Fergusson: (06:27)
The idea is that you could use these principles and practises for the next 10, 15, 20 years. A lot of the time we don't think about that in this transformational world of befores and afters in the realm of movement and fitness. I went from this amount of flexibility to that amount of flexibility.
Benny Fergusson: (06:50)
And that's cool. I think that's useful. It's an important part of the process, but then where do you go from there? Where do you go to keep your heart alive in your practise? Rather than just "Yeah, I've got the splits now what ?", "has that changed me?" "Does that touch the very fibre of who I am?"
Benny Fergusson: (07:08)
Is that just something that gave me some social currency and validation amongst my peers to go "whoa, you're really cool because you can do this thing", but I think this starts to then go deeper and go "okay, cool, Our bodies do not define us".
Benny Fergusson: (07:28)
We enter this bit of a paradox, yet here we are in this physical existence, living in this proverbial meat sack. It gives us a wonderful learning opportunity and it grounds us and thrusts us into these kinds of challenges and opportunities for growth, and brings us back to deeper questions about perhaps there's more to me than just my body. So, to come to that point through a physical practise is something that, to me, after 20 years of being interested in this, or more, 20 years of structured cultivation and exploration, it still keeps me yearning. There's a thirst to continue, to learn and grow, and also through that process to realise what I've accumulated and to be inspired to unlearn as well and come back to our essential nature, whatever that is for whoever we are.
Yeah. Uniquely. [crosstalk 00:08:42]I'm looking forward to checking out the new, improved, current reflection of everybody's flexibility, really reflecting on where it's all at and what's developed. What I like about the idea of embodied flexibility, it's an initiation process. Some people might come with the intention solely around what you're talking about. It might not be flexibility in particular that they have any specific goals revolving around, but they might feel the more metaphysical or emotional like, "Hey, if I bring this flexibility to my body, I'm going to be able to use that to bring adaptability and flexibility to the way that I think", or "I'm with my kids or when I'm in my job or running my business" or whatever it is. Likewise, I think if I went in there, I'd probably, at this point in my life, I'd probably be like "You know, I'd have a few mobility goals that I'd really be"...
I think the reason I got pleasantly surprised going through it probably eight years ago that I had those mobility intentions around maybe getting my forehead closer towards my shin, moving closer towards the wide split. I won't even talk about the front split yet. That's... maybe I can bet. That's a horrendous stretching for me. I love it, but you go in and you move towards those goals, but then you also get that pleasant surprise of, hang on... I said it in the live we did earlier, you make yourself and the system just that little bit too slippery that you can't just hook into an ideological outcome or an ideal outcome of what you're going for or attach what you want to you or any of the other instructors.
It just keeps on falling back into the self. And if you keep on going with the practise, so I'm [inaudible 00:10:43] understanding this. I imagine the new courses, especially particularly designed to just show up and keep on having faith in this process and keep on showing up in your practise in the way that we've loosely built it. You can still explore for yourself and through the other side; one, you probably do have some serious improvement in your mobility than when you're in your actual flexibility, but then there's that pleasant happy accident for many people that "wow" and all those things you're talking about, I'm feeling way more adaptive in my everyday life because I've altered the way that I relate with being uncomfortable, seeing that there's ways that I can explore being uncomfortable, move beyond that and see that things do move, even though it was very hard when I first arrived there. Does that sum it up a little bit ?
Benny Fergusson: (11:33)
Yeah, totally. It's an ongoing... To put this in an online course format that's digestible... It's a process of art and to give what our intention has been and is with this is to provide structures and frameworks and clarity that then open up someone to exploration. So, first and foremost, we put the focus on really two key things, the methodology rather than it. So, for example, to highlight an evolution, we started off with a simple process of in the first version of embodied flexibility, it was a series of dynamic stretching movements. So, you'd move in and out of the range to acclimatise with what you're doing, and then you'd focus on generating good quality contraction in your end range to stabilise and give your nervous system an opportunity to go "Okay, I'm safe here."
Benny Fergusson: (12:37)
And then a natural result is your body is more confident and able to move into deeper ranges. Which was good, really useful. That, at the time of my research was a very widely applicable process. It had to evolve, then, to different questions of "okay, well, what if I have a natural propensity toward hyper mobility?" So my joints are a little bit more lax and they can hyper extend and all that sort of stuff. What do I do? I've done a lot of strength training and my body is hyper mobile. My muscles can contract well, but they have trouble letting go. I've got a lot of armour, so to speak, real stoic warrior vibe, but how do I learn to put down my shield and surrender into deeper layers of the body.
Benny Fergusson: (13:33)
So, you can't do that with just one type of stretching, and you see what happens then in my observations and experiences in lots of different realms of movement is... you see... and none of this is a negative on any of them, but you see the necessity of how they've popped up, for example, Yin Yoga is a lot about surrendering into deeper postures and it's a psychological, physiological unravelling process through surrendering to what is. It's kind of a meditative process and unfurling, which is wonderful. Yet, what often happens is people who have that natural propensity toward that quality gravitate toward it. So they just get more of what they're already good at and then other people, it can be really beneficial, but then it can reach a point of your physiology needs more diversity.
