Ghengis Khan was said to have organised his warriors by making them walk over hot coals.

The Greek Anastenarides danced on smouldering ashes to honour saints, and the Kahunas of Hawaii let molten lava harden just enough to hold their weight before walking across it.

Today it’s sharp-suited businessmen and women who are taking up the ancient ritual of fire-walking.

Leaving behind the laptop, the Blackberry and other trappings of the corporate world, increasing numbers of professionals are channelling positive thoughts and walking barefoot over a bed of hot embers or coals. Over the past three decades fire-walking has been developed as a motivational technique and corporate team-building exercise; a tool for self-discovery and self-empowerment, for breaking down self-limitations and obstacles.

Yorkshire fire-walking instructor Lisa Clifford leads people across hot coals to help them recognise and reach their goals and where they want to be in life.

“I help people set a clear vision for the future and then challenge the limiting beliefs that have held them back,” she says.

“Through fire-walking you discover how your thoughts create your reality; how to increase the amount of action you take in your life and how to take hold of opportunities.”

The modern fire-walking movement was started in 1977 by Tolly Burkan, who was inspired by a scientific magazine article to research fire-walking, and offer courses. It was further developed in the 1980s, when fire-walking mushroomed into a corporate trend.

Lisa, 39, was trained in California by world-renowned fire-walker Peggy Dylan, founder of international fire-walking school Sundoor.

During the intensive course Lisa walked across fire more than 70 times – telling herself it was ‘cool moss’ – broke arrows on her throat and undertook a ‘Rebar bend’, which involves bending a steel bar between your neck and a partner’s neck.

“It was a 15-hour-a-day programme which saw me walk over fire more than 70 times in one week,” she says. “It was an incredibly intense, emotional and powerful experience.”

Lisa describes fire-walking as “the most powerful way of demonstrating how people can achieve what they felt was impossible.”

She has launched fire-walking workshops for Yorkshire businesses, encouraging them to brave red-hot coals to achieve their goals.

Working with small, independent businesses and larger corporate organisations, Lisa involves participants in lighting the fire before taking them through a motivational group coaching session, which includes an “arrow break” – breaking a wooden arrow on the front of the neck through conviction and self-belief – while the fire burns.

The fire-walking process starts with participants sitting in a circle, introducing themselves, then they each light the fire with a lit rolled-up newspaper and share their goals for the year ahead.

The goal-sharing is designed to focus the mind.

“Once the group is ready, we walk together towards the fire,” says Lisa. “I rake it out and while it still burns and the coals are glowing red with heat, we walk one by one across them and into our new future.”

Lisa instructs participants to walk confidently and evenly across the hot coals, focusing on goals and not looking at the floor. As each person takes to the fire, the others cheer and sing a motivational song. According to those who have braved hot coals, you may occasionally feel slight blisters. Lisa calls them ‘fire kisses’ and says they occur because the fire is sending healing to the body where it is needed.

There are theories that fire-walking is possible because of the low thermal capacity of the coals, and because the ash acts as additional insulation during the short contact the fire-walker’s soles have with the coals.

But to walk across them successfully, without injury, is said to be largely down to concentration and positive thinking.

“The history of fire-walking precedes recorded time and has always been practised as a form of self-development and healing,” says Lisa.

“My workshops include coaching and positive thinking, culminating in an incredibly energised group fire-walk which allows you to create an attitude of, ‘I can do anything’.”

Trained by motivational master Paul McKenna, Lisa is a vitality and mind management coach and a master practitioner of neurolinguistic programming and hypnosis. She focuses on physical and mental wellbeing, placing emphasis on the role of the mind in creating a positive body image.

Her work includes running motivational days and workshops for businesses and Government bodies and helping people overcome fears, phobias and bad habits.

Nigel Green, managing director of Hudson’s Office Furniture in Dewsbury, sampled Lisa’s fire-walking coaching and says it has helped him in business.

“I’m still incredibly focused weeks after the fire-walk and have since seen a record upturn in sales,” he says. “Never in my time in business have I seen such a need to invest in the sort of ‘attitude training’ that fire-walking delivers. It has given me the confidence and self-belief to know we can not only survive, but thrive in this recession.”

For Lisa, it’s all about giving people confidence. “That’s the key to the greatest success in life,” she says. “The power of a fire-walk is that the experience and the lessons stay in your heart and actions long after the fire has gone out.”

For more about Lisa Clifford’s fire walking events, ring 07795 634671 or visit