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Striking the correct balance crucial for athletic excellence

By Joseph Pond

In honour of Northern Ireland's 2-0 victory over Ukraine last week, it seems only fitting to dedicate today's article to sports. Champions like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Joe Namath and Arthur Ashe have all credited a large part of their success to a regular meditation practice. This comes as no particular surprise to me because an important benefit of mindfulness is an improved mind-body connection.

Whatever your sport, being respectful and mindful of your body is a good place to start. Simply lie or sit down where you're unlikely to be interrupted and spend about 20 minutes scanning your physical self. Notice what you're feeling.

Here's the important part: accept the sensations which you are becoming aware of as valid messages from your physiology rather than as something to be avoided. For example, if one has a sore shoulder, it's typical to curse the discomfort and perhaps mumble, "Stupid shoulder. When's it going to get better?" But the mindful approach differs in that one would simply notice these sensations without judging them. After all, a sensation is simply a message from your nervous system.

Athletic effort can be likened to a guitar string: too much pressure and it will snap, too little and it won't make music. In other words, balance is crucial. Wanting to win too much focuses the mind away from the only place where a serious athlete can possibly make the kind of split second decisions which determines success: namely, the here and now.

One of my heroes, the great Muhammad Ali, once said that sports performance (he was talking specifically about boxing) is 90% mental. Being in the 'flow' requires one to not dwell on past mistakes or give into anxiety about an upcoming match. Daily meditation trains the mind to achieve that balance and reduces the stress which can impede your success. I've recorded a free hypnotic mp3 to enhance athletic performance. Contact me if you want it.

  • Joseph Pond is a clinical hypnotherapist, an acupuncturist, and a mindfulness instructor. He is co-founder of Hypnosis Explorers NI and conducts workshops in hypnosis with PowerTrance. Reach him at or at Belfast Hypnosis/?ref=hl/?ref=hl

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