“He’s in the zone!”
Sports fan or not, there's a pretty good chance that you’re familiar with this expression.
“The Zone” is that special place where an athlete is locked in, so to speak. If you’ve played sports, you may have had your moments in it, but we tend to recognize and remember those who do it on the biggest of stages. It’s like the night Reggie Jackson hit 3 home runs in the World Series on 3 consecutive pitches, or when Michael Jordan dropped 63 on the Celtics in the playoffs. You can feel that they’re in a different place. It’s as if they know they’re experiencing rarefied air, and they know that they’re going to be successful. You might hear an announcer suggest that they must be “unconscious,” when in actuality, the truth is that they are fully conscious, just on another level!
You don’t have to play professionally to know what it is to be in the zone. In baseball, the ball looks like a beach ball coming to the plate. In basketball, you get a rhythm going so sweet that you can almost see the ball swishing through the net before it ever leaves your fingertips, And in golf, you feel like you could take every swing blindfolded. That is the zone. Every sport has that potential experience. You see plays happening before they do. You are fully present. Confident. Fearless. Grounded.
There is an inner calm, but intense focus at the same time. The zone is simply a state of being.
Most amateur athletes have probably experienced it by way of initial success breeding confidence and then a sudden recognition of “being on a roll,” basically. The goal may then become to hang onto it instead of just being “in it,” which actually causes it to fade. States of being can be accessed, experienced and felt, but not forced. In fact, it is the act of letting go that enables us to maintain the experience itself – letting go of the results. THAT is true fearlessness. You already know.
Frankly, a regular yoga and meditation practice teaches us how to access this exact state of being. We are dipping into a sense of “inner knowing” giving us the ability to see the present moment for all that it is, and to let go of all that it is not. For athletes this might mean simply clearing the active, anxious mind and enabling it to focus solely on the task at hand while allowing the body to do what it has been trained to do thousands and thousands of times.
In other words, if we put our efforts into achieving inner calm, confidence and fearlessness, we can access the zone and put it into play in our competitive environments. I think most professional athletes will tell you that at a certain level, outside of those who are just incredibly superior physically and genetically gifted, what separates the super successful from the average guys is their mental approach to the game, and to their lives, I’m sure.
Having had the opportunity to work with some of the best athletes in professional sports, I can tell you that the physical benefits might be what drives them to the mat, but the mental and emotional effects of the practice are what keep them coming back.
Athlete or not, we all operate better “in the zone.” How has yoga helped you access yours?
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