Benny Fergusson: (14:30)
So, this is where one of my intents is to provide options so we can see the benefits of all of these different approaches, but then we can change and adapt. For example, my body started off and I was into strength training. I was into strong man. I was into CrossFit-like activities before CrossFit existed. So, that came naturally to me and I could put on muscle and all that stuff. But, when it came to flexibility, that was not a natural realm for me. So, I need to find ways to work with my body, but then there's the other side of the coin as well. People who maybe are a little bit lighter in their frame, that their joints don't have as much structural and integrity and all that sort of stuff.
Benny Fergusson: (15:24)
So, with all these questions and as working with thousands of people now, over the years, you start to get a greater diversity of the different types of bodies, and that brings up the question, how do we make a method that is adaptive to the individual?
Benny Fergusson: (15:40)
So, this is where the method turned from a rhythmic strength stretching as we started, to now the explorative mobility method, which is what it sounds like. We combined four different types of stretching as options. So, you can go into the same stretch, but then realise, "Oh my God, I've got four key different ways which each have different physiological impacts and also different mental approaches to elicit an effect in the same stretch", which is really, really cool. So, it means that in a practise you can either, let's say you like that variability, that's a part of your constitution.
Benny Fergusson: (16:24)
I don't want to just be locked in a box with one thing, and that's a part of the individual's makeup that is not just physiological. Then you give that space for that part of the beam to flourish, and then there might be another type of beam that's, "No, I want to focus on one clear thing to get this outcome". We can do that, too. And then once we satisfy these parts of the beam, then it's like, "okay, cool, what else is there? How can I start to actually grow into new space, that is beyond what my natural inclination is?"
Benny Fergusson: (17:03)
So, that's a big part that I was actually surprised that it came out. I started coming back and taking all this feedback and then looking at what do we need to do to do better.
Benny Fergusson: (17:18)
Then this came along the way and I was actually also really surprised. I continued to bring it into my practise and then just seeing how it gives structure, but then also gives someone a sense of personal agency that they have choice of that overwhelm in a flexibility practise.
Benny Fergusson: (17:35)
So, that's one of the cornerstones that's in this new process and it's something that if I had have seen it around in the world, I wouldn't have had to do it. So, this is a driving force of going, "Okay, we deserve more options when we're working with our body. We deserve more ability to personalise and find something that not only suits us where we're at now, but gives us space to grow." So, these sorts of things that are exciting me at the moment.
I had a really new, sapling thought when you were talking about the bulking muscle men and women. Again, don't have this to take anywhere. I just wanted to share it with you quickly. Especially in relation to when I was in the live, I was talking about the spleen. For most people with deficient muscle, you're going to see deficient capacity to create strong bonds and have strong boundaries within your relationships and with yourself, because that's the virtuous nature of the spleen. I was just thinking about that, that being jacked up and high, having that hypermobility, you can see that it's a hyper bond. It's like "bro! You're my bro!"... Same with the women. You just see that the bonds between them is so intense and the boundaries between their tribe and other tribes seem really intense and really defined as well.
You know what, I can really just see those bonds and boundaries becoming excessive. Maybe using a little bit of that medicine of... I guess a little bit of flexibility could be coming in, especially from the liver, for those of you that have the Taoist incline to help bring some balance into that. Especially, some balance to the frustration and anger that can come up in that from that world, which the liver has to deal with. I just wanted to talk about quality of flexibility when we talk about stretching, quality of stretching, quality of flexibility, because I know my colonised mind, my reductionist mind still hears you go "you know, flexibility" and I'm like, "oh yeah, yeah, cool. Yeah. I need more flexibility and doing some stretching in your practise."
Yeah, yeah. I got it. I should stretch and it's all the courses and I read every... Anyone who's focused on doing... It was an athlete and now I got in. Then, of course, I stretch. I stretch at the end of the day. And I'm like, "what do you mean, You know?" I know you've just said that you've got four different types. So, it's not just one myopic concept. I remember you've talked a lot in the past about someone who... and you brought up hyper mobility and how some people might think, "Oh, that person's going to breeze through embodied flexibility."
But, can you talk to a little bit about what that process would be like for someone with hypermobility? And then I'm sure that can take us into whether we're hypo or hyper...
Benny Fergusson: (20:47)
What's that quality of flexibility that you're looking for? And does it necessarily just mean going to your furthest range that you have right now?
Benny Fergusson: (20:57)
Yeah, yeah. Well, qualities... Probably one of the... So, I don't like to be too hierarchal in the way that I think, but if I have a look at my evolution as I've journeyed into the body further, I started off with techniques, which is what a lot of people do. It's like I do a stretch. Now, what I realised with a technique is you bring yourself to that technique under the illusion that you think that that technique is going to somehow magically change your wiring. So, what often happens is that we then highlight... The practise reflects back to us, ourselves, like a classic case is... like the technique of stretching is just so open and ambiguous. It's like going to what someone has described as a stretch. What does that mean? It's going to mean 10 different things to 10 different people.
Benny Fergusson: (22:08)
So, it's not enough for you to then have some sort of personal agency in the experience. So, then you go a little bit deeper into principles. So, what are the things underneath, the cogs that turn to make that technique work? Why that technique came about? So, principles are really useful because that then starts to take a little bit deeper into the conversation you start to look at. Ah, okay. Rather than just doing, focusing on the tip of the iceberg, I then start to look at all of the supporting structures that allow it to float, because it's such an illusion. This tip is everything that you need to create that reality. It doesn't work like that. We need foundations and those foundations are principles which I'll go into some of the ones that I find really useful, in a moment.
