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The Oxygen Advantage

One thing I have learned since I started on my Yoga Journey is that every teacher is here for a reason. They each have something different to ‘bring to the table’ and have a personal way of attracting a certain type of person to their style of movement. I prefer to call myself a guide not a teacher. I prefer (dare I say it!) to stay away from the chakras, meridians and what some call ‘hocus pocus’ side of Yoga. Please forgive me if this offends, it is not meant to – I have my path, it started as a runner and triathlete and my path is to bring people like me to Yoga – those that don’t need to know too much about what they’re doing because that will scare them away, just do it and reap the benefits!

I found this book very interesting so once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down! It’s all about training new breathing techniques, in particular, altitude training without the chamber and without spending 2 weeks acclimatisation work in the Himalayan mountains. It stems from my background in running and triathlon, then leading to present day and how much I have learned about our breath and how important ‘how’ we breathe is, not just for athletics but in everyday life.

Here are some of the highlights of the book, and note – not a yogic word in sight!

To perform to their best, Athletes not only need the physical strength and skill set but they need Yoga to get their mind in ‘The Zone’ and I know from speaking to a lot of cyclists at the studio that their mind can be their worst enemy…….

Considered the greatest moment in Twentieth Century boxing, the 1974 ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ pitted undefeated world heavy weight champion George Foreman against former champion Mohammad Ali. No one thought Ali had much of a chance beating Foreman. After all Foreman was both bigger and younger than Ali and was considered the stronger fighter of his generation – no previous opponent had lasted more than 3 rounds with him.  But Ali had more than speed and strength – he used psychology and tactics to his advantage.

During the early stages of the fight, Ali toyed with Foreman leading Foreman to throw ineffective punches and tire himself out. By the 7th round, Ali turned to goading and taunting the weary Foreman with jibes like ‘I thought you could punch!’ and ‘Is that all you got?!?’

In the 8th round, Ali saw his moment and took it, landing a strong left hook and a hard right. Foreman weakened by fatigue and distraction, stumbled to the canvas and though he managed to get back up – the ref called the bout to an end. Muhammad Ali, a master in psychology, had won the title by a knock out!

Training the mind to be ‘in the zone’ is as vital as training the body. As any athlete knows,  1 thought is all it needs to divert attention away from the task at hand, ruining the shot, penalty or putt, (or criticising performance making you want to quit).

But while in ‘The zone’, distracting thoughts do not enter. The shouts of opposing spectators are not heard, a mistake during the game cannot be ruminated on and thoughts of past mistakes or future goals do not arise. There is no fear of losing, no expectation of winning, you are not anxious about your actions or reactions from opponents, but effortlessly perform to the best of your maximum ability. Nothing else matters. You are present and using the full concentration of your mind in a state of undivided attention.

Enter ‘The zone’ at will

‘The zone’ is nothing more than performing in the absence of thought. If the mind is still and thoughts are no longer a distraction, then you are able to give your activity your complete and undivided attention.

An active mind results in diminished concentration, as every little thought interferes with the task at hand.

Not only is an over active mind less conducive to productivity, it also leads to increased stress, anxiety, and depression – all of which contribute to mental health problems and a reduced quality of life.

The importance of being able to still and control the mind cannot be overestimated. An Athlete with a quiet mind will enjoy the great powers of concentration and will be able to enter ‘The zone’ at will.

An athlete with an active mind will have a head full of unnecessary thoughts and will find it difficult to enter ‘The zone’. If the mind is over active in daily life then it follows that it will be over active in sports.

Here’s the thing for me…

A still mind can be attained by breathing techniques, meditation and developing awareness of the mind, the thought patterns ingrained in there and then befriending those ingrained habits of mind, slowing down the internal chitter chatter – ignoring the inner critic and practising a stillness inside the mind.

I found this in Yin Yoga with slow passive stretches, which can be specific for the athlete and the adaptations that their body makes for that sport. I trained with Sarah Ramsden – Manchester City and Manchester United, Ryan Giggs to her credit and have implemented this knowledge into my classes.

So consider this…..

Five students of a Zen master were back from the market on their bicycles. As they dismounted, their master asked: Why are you riding your bicycles?”

Each of them came up with different answers to their master’s query.

The first student said “It is the bicycle that is carrying the sack of potatoes. I am glad that my back has escaped the pain of bearing the weight”

The master was glad and said:” You are a smart boy. When you become old you will be saved of a hunch back unlike me”

The second student had a different answer. ” I love to have my eyes over the trees and the sprawling fields as I go riding”

The teacher commended: “You have your eyes open and you see the world”

The third disciple came up with yet a different answer: ” When I ride I am content to chant ‘nam myoho renge kyo’”

The master spoke words of appreciation” Your mind will roll with ease like a newly trued wheel”

The fourth disciple said: “Riding my bicycle to live in perfect harmony of things”

The pleased master said” You are actually riding the golden path of non-harming or non-violence”

The fifth student said” I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle”

The master walked up to him and sat at his feet and said “I am your disciple.”

Sports personalities using Yoga and Hot Yoga

Ryan Giggs

Andy Murray

Freddie Flintoff

Hard Men Are Softies For Bikram Yoga https://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/wellbeing/diet/10439806/Hard-men-are-softies-for-Bikram-yoga.html