PERFORMANCE YOGA – 11.24.14 (MASTER THE MENTAL SKILLS – MENTAL IMAGERY Part 2)

Sports, for me, came down to feel and enjoyment.  I became infatuated with how competition felt.  It could have been a one-on-one basketball game with my brother in the driveway, the individual battle of tennis, triathlons and rock climbing or the dynamic of a team in football, ice hockey, and softball.  Competition drove me to work hard to improve my body, improve my abilities as a good teammate and improve my social standing.  I wanted those superficial sensations.

“Before every shot, I go to the movies”
Jack Nicklaus – Golf

I took enjoyment from competition.  The intensity was unmatched throughout my life.  There was a winner and a loser.  No middle ground there.  What was left was the thrill of a hard-earned win or the frustration of a unfortunate loss.  The enjoyment that was taken was at a price though.  Win and be happy or lose and miss the joy.  I wanted to win.  I wanted those superficial sensations.

“When I go to the press conference before the game, in my mind the game has already started.”
Jose Mourinho – Soccer

Our drive and desire to be the best in life is natural.  It is a survival instinct.  The missing component for me, and maybe even you, was the ability to see.  We can see the trail, see the play develop in the moment, and see the next hold in a climbing route.  Where the difference happens is when we see these before we’re in the moment.  The ability to visualize the moment of competition before it happens radically changes how our bodies perform.  The two quotes above illustrate this.  Whether going to the movies before a shot or starting the game before it physically does, you are using the mind to begin to manifest the movements and experience that you desire.  In the past year to year and a half, I’ve done my best to put this into practice.  I now “see” the perceived outcome that I want to manifest.  I now “feel” the sensations and emotions that I want to manifest.  I now “enjoy” the moment that I want to manifest.  All three of these happen in my mind before I step out onto the field of play.  What once happened on the external and in the moment now happens well before.  It has changed the way I compete.  Yoga has changed the way I compete.

Mental Imagery – Visualize to Actualize

Athletes re-experiencing a successful performance showed a greater increase in neural activity in the right premotor cortex, an area of the brain that plans actions, than those re-experiencing a failure.

Visualize positive performances and picture the ideal steps for achieving the successful result.  Create a crystal clear mental image and powerful physical feeling of what you want to accomplish.  Include the sights, sounds, smells, tactile impressions, and powerful emotions that accompany the total performance experience while in your virtual arena.  The clarity and controllability of your images will improve with practice.

When visualizing, strive to experience the action in 3-D from the first-person point of view (through your own eyes), as opposed to a third-person point of view (through the eyes of spectator).  “See it, feel it, and enjoy it” (SFE).

Briton Steve Backley.  “I’d have to single out the ability to visualize.  To be able to preempt the future by building high-definition videos in your mind’s eye of exactly what it is you are trying to achieve.”

BOOK – “The Champion’s Mind:  How Great Athletes think, train and thrive.” by Jim Afremow  (BUY IT!)

PERFORMANCE YOGA – 11.17.14 (MASTER THE MENTAL SKILLS – Mental Imagery)

The human brain is so cool!  

1.  Check out these facts if you have the time (http://themindunleashed.org/2014/04/10-surprising-facts-brain-works-2.html)
2.  Stumbled upon this TED Talk that I found pretty interesting as well.  Let me know how your brain does :).

Our minds are so intriguing.  The interesting part to me was when I looked at dreams from a different perspective.  The human body reacts to the mind’s creation.  We become agitated, startled, and even driven to the point of panic due to a traumatic event replayed or a scenario created.  In the same instance, we may become filled with joy, love, and gratitude due to a pleasant memory replayed or a scenario created.  The mind does all of this.

If the mind is capable of affecting our bodies in such a range of ways, then what is possible if we practice?  Through positive affirmations and mental imagery, is it possible to affect the physical?  Absolutely.  We often overlook the connection between the two.  Growing up, I spent a lot of time practicing the physical movements for football, basketball, tennis, cross country and other hobbies.  In my adult life I have turned to rock climbing, mountain biking, road cycling, ice hockey and yoga.  My goal was to perfect the physical movements of each.  I forgot one major variable though.  My mind.  Yoga, as well as athletics, ask much more of us than just the physical body.  Are you as intrigued as I am about what our minds’ can manifest?

Mental Imagery – Visualize to Actualize

“See first with your mind, then with your eyes, and finally with your body.” – Master Swordsman Yagyu Munenori

Mental imagery, popularly referred to as visualization, is the process of using all your senses to help with learning and developing new sports skills and strategies as well as visualizing success.  The more you deliberately practice, the better you will become at the actual task.

Specifically, imagery works to enhance one’s performance by sharpening the mental blueprint and strengthening the muscle memory for the physical purpose at hand.

The brain does not always differentiate between real and vividly imaged experiences because the same systems in the brain are deployed for both types of experience.  For example, a common nightmare is that of being pursued.  The dreamer is safely at home in bed yet awakens frightened – breathing fast, heart pounding.  It’s all in the mind, yet the dreamer experiences the physical sensations that would accompany a real, waking pursuit.

BOOK – “The Champion’s Mind:  How Great Athletes think, train and thrive.” by Jim Afremow  (BUY IT!)

Performance Yoga – 9.22.14 (Pre-Competition Visualization)

In a quick Google search for “visualization and sports research,” the following links came to my attention.

http://www.vanderbilt.edu/AnS/psychology/health_psychology/mentalimagery.html

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-power-prime/201211/sport-imagery-athletes-most-powerful-mental-tool

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/23/sports/olympics/olympians-use-imagery-as-mental-training.html?_r=0

Mental imagery has significant benefits to athletes.  I’ll continue to work my tail off to get local sports teams, clubs and AAU groups to understand that time needs to be spent teaching their athletes the power of visualization.  There is power in the positive and the connection of the body with the mind.  And this connection needs to be nourished in the positive, allowed to happen in an environment free from judgment and (and probably the hardest for athletes) also allowed to happen in an environment free from competition.  All thoughts and feelings need to be accounted for and allowed to be expressed.  You will be amazed at how your body and mind will react to competition when you’ve been given time to decompress the mind before the war.

Pre-Competition Visualization – http://www.key-hypnosis.com/Self-Help/Visualization-Techniques/LV7-Sports-Visualisation-Script.php

Now take a deep breath and just …. let it all go…
Take another deep breath …. and just allow your mind to clear…. that’s good.
I want you to imagine a day…. a perfect day…. a day when you waken up.. and every thing seems just right…. and you think about the day and you know that today is the day that has the most important race of your life….

Today is the day when you are going to show everyone…. but especially yourself… what you can do.
Today is the day when you have absolute certainty…. and you can feel it, you can feel it in your heart… you can feel it in every heartbeat… you can feel it in your mind…

And as you think about it you can feel a wave of relaxation spreading from the middle of your forehead… across your eyes… and down your cheeks…. down through your jaw… and your neck… and your shoulders relax… and your chest is relaxed and your tummy relaxes.. and you can feel a way going all the way down… down through your thighs… and your calves and your feet…. down your arms.. all the way down to your fingers…. Totally relaxed.