Benny Fergusson: (23:10)
Then you go a little bit further and you start to talk about qualities. Like when we start to look into different qualities of being, qualities of mind. So, if I go into something and my intention is very strong, very attachment based, very future focused, then that quality will be reflected through the activity that I do. In this case, a stretch. An example... I'll give more examples in terms of how we apply this to someone who's hyper mobile. For me, at the start of my journey, I wanted to get flexible. We're talking about, I wanted the splits, I wanted the backbend. To be honest, I'm still interested in those things as much as I was when I started.
Benny Fergusson: (23:58)
However, the level of attachment has significantly loosened off. It's something that is less future-based and now more I'm appreciating where I'm at in the process of where I'm going. So, the quality of patience has emerged. The quality of, for want of a better term, flexibility, to be able to adapt with what is, because I'll wake up and some days I might be tighter, and if I push my body on that day, my body's going to give me some sort of feedback to say whether that's okay, whether that's not okay.
Benny Fergusson: (24:38)
It's like anything in nature, you just can't force it to grow. It grows through a product of being supported to grow. So, rather than trying to force... and you can see these other types of qualities, if this is underlying factor driving the being, so that quality of pushing, of striving, of achieving, then you will get a result, but it will reach a ceiling pretty quick, because it's out of the accordance of natural law which has cycles and interrelationships and all of that sort of stuff.
Benny Fergusson: (25:15)
So, when you look into qualities, that's when things start to get rich into How does our level of being influence what we do and then interrelate to what we have. It's that very classic notion of be, do, have.
Benny Fergusson: (25:30)
So, who I am will then inform what I have, what I experience. So, if we track it back and look at someone who's hyper mobile, someone who has maybe less joint integrity, less structural integrity, more gravitation toward flexibility. This is what a lot of people... you see it in the yoga world... a lot of women demonstrate wonderful flexibility and you get the guys going, "I could never do that", or some women who don't have that quality naturally going "Oh, well, yoga is not for me because I can't do those [inaudible 00:26:11], those postures from day dot". Maybe that person who's demonstrating it has cultivated it over years.
Benny Fergusson: (26:20)
Maybe, also, they've just always been that way. So, either way we need to find ways for... because there's also people who are hyper mobile, who don't feel stable, who get injured easily, who are also not very flexible. So, there's all of these wonderful, different variants in someone's body.
Yeah. There was that woman, I don't know her name, not that I want to share it, but I remember Tahnee, Tahnee keeps me up to date with all the scandals in the yoga world.
Benny Fergusson: (26:52)
She was a pretty famous Ashtanga teacher ? [crosstalk 00:26:56]
Benny Fergusson: (26:56)
Yes, yes, yes.
The classic lunge. The really sexy knee over the ankle, one calf right up on the thigh and her back acetabulum popped out ?
Benny Fergusson: (27:08)
Yes. [inaudible 00:27:10]
Just popped out. Hip just popped out. Popped right out of the hip, I should say. And I think that's a perfect example that what you're talking about.
Benny Fergusson: (27:20)
Benny Fergusson: (27:21)
Totally, totally. So, here we are with unique circumstances of the body. If we focus on an external posture being the primary goal, we push outside of what our internal needs are. So, if we go back to that layer of principles and we just start first, this is a really useful place of starting at something easy.
Benny Fergusson: (27:50)
I think a lot of the time we, in my experiences, focus on flexibility and that end goal is really clear. I know where I want to get to. So. you put yourself in a stretch that maybe you've seen on YouTube or someone's shown you, or you learn in high school or something like that. Then you go directly at that path, but it doesn't tend to work like that if you don't yet have the underlying foundations to support that.
Benny Fergusson: (28:21)
So, if someone is hyper mobile or even hypo mobile, this will work for both sides of the coin, which is great, you find a space that is reflective of where you'd like to go, but it's easy, and what starts to happen in the mind is you go, "oh, okay, cool, I can do this". What also can happen in the mind is, "is this enough for me to improve?", and that's another little hook that can come up. "Do I need to push myself harder in order to get the gains?" This is where you see it can challenge people's ongoing sustainability in their practise.
Benny Fergusson: (29:04)
So, first I feel when we're coming to the conversation of flexibility, we need to understand those two spaces, the space of ease. So, "What can I already do?", "What is the ease or quality that I already possess that's already there?"
Benny Fergusson: (29:22)
Then, that space of challenge. "What do I do when I get to that space?", "Is that a positive incentivizing experience for me to go harder?", because it's the whole, no pain, no gain adage, or "Is that something that I've become hypersensitive to, and I tense up in the experience of, and go into fight or flight?", and then I don't give my body an opportunity to open up into its innate potential because we are actually all naturally flexible, and that's the thing, it's an innate state, we've just lost touch with it.
Benny Fergusson: (30:05)
So, starting with that space of ease, whatever you need to do, maybe you take that... I remember we were talking about the pancake and that being a more challenging position for you. We let go of the attachment of what it needs to look like and we find that basic pattern and then we go, "Okay, what's my space of ease within that basic shape?"
Benny Fergusson: (30:27)
Then we get accustomed with that first. Then the hyper mobile, or even hypo mobile, you'll notice that a lot of these things, what it does is it brings together to then just focus on our experience as we're going into spaces of ease and spaces of challenge. So, then everyone will have different noticing. As that hyper mobile person goes into it, they might notice, "Ah, as I go and I bend forward, my knees start to hyper extend, or my hips start to push into the socket and that sort of thing. So, you can feel when it starts to come on and then adapt and go, "Okay, that doesn't happen when I'm in this space of ease."
