Practicing mindfulness is to be fully present in the moment. Aware of where we are and what we are doing. The awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.
Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we do not believe, for instance, that there is a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to think or feel in a given moment. These are based on past moments or imagining the future. Therefore, when we practice mindfulness, our thoughts should tune into what we are sensing in the present moment rather than the past or future.
This is not something that we have to conjure up. Every human being already possesses the ability and only needs to learn how to access it. There are ways to cultivate it through these techniques. Think of it as yoga. Mindfulness has always been an essential aspect of yoga’s physical practice and is considered a form of meditation.
When we’re mindful, we reduce stress, enhance performance, gain awareness and insight through observing our own minds. Try not to fixate on the benefits when practicing mindfulness. Just do the practice.
Here are some ways that you could use mindfulness practice to improve your sports performance.
Source: Alexandr Podvalny
This is a very basic yet powerful mindfulness practice. Simply focus your attention on your breathing, on the natural rhythm and flow, and the way it feels each time you inhale and exhale. It helps you regulate your breathing if it becomes shallow.
Take a couple of minutes a day, preferably in the morning or before you engage in an athletic day. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and start to deepen your breath. Inhale fully and exhale completely. Focus on your breath entering and exiting your body. Remember to pay attention to your breathing. You can start with 5 minutes and build up from there.
Body Scan Meditation is a good way to release any tension you might not even realize you are experiencing. This involves paying attention to parts of the body and bodily sensations gradually from feet to head. By mentally scanning yourself, you bring awareness to every single part of your body. This way, you start to notice any aches or discomfort.
Start by lying down on your back with your palms facing up and legs relaxed. Close your eyes. Maintain your focus on each part of your body, starting with the bottom part of your body and moving upwards. Breath in if you feel tension on a certain part of your body and try to release it. Focus your attention on them and breathe into them. Visualize the tension leaving your body through your breath and evaporating it into the air.
Practice this body scan meditation anytime you feel stress. Body scan meditation can promote body awareness, stress awareness, and relaxation. The goal is not to relieve the pain completely but to get to know it and learn from it so you can better manage it.
Source: Yogendra Singh
If you dislike sitting for long hours, this is the type of meditation that you should do. Mindful walking helps get the blood flowing, especially to the legs. This helps to alleviate feelings of sluggishness or stagnancy.
Before you begin the meditation, find a quiet place or space to walk. It can be anywhere, like the outdoors, walking back and forth in a hallway or a large room. Begin by taking normal steps as usual but as you walk, pay attention to what your body is doing and how it’s doing it. Like how your feet are lifted, your breathing – drawing the energy down into the body, down into the feet, and then staying in the body as we lift, move and place. If anything else captures your attention, come back to the sensation of walking. Your mind will wander, so without frustration, guide it back again as many times as you need.
From there, you can expand your attention to your other senses.
Pay attention to sounds without labeling them or getting caught up, whether you find them pleasant or unpleasant. Notice sounds like nothing more or less than what it is.
Again, simply notice the smells. Do not push yourself to feel anything at all. Just shift your attention to the sense of smell.
It could be colors and objects and anything else you see. Patiently coming back each time something grabs your attention. Stay natural, not overly rigid, not daydreaming and drifting, but with sustained awareness.
Remember to keep this open awareness of everything around you wherever you are. Be fully aware, and walk. When you are ready to end your walking meditation, stand still for a moment again. Pausing, choose a moment to end the practice. When you are done, consider how you might bring this kind of awareness into the rest of your day.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Sometimes when you are experiencing anxiety, stress, or worry, one of the ways your body responds is by tightening up. Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a technique that helps relax tensed muscles and make them feel calmer. It is a simple technique.
Start by getting into a comfortable position, whether it is sitting down or lying down. From there, work through the body by tensing one muscle group and then releasing the tension. Work your way up or down the body. This technique does not only help relieve anxiety at the moment. It can also help decrease muscle tension, fatigue, neck and back pain, or even muscle spasms.
Source: Li Sun
As mentioned earlier, mindfulness has always been an essential aspect of the physical practice of yoga. Mindful yoga focuses on mind-body awareness. By practicing yoga, you’re able to:
- Strengthen and stretch your muscles
- Increase flexibility
- Build strength
- Improve your posture
There are many different techniques in yoga that help to improve your overall performance. Each pose gives different benefits and targets different muscle groups. Include yoga daily for your mindfulness practice to increase both your athletic potential and longevity.
Let us take a look at sports and how mindfulness practices benefit sports. Sports require physical strength as well as mental strength. Building up muscles and strength helps you excel in sports. However, to excel in sports, you have to improve both the physical and mental aspects of it.
Think of golf, for example. It requires an impeccable technique for one to excel at it. Although, it is more of a mental game than just a physical one. The ability to be aware of your surroundings and how they will affect your game is crucial. Moreover, dwelling in the past or imagining outcomes in the future is not ideal. One should focus their attention on the present, like their golf swing, for example. Wanting to perform it the way you want to.
In addition, letting previously hit bad shots affect you through the round will cause a lot of anxiety. Therefore, learning how to meditate and be present without the past haunting you is beneficial. Be sure to be in the present regardless of what sport you are doing. Focus your attention within and to your surroundings.
Related: Why Golf Is The Best Sport In 2021
Summary of Mindfulness Practice
By doing these simple techniques, you’ll feel more relaxed as you allow lesser tension to manifest in your body. Since anyone can perform them as they’re easy to learn, the numerous benefits are for everyone too.
Both science and experience demonstrate their positive benefits for our health, happiness, work, and relationships, among others. In addition, mindfulness practice helps strengthen your mind and body. This way, you effectively minimize the risk of getting injured by identifying where the issue is and taking care of it at once.