I´ve grown up on a wrestling mat. I´ve been in so many wrestling competitions I can´t even begin to count them all. I´ve gone through police academy, with physical criteria’s involved. I´ve been involved in military pentathlon, joining the best in my country at training camps. I know what it means to have a coach or two. I know how hard they work. How many hours they put into coaching their athletes. And I´ve got a whole lotta respect for that. Heaps of respect. But I´ve also learned the value of having a deep inner connection to your own body and mind. Because no matter how good your coaches are, they can never replace the value of having a profound, rooted sense of connection to your deepest inner self.
Understanding yourself and your behavior
Yoga has a name for understanding yourself; Svadhyaya. This requires some self-examination; which yoga is very much about. It´s about digging deeper into the underpinnings of yoga, which in many ways is different from the western way of study one´s own behavior, thoughts and feelings, through, for example, psychoanalysis. It´s more of a view of the teacher or psychologist as a person that can open doors for you, but you must enter by yourself. Your coach can open doors, but you yourself has to enter, and be willing to do the inner work. As a result you gain greater insight into your own true nature. A place from where you can harness a true inner power.
We can cultivate control of ourselves and choose with a clear mind how to respond appropriately and effectively in our lives with calmness and wisdom – George Mumford
The path of mindfulness
If we choose to take the yogic and mindfulness path it means we have a willingness to look into ourselves and our tendencies. This is deep self inquiry, and it can empower us to a more proactive experience on the yoga mat, in our sport, and life. What works for us and what doesn´t? What practice supports our sport, and life?
Your teacher can open the door, but you must enter by yourself. – Chinese Proverb
Yin yoga is a bit like developing antennas. The more we practice, the more we develop an inner connection that´s kind of difficult to describe. An inner sense of knowing yourself, in depth. A deep sense of intuition, to sense the situations around you, with a presence that is simply like having antennas who feel and read the environment, at the same time as you are in a deep awareness of your own body, mind and soul. You know yourself, and you have a deep connection of knowing your body from inside out. An awareness that can be described as becoming your own inner coach.
Body awareness – a personal story
A few months ago I ran a 50-mile ultra-marathon race. Quite early in the race, I got knee pain. I have never dealt with knee pain in running, so I had no idea where it came from. With no history of pain issues related to running I couldn´t adjust my running style, since I knew it didn´t come from that. It simply had to be something else. I kept on running, and after about 9 miles I had pain that was so intense that I was afraid of DNF (did not finish). But something made me know, on a deep level, that this pain was not inside my knees. I could feel that this pain was not something that would linger after my race. I just had to figure out how to push myself through the race. How to push myself through another 41 miles with pain. And I did. And it was mental. All mental. It was all about mental strength to push through. To finish. And I´m not kidding when I say it was all done through my yin yoga and mindfulness practice, strengthening not only my joints, but my mental skills. And through it all… no coach, but my own inner coach.
During my running I´ve never had a coach. I´ve built from 2 km to 80 km in a few years, just through body awareness. Now that doesn´t mean I don´t recommend running coaches. You can still have a coach, where being your own inner coach is a complement to that. You see, your coaches can never reach your deepest core. That´s the whole deal. You becoming your own coach, from a place where other coaches can´t get to you. Your deepest inner core of intuition.
Developing antennas is a skill
This kind of body awareness is amazing. Developing these antennas sensing your environment, but also knowing yourself, and your body and mind, on such a deep felt level, is something everyone can learn, and use, in sports and life. A gift of consciousness.
The body is our basic medium of perception and action, but focused attention to its feelings and movements has long been criticized as a damaging distraction that also ethically corrupts through self-absorption.
Mindfulness is a skill. I´ve written about training the brain with yin yoga before, and just like we need to train our bodies, we need to train our brain and mind – which takes practice to develop. Certain practice for specific sport is required – as is focus, that is something we can train and become better and skillful at. A mindfulness practice is no difference that training your body. This is where you become your own inner coach. Practicing mindfulness in a fusion with physical yin yoga poses – I promise you´ll develop an inner coach beyond what you thought were possible.
After practicing mindfulness while doing specific activities like stretching, you can then practice mindful awareness during sport-related events. For instance, try being mindful while shooting layups, or while practicing a tennis serve. Eventually, you can try being mindfully aware during matches.