Benny Fergusson: (31:20)
Then, as I go into that challenge, it starts to come on. So, rather than just put yourself into it, system's all kind of hyper stimulated, and then it's just too much sensory information to be able to make a clear decision. That's a really, really useful principle, so basic, but how many people apply it and value it as a thing? So, that's one thing that I want to bring out is sometimes it's the obvious things, but to really let people know from someone who has not just done this with themself for 20 years, but observed thousands of different bodies and different people for probably the last 15 years of working with people one-to-one and 10 years of doing it in an online space to realise, keep going with this, it's worthwhile. Pull that thread.
I just wanted to speak to you a little bit to your process. You mentioned about some people just want to go real hard and they would just want to give it their all. It's almost like you've got that dominating kind of approach to your practise in life. I think that's a great quality you brought up that you're still just as interested in those and getting into those extreme poses, say, but there's just other elements there. I think I'll just reiterate for everyone, you can still go hard. This is a challenging approach where you can go hard, but there's just other qualities there like that back off patients breathe, explore. It does enable you to go way further and way deeper into this. So, you don't have to relinquish that part of you that's, "Oh, I like to just get after it."
You will be able to get after it in here, [crosstalk 00:33:13] and one of those areas I just wanted to reiterate you've gone into that big view of around, especially like if you're hyper mobile, what happens, but can you just talk a little bit as you go down the road a little bit, that relationship between just having extreme flexibility where there's a floppiness versus where that intersection of strength, flexibility, having stability comes into effect, and how does that... just tack onto the back of that... I think about this often in terms of injury. I think about football players and athletes getting knees and hip injuries constantly and crutch injuries constantly that are debilitating and I often think about your work. Could you just give us a little insight there and to how that all works?
Benny Fergusson: (34:11)
Yeah. The way I look at it is I love woodworking, so I relate to it with the quality of wood. So, if you have a certain quality, so let's say strength, you focus on that. If you look at a lot of athletes, they strengthen themselves, or they do specific movements to improve that thing that they're doing. That's one thing that athletes can benefit from to reduce their rates of industry injury, massively, which is actually more diversity in movement, and you've seen it in MMA fighters, like Conor McGregor is a great example of this, how he's challenged the typical ways of MMA people training. He has brought in a broader approach of movements and you can see that in his fighting style.
Benny Fergusson: (35:09)
Also, it reflects on him as well as a person and his general outlook. Of course, I don't know him, but I can just observe, but we've got one quality, like strength. That's like a groove. The more you do it, the deeper that groove gets in the wood. Eventually you can dig yourself a trench. The same as flexibility. If you continue to focus on the end posture, you dig yourself a trench into that posture.
Benny Fergusson: (35:40)
We often don't have a spectrum between those two qualities. We want to equally focus on both. Not separately, but at the same time. So, then we're starting to get a wider spectrum. If you had the choice... You got a highway and you wanted to spread the load across multiple lanes, that road is going to get worn out a lot less quickly than if you just had one or two lanes where all the traffic goes down.
Benny Fergusson: (36:15)
These things are the breeding ground for injury. So, when it comes to bringing that into the context of training flexibility, we need to start to not just look at the end space we get into, but bringing... What's the thing that merges it all ? Movement. Can I move in and out of these postures ?
Benny Fergusson: (36:37)
So, then you realise that flexibility's not a static thing. It's not an end goal. It's a continuum of me being where I am and being able to move in and out of where I'd like to go with the quality of ease. So, the end goal I find... It's like a car... if you're always redlining the car, you're always pushing it to its maximum capacity. Shit gets worn out faster.
Benny Fergusson: (37:05)
It's like that with injury. If you're a sportsperson, you're always doing that turn or doing that adjustment to the edge of your current ability. Then the circumstances that breed injury are going to be higher. You see it in... If you watch enough 100m races, the tear in the hamstring doesn't just happen gradually. It's a buildup, and then, boom! It's done. It's a lot of pressure built up in the system over time to one glorious culminating moment and, boom, you're injured.
Benny Fergusson: (37:41)
So, if you create, this is the beautiful thing of creating more than what you need. This is a very abundant mindset. This is the thing that keeps me struggling. Yeah, it's cool to get these outcomes and it looks cool and people will celebrate it, but for me, I look at... I just started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu again. So, if I go into that class, I know my ability and I know where I can go more and I can play in my 80-90 percent zone.
Benny Fergusson: (38:16)
If I want to really dial it up; if I get into a challenging situation, I can, but it doesn't have to be a constant where I'm always struggling, I'm always redlining and then I'm setting myself up for the injury.
Benny Fergusson: (38:31)
When I work with another person, I can start to feel "Okay, where am I at in my spectrum ? Can I play?" and then also bring context with going "Okay, I'm challenging this situation. This is where I need to focus to give myself a bit more space."
Benny Fergusson: (38:48)
Then, I'm not always pushing, pushing, pushing right on that edge and setting myself up for potential injury. Sometimes things happen. I don't actually believe you see a lot. We talk about bulletproofing the body. It's bullshit, to be honest, because shit happens.
Benny Fergusson: (39:08)
Through the process of training flexibility, I've torn my adductor twice. I've torn my hamstring twice. It's been big setbacks. They were big ego moments of where my mind, my sense of striving, achievement was pushing further than what my body was ready for. I wasn't listening to the subtle signals.
