Relax to release your talent
Most of us carry subtle tensions - and do so for so many years that we no longer know what real relaxation feels like. One of the worst things about tension is that it leaks energy from us and prevents us reaching our potential for achievement with mind or body.
This is true for all of us but is a critical matter needing attention for elite athletes looking for peak performance.
Biofeedback approaches can give us the means to identify and then manage these muscle patterns that don't serve us.
Whilst devices to track performance during sport are commonly used now, this is not going to be good enough for elite level performance. For this we need to find out some facts that point to what is holding us back from the edge of peak performance and this can be subtle.
Working with athletes to raise awareness of their body's tension or state of relaxation has many benefits. Through relaxation, strength and speed are enhanced. Suppleness, stamina and sensitivity soar to new heights. Blood flow to muscles and recovery after performance is enhanced. Its no surprise that athletes devote so much time to building muscular strength and power. The wise ones also understand the importance of relaxation.
In Dan Millman's book, "Body Mind Mastery - creating success in sport and life," he cites a research study in which the movement abilities of six month old babies were compared with a group of professional football players. The athletes tried to copy the movement and posture of these babies for ten minutes without stopping. The perhaps surprising result was that not a single athlete could keep up and they all dropped out exhausted before the ten minutes were up. The athletes carried so much tension that their movements were inefficient in carrying out these movements.
I came to study karate at the relatively "old" age of 35. After many years of powerlifting, wresting and rugby I was strong and confident. Nevertheless, as any practitioner will tell you, after a few minutes of free style sparring and I was simply exhausted. Following the mistakes of millions of beginners before me I didn't know how to relax to move quickly and I was trying to use too much force.
Onlookers can't understand why it takes a year to learn how to punch properly in karate. The key is relaxation. The speed and power of the punch is ensured only by relaxing the muscles of the arm except for those that accelerate the fist to its target. At the instant of impact all the muscles of the arm and shoulder instantly contract with many muscle fibres recruited at once before relaxing just as quickly. Disobey this skill and energy drains from you rapidly and your technique remains ineffective.
My sensei constantly reminded me in sparring never to gasp for breath but to relax and calm my breathing even though this seemed counter intuitive. I realised eventually that gasping caused tension in my chest and diaphram muscles and this tension actually reduced my bodies ability to breath. As our skills progressed we learned to disguise our breathing from an opponent - whilst timing our attacks to coincide with particular points in our opponents breath cycle.
I have known for many years that the body and mind are linked. Biofeedback principles are great for developing awareness, quantifying our performance and giving us tools to improve. When seeking peak performance in sport, relaxation under pressure brings clarity of thought - and keeps us in a state of mind and body where we can respond rather than react.
We are about to offer a series of courses that showcase biofeedback applications in the sport arena. Using the NeXus units we can shine a light on how individual athletes respond to the stress of performance and provide leverage to find the elusive edge of peak performance.
Bruce Lee summed it up very well - "The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be..."