WHAT IS MIND­FUL­NESS?

If you have to think too hard about it, you’re do­ing it wrong

Cyclist - - Italy -

It may be the fash­ion­able trend among stressed ex­ec­u­tives in the West, but the ori­gins of mind­ful­ness can be traced to the an­cient med­i­ta­tive prac­tices of East­ern re­li­gions such as Bud­dhism.

The em­pha­sis is on tak­ing the time to be aware of the present mo­ment with­out judge­ment or fur­ther com­men­tary. This height­ened aware­ness is said to re­veal the ‘truth’ of the world around us and keep the prac­ti­tioner more firmly grounded in this re­al­ity. Var­i­ous stud­ies have noted the ef­fi­cacy of mind­ful­ness in re­duc­ing anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion, as well as im­prov­ing gen­eral phys­i­cal health.

Mind­ful­ness in sport can be closely linked to the con­cept of a flow state – a psy­cho­log­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence many de­scribe as be­ing ‘in the zone’. It wsa first doc­u­mented in 1990 by Hun­gar­ian sci­en­tist Mi­hály Csík­szent­mi­há­lyi, who iden­ti­fied that an ath­lete’s peak per­for­mance can of­ten oc­cur when they fo­cus on the per­form­ing of an ac­tiv­ity it­self, rather than the wider con­text sur­round­ing the ac­tiv­ity.

Take for ex­am­ple Chris Froome’s unique de­scent of the Col de Peyre­sourde at this year’s Tour de France. In post-stage in­ter­views Froome re­marked that his method of ped­alling while on sit­ting on the top tube was a tech­nique that Team Sky had been ex­per­i­ment­ing with, and as such he was fo­cused solely on his po­si­tion on the bike and the sen­sa­tion of de­scend­ing, rather than wor­ry­ing about time gaps to his ri­vals or its over­all ef­fect on the race.

Froome’s mind­ful rid­ing helped put him into the yel­low jersey, so who knows? Per­haps we’ll soon see teams hir­ing Bud­dhist monks along­side the nu­tri­tion­ists and sports sci­en­tists.

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