Benny Fergusson: (39:28)
So, my body had to go "Hey, dude, I'm going to give you a really clear message that you can hear, that's going to reflect back to you your way of living, and this is not sustainable. So, get your shit sorted and come back to the foundations, so we can be more robust."
Benny Fergusson: (39:46)
In short, look at the picture of movement, how it interrelates rather than just these fixed states and linear ideas of what flexibility is. Strength, flexibility and them merging together into one as you practise is really, really useful, and highly applicable. We do become more resistant to injury. Will it completely stop injury ? Well, that's a personal choice.
This might be a bit of a weird question. You've got quite a large community now and the community is growing. We know, not for everyone and not in definitely every movement, so [inaudible 00:40:38]. Largely, when we begin to talk about movement, the people who are motivating us, or we're learning from, have a real high aspiration for a shiny thing. They may say it's not about achieving this thing, but yet their life revolves around, quite often, achieving a big thing.
Do you find a lot of people... Again, not a bad thing... I've got large goals that I'm uniquely going for as well. I'm also someone who can get quite quickly... If I fall into step with someone motivational, I can quite quickly, maybe in the past, get hijacked and think I've got to go and achieve something amazing, physically, through running or something like that. All of a sudden, it's marathons and ultras are on the mind.
Do you find a lot of people gravitate towards your community with those... Maybe they're athletes and maybe they're really focused, maybe not on the process of being an athlete, but on that shiny thing. Do you find when they come into your community... Do you help them ? I know you don't have an agenda, there... Do they continue to be obsessed with the shiny thing ? Do they stop looking for it, sometimes ? Do they continue to go for it, yet find substance in the middle ?
Or, do you find the people that come to you are those who are no longer thinking that that's the pinnacle, to find the shiny thing and they say they wanting something else ? I'm curious about that world.
Benny Fergusson: (42:24)
What comes to mind... What I will say first is that people that tend to come into our space, they've done and tried a lot of things. That might be, "I've done this type of yoga", "I've done this", "I've done Crossfit", "I've done these different modalities and I've seen benefits in them. I'm interested. I feel there's something more. I don't know what it is, but I feel like there's more potential within me to explore. Just putting that label on it, I now know there's a limitation."
Benny Fergusson: (43:07)
So, that's one type of person. That can also go on the other side where "I've had pain, discomfort. All that... I've done the Chiro, I've done the Physio, I've done the Osteo, and all of these are beautiful. I've done the Chinese Medicine or like you were talking about, the colonialized versions of it. I've done all these things, but I need to come back to a place of taking personal responsibility, rather than building reliance on any one person or one thing."
Benny Fergusson: (43:41)
We do have people who have those goals. We have Martial Artists. We have rock climbers. We have adventurers. People who would like to experience more out of their body. A great example that comes up is one of our senior teachers, Marcus, based in Austria. When we started, he had been a personal trainer for a long time. He didn't come in green. He came in with a good level of physical ability and strong level of aspirations. He wanted to do the splits. He wanted to handstand. He wanted to do all these sorts of things.
Benny Fergusson: (44:20)
So, the wonderful thing is, because I've been walking this path for a long time, I can empathise with that because that was me at a certain point, too. I used to, and we've talked about on the podcast, run a facility in Melbourne called Cohesion. We had classes just on handstands. How to get the handstand. Is that sustainable? That's questionable, because a lot of people come into it and they go, "ah, my wrists are hurting" and all that sort of stuff.
Benny Fergusson: (44:49)
So, it highlights when we overly focus on one thing and then neglect the foundations that support that thing where it naturally happens. Wonderful thing that I've noticed. I used to train handstands daily for, sometimes, an hour plus, which is not actually extreme compared to the handstand world. You've got people, by their choice, and I'm not taking away from that choice, but they might be spending one, two, three plus hours a day focused on that specific skill. Now, I look at that, and I'm like "Oh God, I may be able to make the time, but why would I choose that particular thing just to get a handstand, if I'm not working for Cirque du Soleil ?"
Benny Fergusson: (45:33)
I have a friend who performs in Cirque du Soleil and the training he goes through for that is immense, but it's contextual to his life. That's the one thing that tends to happen in our community. Rather than make something a negative, like "Ah, cool, just because you want to do a handstand or do the splits, you're less of a person". I celebrate that and those goals and those achievements. What tends to happen is the self reflective nature of[inaudible 00:46:09] movement practises that we share, get you to question your deeper "why". "Why would I put in this amount of effort for that outcome?" "Does that really align with me?"
Benny Fergusson: (46:21)
What tends to naturally happen is people start where they start, wherever that is. Then, they get reflected back their deeper drive. Then they make choices. So, Marcus started off and when we were working together seven years ago, might be a bit more, I nurtured that. I was like "Cool, you want to do a handstand ? Let's do a handstand. Let's do that. Let's do the things you want to do and we'll do some other things that maybe you haven't considered, that are nurturing for not just your muscles, but also your organs and your general quality of how you experience your body. We'll start to do some reflective practises where you get to know the nature of your mind and listen to the way you're breathing affects your physiology, and all that sort of stuff".
Benny Fergusson: (47:11)
So, through that process, you start to ask bigger questions. You start to go, "Ah, okay, I'd like to still do this, but there's something bigger that's calling me."
