Posts Tagged ‘Sports Training’

More on Cat-Napping: Rested Brains, Smart Ideas!

October 14, 2008

The Platform: Brain Rules by John Medina, Ph.D.

The Twitter: Catch some ZZZZZs!

The Big Idea: Become a Neuro-Leader: Provide 20 minute, afternoon brain rest periods for your students, workers or colleagues!

…. Picking up on my sleeping pod commentary, I wish to reinforce the idea of catching some “zzzzs” as an antidote to the rise in stress these days and add an important point: Whether or not you have access to a sleeping pod, practice Neuro-Leadership by creating structures within your institution to allow for “brain time outsFollowing brain development specialist John Medina, getting enough sleep earns its place as Brain Rule #7 in his 12 Brain Rules. Rule #8? “Stressed Brains Don’t Learn the Same Way.”

As Medina notes on his own website: “Your brain is built to deal with stress that lasts about 30 seconds. The brain is not designed for long term stress when you feel like you have no control.”

Drawing an evolutionary comparison between facing a predatory saber-toothed tigers and your boss or a bad marriage, Medina pinpoints the effect: “You can actually watch the brain shrink.”

Shrinking brains might sound great as a 5th grade science project but for brains on fire from stock market quakes to the prospect of reorganizing a new world order, an expansive brain sounds more like what the doctor ordered. Medina’s prescription for avoiding chronic stress? Sleep well, think well and take an afternoon nap to improve mental and physical performance.

For years, I have manuevered around an academic schedule, eeking out 20 minutes of meditation before the start of a 4 p.m. seminar. My method: hit the steam baths and “work out” before class. Days without class, I schedule in an afternoon yoga nidra session.

What is yoga nidra? Simply put, yoga nidra is an ancient technology of deep relaxation, often referred to as “waking sleep.” It is one of the more beautiful restorative practices from the hatha yoga tradition, enabling rest while staying conscious at a subtle and quiet level of awareness. Significant neuroscientific studies of yogic meditation date back to the late 1960’s and today, the National Institute of Health within the U.S. is devoting research interest in the physiological and neuroscientific effects of yoga. It is worth noting that yoga nidra was included in the roster of week long yoga symposium topics covered at NIH in May 2008.

While Medina does address yoga nidra per se, he does emphasize the need for down time, a chance to enter the “Nap Zone” – that period during the hour of 2-3 in the afternoon, when as he says, “It’s deadly to give a lecture. More car accidents happen. Memory, attention and problem-solving suffer.” What accounts for the brain degrade? Charting the syncopated relations of ciradian and homeostatic sleep rhythms in our brain/body, Medina highlights the intersection — a crossroads that beckons the sleep.

Forget the candy bar or latte. Grab your yoga mat, your office sofa or place first dips on the new sleeping pod at work to re-calibrate your innate biological clock and set sparks to a new idea!

And as always breath be with you!

Dr. G.

Meditation or Mental Practice: Michael Phelps and his Olympiad Success!

August 20, 2008

The Platform:  2008 Bejing Olympics

The Twitter:  Brain Training for Gold Medals and more!

The Application:  Meditation, Mental Practice, Attention and Awareness Training (AAT)

 

 

A recent article in the New York times noted Michael Phelps’s 3rd grade teacher extending congratulations to Phelps and his family for the gold medal success.  As we learn, Phleps in his early years had the teacher worried that he had “no focus” in his studies. (What 3rd grader has “focus” in academic studies?!!!) With Phelps now drawing world-wide attention to the glory of his strategic swimming, the teacher apologies with a realization: Phelps just had to find the subject that drew out his focused attention.

Expectations of 3rd graders aside, Phelps’s victory is his to savor for years to come for he has proven to himself and to the world that consistent physical and mental training over time can transform our lives in ways that reach beyond our imagination.

 

Clearly, Phelps and his swim team buddies have mastered the art and science of “concentration” or “focused attention” — practices that might be considered comparable to the astounding feats of attention practiced by Buddhist monks submitted to recent neuro-scientific studies.  Turning to the neuroscience camp, we learn the years of focused attention, of bringing “mindfulness” to our actions makes significant neurological changes in the brain.  As science writer Sharon Begley reminds us in TRAIN YOUR MIND, CHANGE YOUR BRAIN,  the matter of morphing brain tissue comes down to a simple fact: You’ve got to want to change it for the brain to change.

No doubt, Phelps and his crew wanted to break records, win gold medals, perform at the top of their game.  The reason for such bold desire? We can leave that to enlightened or nefarious speculation, for the real story here is this:  Hot, passionate, and inspired human desire enables dedicated action.  Dedicated Mental Practice transforms the brain….and body.  

I vote for inviting Phelps and the American men’s swim team into the brain labs of UCLA, University of Washington, or Wisconsin to test their neuronal abilities to “pay attention.”  And then let’s bring in full tilt Olympic education into the school system so that 3rd graders can be inspired to do their thing.

Michael Phelps: You Go Girl!

And to all of the somanauts out there, a SpaceSuit Yoga tip for mental practice:

1) Best way to begin: Pay close and intimate attention to breathing, whether you’re walking, swimming, or lying down.  Notice the feeling of breathing — whether breathing takes up a lot of room or very little room, whether breathing feels fast or slow.  Visualize  breathing — get a sense of where it actually takes place in  your body.

2. Set aside a little time each day to “pay attention” to your breath and use a timer, so you don’t have to keep track of the minutes.   Master one sequence of time before adding more minutes.

 

 

 

3. Keep a written record of your time so you can 1) notice the sequence of improvements and 2) make a felt, embodied connection between your inner sense of mastery with an outer account of recorded time.

4.  Invigorate yourself with reading on how to motivate and change your brain!  Several suggestions have already been noted in this blog.   For history buffs — check out the “Zen and the Art of Archery” — a classic on mental practice and meditation.

May the breath and brain be with you!

Dr.  G.