Mindfulness in Sport
“Mindfulness” is the new buzz word these days, but what does it actually mean? Mindfulness is the practice of intentionally paying attention in the present moment without judgment. It’s kind of a loaded definition, so here are a few key aspects of mindfulness:
Practice: this is important to remember because mindfulness takes practice. It requires remembering to pay attention and becoming aware of when the mind has wandered to the past or the future and gently returning to the present moment. Just as an athlete must practice physical skills in the gym, the state of mindful awareness takes practice, too!
Intentionally paying attention: intention entails putting our efforts in a particular direction. When we do something with intention, there is an energy that moves us towards what we desire. So when we pay attention with intention, there is enhanced focus which brings us into the present moment, allowing us to respond to the demands of the moment to the best of our ability.
Without judgment: this is key to practicing mindfulness. The mind becomes so trained to judge, especially in the sport of gymnastics, and simply becoming aware of what is happening without needing to change it or have an opinion on it takes some discipline. This doesn’t mean that judgment won’t arise, but with a mindful attention, we can see it for what it is-the judging mind-and not allow it to dictate our actions anymore.
To further define mindfulness, it’s important to state what it is NOT. Some people think of mindfulness as a kind of passive way of living in the world, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Mindfulness helps us develop awareness of our bodies, minds and emotions so that we can respond to situations skillfully as opposed to reacting out of habit or strong emotion.
At OAW, we believe that developing mindfulness for athletes, coaches and parents is critical for keeping gymnasts healthy and ensuring an effective and safe environment. Cultivating a nonjudgmental awareness in the present moment reduces physical, mental and emotional stress, aids in recovery, improves performance, and increases enjoyment in the sport. We are here to teach coaches and parents how to bring more mindfulness to their everyday lives which will ultimately lead to an overall healthier and more enjoyable atmosphere in and out of the gym.
Mindfulness Exercise #1: Mindfulness of the Breath (recorded by Theresa Kulikowski-Gillespie)
Below is a short guided practice to assist you in becoming aware of your breath. This is a great practice whenever you just need to relax, decompress, and come back into the present moment.
This is an excellent book entitled “Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. Dr. Kabat-Zinn is a pioneer of mindfulness in the West bringing it into conventional medical hospitals and clinics.
“Full Catastrophe Living” offers an introduction to mindfulness and practical ways to implement it into daily life and challenging situations. It explains the benefits in a variety of areas such as pain, stress management, emotional difficulties, and illness.
Although not specific to athletics, this book is a comprehensive introduction to mindfulness and its many benefits in our lives. Because athletics are a microcosm of life, anything that brings more balance outside of the competitive arena, can positively impact the athletic experience.