Benny Fergusson: (47:23)
So, if I then fast forward into what that has looked like for Marcus, myself, in this example, we still like to do a handstand and still can do a handstand. Maybe not quite as well as when we were practising x amount of hours a day, but I remember there was a little kid who was like "Can you do a handstand?". I was like "I can't remember, it's been a little while", and up into the handstand and all that body memory was there. Plus all of this deep awareness through the whole system rather than just this specific skill.
Benny Fergusson: (47:56)
There I am in a handstand, surprised, going "Oh, this is the easiest handstand I've ever done and I haven't systematically practised it for many years." So, I look at that and the freedom that comes with. It's just incredible to know that I can honestly say I've enjoyed the process, the challenges along the way so much more because it's provided so much more diversity than just at the end. Pouring my heart and soul into one thing and just having a handstand that doesn't really enrich my life at a deeper level. That's one of my observations. I don't always know how our community is going to adapt because I'm always on the edge of my game as well.
Benny Fergusson: (48:45)
It's a common thing where I do my best to not control, but to give people an opportunity to reflect and make choices. That's a consistent thing that I notice is they do tend to look a little deeper into their underlying intention for why they are practising .
Yeah. It was a very broad question. What just came up at the end there when we were talking about the handstand. If we're not objective, if we don't have an objective, focused, outlook, or community. But, more of a community, a process that focuses on creating possibilities, or potential. Creating that ecosystem. It makes me think of... You heard of [Rostiano's 00:49:34] Tonic herbs ? Like Ashwagandha. One of the ways they describe what they can do is create an environment where you have a great capacity to have spontaneous joy. "So, we're not focusing on a shiny thing, being joy. I'm not doing this so I can have joy all the time. There's just the potential for joy to emerge".
And if there's an ecosystem, an environment created, where "Ah, there's joy", and "Ah, actually I'm feeling patient", "Ah, I can actually climb under a fence, pretty easily", "Ah, I can get up that tree pretty easy", "Ah, I'm [inaudible 00:50:08] and I've got mobility", "You can't just push me over, and I don't have to worry as much about breaking my hip by falling over, because I know I have stability". These things just emerge. Versus, "Hey, here's this course to create stability for seven year olds", and that might be really good as a starting point. Like in here. It's a structured entry point. Like the Embodied Flexibility course and the challenge you've got going on. Like, "Hey, let's get flexible", "Hey, let's get stable and let's do that" and then "Oh, my gosh, look what's on the other side of this".
These secret treasures hidden within that makes it... It's not just about stability. It's not just about flexibility. And that flexibility or stability, let's just pretend there is a geriatrics course that you have, so elders don't fear falling over and breaking their hips. On the other side, there's all these other diverse outcomes that are applied to everyday life, rather than just sticking straightly [inaudible 00:51:11].
I think it's good, man. I think you've created something special, as always, because as you said, you're always on the edge of your own creativity and your own process, yet in this trail, this business you've created, this organisational structure that you've got behind you, are these places where people can safely go in and it's super clear and obvious what they need to do to start stepping into that place where they do have greater mobility and they can adventure around their body and their practise and their physical practise however they want. That's the fun thing.
You go in and you go "Benny's doing it his way" and, again, it's hard to attach. That's the way. It's just not there. The same with Marcus. It's not what's generated. You can't just go "Ah, I have to be like them and aspire to them". It's just within your own practise.
A practise that has integrity will take you and connect you to your own nature and the qualities within yourself. That self informs your path, through your practise, which I think is really cool how you've... It's one thing to talk about it right now. It's a hell of a thing to create a landscape of community and courses and also the academy, I love. It helps breed it.
Benny Fergusson: (52:38)
Totally. Yeah. I think that's one of the things that I'm really inspired by is how do we continue to integrate the notion of human design, technology and community, altogether with physical practise, or [inaudible 00:53:03] and physical practises. That's where we're going. To continue to push the boundaries of what can we do with technology, how can we utilise that as a tool to not separate people, but bring them together, open up conversation. For us to just discover what the heck lights us up. At the end, take that last breath and go "Ah, you know what, that was a wonderful story. That was a wonderful movie that I participated in. I'm at peace."
Benny Fergusson: (53:43)
It's wonderful. I look at... continually, just asking the question, "What can I do to contribute ?", "How can I share my experiences ?", "How can I create space for someone to make it their own, rather than just to always be held under me ?"
Putting it that way, the glass ceiling being "held under" either an ancient particular philosophy or movement patterns or teacher ?
Benny Fergusson: (54:24)
That's an interesting skill. That's something I know we've talked about the nature of developing that skill to teach and be a leader without actually placing yourself up there, which is a natural... Naturally, you gravitate there, or people try and put you there. All of the time, be the source of my inspiration and where I need to go next. To do that a little bit, infusing what you're talking about as well.
Benny Fergusson: (54:54)
That's a skill you learn in your practise, right ?
Benny Fergusson: (54:57)
Yeah, I think the thing that I've continued to learn through... Physical practise is something that I talk about. It helps me so much. It's a part of the relationship that I've established with myself. Getting to know myself and being okay with who I am and being okay that that's... I'm still discovering who that is, even though this is part of me that just knows. Moving beyond my conditioned self. What I get to is, "Okay, the best that I can be, the best leader I can be, is being me."
