"Your class changed my life. I did not know about mindfulness but I now have a regular practice and have found a new lease of life in terms of being an athlete...and I'm just happier overall!" - In the Zone: Mindfulness for Athletes Participant
The class, taught by Yong Oh and Sam Parfitt helped athletes and coaches of all ages and sports to experience the power of mindfulness for improved health, well-being and performance.
We have been thrilled to welcome elite athletes, coaches and fitness enthusiasts to share this learning experience and dedicate their time and energy to an age-old practice.
During the first class, we talked about the wide-ranging applications of mindfulness in modern society, and the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. We also practiced some qigong exercises, which followed on from a standing meditation, where we began simply to notice the sensations of our body, to which we can always return our attention, no matter how distracted we get in thinking about the past or future, our goals or our struggles.
We discussed a few of the challenges which athletes (and human beings!) face, and we practiced sitting meditation - a technique which presents us with an excellent opportunity to see more clearly how busy and complicated our minds can become. Remember, each time we gently return our focus to the here and now, and to the sensations of the moment, we are training our mind in a similar way to building a muscle in the gym...and this shows in the brain scans of those who practice mindful meditation regularly.
The second class focused on stress and the body, and we practiced sitting meditation as well as a body scan meditation. Discussion centered on our relationship with stress, and how our perceptions of stress so often spiral into weeks-long, even years-long stories of struggle. We did various exercises to return us to the sensations of the body, which unlike the mind, is always rooted in the present moment.
Our third class discussed a range of mental techniques to help us stay grounded in the heat of competition and we practiced several dynamic mental warm-up exercises. We spent most of the session engaged in a walking meditation - which is a fantastic bridge from the stillness of sitting meditation to the dynamism of sport and life.
And our final class began with some more fun dynamic warm-up exercises including create-your-own, on-the-move, all-body pat-a-cake with a partner! We spent time anchoring ourselves with our breath and the sensations of the body, and we focused on sustaining the mindful practices learned over the four weeks through the challenges which life presents. The teachers enjoyed seeing such positive responses from participants each week about how revealing and transformative these practices are. One participant said: "Your class changed my life. I did not know about mindfulness but I now have a regular practice and have found a new lease of life in terms of being an athlete...and I'm just happier overall!"