As an athlete, you train hard each and every week (if not every day) to improve your game. You might focus on eating right and building strength, endurance, and skill. But one thing you might not have focused on is mindfulness, and being mindful can significantly improve your game.
You may have experience being mindful without even realizing it. If you’ve ever felt “in the zone” then you’ve experience mindfulness. These times when you are in the zone you feel focused, and it’s obvious to you and everyone around you that you’re playing a good game.
With practice, you can actually harness this mindfulness to feel in the zone more often and remove performance anxiety.
Mindfulness teaches us how to “slow things down,” whereas anxiety “speeds things up.” Although in some instances you might think faster is better, when we say “slow things down” we mean by being in the now and focusing.
Mindfulness is awareness of the moment. We all perform better when we are 100% completely focused on exactly what we’re doing in the moment, rather than distracted by mental “noise.”
When we are nervous or anxious, we are not our best. Mindfulness, and particularly
mindful breathing and a meditation practice, teach us to enjoy the moment. We typically
perform better when we enjoy what we’re doing, rather than letting our mind wonder to personal thoughts or worries.
Being streaky in a sport often comes down to a mental issue. When we see professional athletes having a bad game it’s not because they forgot how to play, but that they have something on their mind keeping them from focusing on the game. Mindfulness allows us to relax and trust our training; to let our bodies perform as we have practiced.
From a professional athlete’s perspective, mindfulness might allow someone to simply
play the game as they have done so their own life, rather than being overwhelmed by
the stage. When we are 100% aware, we are also able to move on more quickly from a bad play. What happened before is over. What we can affect is now.
Mindfulness can also prevent injury. In becoming more “in tune” with what’s going on
physically, an athlete might notice imbalances, tightness, or other potential precursors to
injury, and stop before the more serious injury happens.
Mindfulness helps develop confidence in a way that may lead to more consistent performance, and at a higher level.
Mindfulness can help us to deal with what’s right in front of us with clarity; to see through
the egoistic emotional responses to situations, and to move through external circumstances with calm and strength, grace and poise, whatever they may be.
Incorporating yoga and meditation into your training may not seem like an obvious choice, but sometimes games are really all in your head.
Want to know how other athletes use mindfulness to their advantage? Learn how Miami Dolphins linebacker Jelani Jenkins uses yoga and mindfulness to excel on the field.
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