Benny Fergusson: (55:43)
If I can then support other people, give space for them to just be themselves, what ends up happening is whatever level of achievement someone gets to, someone might be more flexible or stronger or have different mental capacities or different energetic qualities in another person. It might appear on the outside, "Ah, that person's achieved more than what the other person...", but if we then start to meet in a space of, "You're you, I'm me, here we are having an experience of life". Living to the highest level that we can, then we don't meet in a space of competition. We meet in a space of collaboration.
Benny Fergusson: (56:32)
That's the thing that's helped at least myself as I'm a sharer of information, an educator, as my intention. It's taken out the "me holding back" out of fear that someone will take all of my knowledge and be better than me and then, I'll be irrelevant.
Benny Fergusson: (56:54)
I know that no one will ever be me. I know that I will never be anyone else. I've tried and it just doesn't work. There's something in me that's like, "This is not you, this is not your nature". Let other people be themselves. That's what inspires me to educate. That's what inspires me around community where we all do come to a point of self agency and we exercise. Some people are more inherent in leadership. That is a quality that I notice that I have that's just a part of me. It's partly cultivated, partly just innate, in me. I've been averse to that for a long time of being "The Guy" who has all the answers, and "Come this way. Off we go. Do what I do. Say what I say. It's the way of virtue".
Benny Fergusson: (57:50)
To a point now, where I go, "Okay, I can lead people and inspire them to maybe something greater than what they thought they could get to within their own belief structure, within their own environment". I can inject that new vibrancy into their physical goals, into these sorts of things. I also love to just, once they're running, step away and see what they make, and we meet at this space. That's what I notice is happening and, God, I don't know how it's happened, because I couldn't have done it with just a product of strategy and all of that sort of stuff. These things light me up at the moment.
I can tell. I love it, man. I just encourage everyone to... If you're new to the community, Benny is... been a part of the Super Beast family for a long time. He's come out back in the day, when I used to run retreats, fasting retreats. Just basic lifestyle upgrade retreats. I think you came out to every single one of those and held a workshop. We're going to get you in doing more workshops with the Super Beasts as well when we can. I think we've been friends for, it must be coming up, nearly 10 years.
Benny Fergusson: (59:19)
Yeah. [crosstalk 00:59:20] Close to that
About that point, and I couldn't recommend the offerings through movement month, enough. We'll pop links down in the Bio for you to go and find the Embodied Flexibility Course. The website. The Freedom Academy. The Freedom Academy is where you can move around and have endless access to all these various movement patterns and styles of cultivating flexibility and strength and peace within. It's really wonderful. You can also use the code MASON10 through the website movementmonk.xyz
Cool, man, thanks so much for coming on.
Benny Fergusson: (01:00:08)
Thanks for having me, Mase. It's wonderful to keep the conversation going. I think one last little thing I'd just love to share is off the back of the new course. We're bringing out teacher training soon. Any people in your community. Yoga teachers, personal trainers, movement coaches, and all that sort of stuff, I'm looking forward to sharing the conversation with them and providing ways on which we can facilitate journeys for people to transform. Not just in the short term, but in the longer term in their physical practise. With their flexibility.
So, that module of teacher training is revolving around the Embodied Flexibility [crosstalk 01:00:52] ?
Benny Fergusson: (01:00:52)
Yeah, we've built it around all the frameworks and with that, we basically have more personal support. It's a 12 week journey and, at the end, basically what happens is someone produces case studies on how they've applied [inaudible 01:01:08] We take them through everything from what happens in situations if someone's results stagnate or if they are hyper immobile, or hypo immobile. How do we adapt these things ? One of my thing is I love to get into any situation, working with different types of people that I've never worked with before. Different challenges. There's some confidence that's being built within me of like, "Okay, cool, I do have value here, and that's something that I'd like to impart"
Benny Fergusson: (01:01:39)
It's a really wonderful thing. Just when you're confident working with people, in the realm of flexibility. It's just like, "Okay, cool, I don't have to have all the answers, but I've got some really good frameworks to then support this person to thrive", rather than, "Ooh, God, what am I going to do in this session", scrounging around, reading books, and then you piece it together and underneath the surface, you're like a duck paddling on water and at the end of it, I just would like to support people to just be relaxed and confident in what they're sharing. We're doing that in the realm of flexibility.
Benny Fergusson: (01:02:14)
movementmonk.xyz again. For people to get details for that.
Benny Fergusson: (01:02:21)
Yeah. We'll be talking more about how we... I think one thing I'd like to continue to focus on is how we bring herbalism and all of that sort of stuff. The physical practise. The things of what we do is the part of it. What's the engine underneath in our physiology that's supporting the robustness of the physical regeneration? That's why I just love what you guys are doing.
When you go into the core... Let's go to the core of the foundation. When the Taoists have... They've gotten to that point. They've dedicated to their practise and they're disciplined. Not just the Taoists. Those who are... They've gone next level and they're cultivating something special. It's herbalism and physical practise. [inaudible 01:03:14]become the foundations of what's going to then lead to that greater capacity to have potential. As we said before, not looking for a shiny thing. Just creating this landscape within us, where the potential and the possibilities can blossom.
So, as you said, the physical regeneration, bringing physical herbs in there to do that regenerative work and then getting to that point where... when you're self sustainable and you're flowing and you just looking to bring this opening up through your fascial system, through your capacity to stand erect and strong, become flexible.
We start looking at mushrooms coming in and the Chi herbs nourishing the fascial system. The Yin liver herbs. The ones in beauty blend. Goji. Schizandra. Bringing that capacity to yield and become flexible. Those Yang liver herbs, like Eucommia Bark bringing that upright bamboo erectness. They fall all into the same tribe. Once you've got lifestyle dialled, then your potentiation, when you're going towards potentiation, that practise, that physical practise breath, movement meditation and herbal practise, they come in and they just light it up. I'm with you, man. I'm glad that we hopefully dial in and work together more and more in that space, and I think a lot of people have already got it in this community.
I'd love to see them dip into the movement, Monk World, and take it to another level. Especially because a lot of people are like, "Should I do QiGong or Tai Chi, or Kung Fu ?" or these kinds of things.
Yeah, you can, and they're amazing. What's at the heart of them ? You should go and explore those worlds, but when you go into Movement Monk World, Benny's been through lots of Tai Chi, and Qi Gong, Shaolin practise, Kung Fu practise, lots of Martial Arts, both the Yin and Yang nature.
A lot of those principles that are there and those attentions you will find there, as long as you can stay consistent, as long as you can show up to your practise. I'll put it out there. Even though this is a place, you can see Benny's a very gentle, grounded, person. Once you get in there, you can get gritty with yourself. In terms of, "Come on, I know you don't feel like it. Show up. Show up".
There will be a reflection practise and I think you'll be generally gentle and soft, "Okay, let's approach why that is." But, at the same time, I'll come in and, because this is generally what I need... Come on, I can't find anything super legitimate right now around why you don't want to get in there and have a sustainable, exploratory, stretch.
I think you're just avoiding what is going to become opened up and therefore the potential and the peace that you're going to be able to find in yourself, because you're going to have to dredge through a little bit of shit. Then you forget, "I can go slow and I can go sustainable and gentle", but nonetheless, that shit's going to get dragged up and I am going to find out that I can really start accessing some beautiful things within my body. Openness, flexibility, adaptability.
You don't get that reward without the discipline. Through that structure. It's something I'm feeling more than ever. I'm feeling it in the business, and I know a lot of you love structure and you go, "Yeah, whatever Mase". That's fine. Then I challenge you to go into the Magic and exploring the vision of what's possible to keep on going into the nether lands of your body.
Once you start opening that up. But, a lot of you are such free flowing. You're already Peter Pans and Wendys. Never wanting to grow up. Flying off in Neverland. Grow up for a little bit. Come and get structured. Allow that structure and discipline into your life. Allow those qualities to be cultivated and the freedom and the capacity to dream and step back into the Magic.
When you've created that next platform, it's beautiful and it's your life, breathing through different processes. You're coming in. Maybe you need that structure right now. Don't fight it, because if you're fighting it, it will always come again, but you can miss that opportunity of your life for a little bit. That stage of your life.
Don't fight it. Grit your teeth. Get in there. Then release the tension from your jaw, because you're doing Benny's work. [inaudible 01:07:54] Grit your teeth and get in there and accept that things are evolving and changing and trust that process. That's one thing I've really experienced in your work. I just wanted to share. I think a lot of people listening to this would need to hear that. Create a new relationship with that showing up and experience the freedom that's going to come from that discipline. For others, experience the Magic. The further discipline that will come for you and the further structure that will come for you. If you step into exploring the unknown.
Benny Fergusson: (01:08:31)
Hmm, powerful, man.
Benny Fergusson: (01:08:34)
As a friend, more than anything, but as a teacher, you've helped me get to that place a lot. So, I just wanted to make sure that that was sharing my little piece and testimonial on the backend here and as I said, everyone, I really encourage you to either do The Embodied Flexibility Course. Maybe you've got a shitload of tension in your body and you start there with the tension release. Is that right ?
Benny Fergusson: (01:09:02)
Maybe some people are here with chronic pain ? Do you want to just quickly share that with the entry point for people with chronic pain ?
Benny Fergusson: (01:09:08)
Yeah. The best way is in the physical freedom academy. At the moment. Inside that, we've got all sorts of different processes. We run a call every week for people with chronic tension and pain. First, just know, from someone who has been through chronic pain. You're okay. It's okay. You're not broken. And there are other ways that we can move forward. It doesn't have to be something that just lives at a dull level in the background. That's where me sharing this process called Break Through Your Pain is based around key questions we can ask ourselves to then start to really have moments of truth and go, "Oh, okay, I see that I have power in this. I see that I'm not a victim to my circumstances. I can stand up and go, you know what, yeah I'm in pain and I can work with it, rather than through it. To just be something that I manage and wrap myself in cotton wool and then just become limited in what I feel like I can do in my life."
Benny Fergusson: (01:10:17)
I know how that feels. I've been there and it's time to stand up to it. You can, irrespective of what you're told. That's one of the reasons why I think I love working with all different types of people in different situations is to realise that there is a space where we can connect that is maybe a different conversation than what's in your family or your friendship circle. That's why we exist. To create high level conversations to start to really call people to truth. We do it through physical practice.
That's powerful, man! Alright, thank you so much. Big love to you. Hope I can see you soon. All the way up there in Queensland.
Benny Fergusson: (01:11:08)
Yeah, we're so close, but yet so far, at the moment.
Benny Fergusson: (01:11:12)
Alright, man. Have a great weekend. Thanks for coming on.
Benny Fergusson: (01:11:17)
Thanks Mase. Thanks for having me.