Who Knew?

I have spent the last 35 years of my vocation dedicated to relaxation & balance in mind and body. However, in a way, it almost came as a complete surprise to me to really understand the depth of the power of relaxation as a winning model for us all.

This realization first came to me as I was listening to gold medal Olympic athletes being interviewed directly after their win. Usually out of breath and glistening with sweat, the medalists would often remark on how relaxed they felt during their race for gold.

They often commented on their relaxed state of being while they were pushing their body and skills to the limit! What did not make total sense to me, at first, was the fact that a complete juxtaposition of awareness was working simultaneously for them to produce maximum performance. Impressive indeed!

Sports psychologists have known about the connection between relaxation and performance for decades. In listening to a talk by Dr. Martin Hagger on Inside the Mind of the Champion Athlete, he emphasized the importance of being able to shut out distractions.

Anxiety management and relaxation techniques that Dr. Hagger teaches include:

  • Breathing
  • Stretching
  • Muscle control
  • Music
  • Meditation

Many of you will recall seeing Michael Phelps, the 23 medalists Olympic swimming champion, shutting out the world, with his hoodie drawn low on his scowling game face and headphones, virtually glued to his ears, as he listened to his favorite music.

A headline from the most recent Rio Olympics read – Newly Relaxed Michael Phelps Determined to Enjoy his Olympic Swan-Song.

“Before, I would have my headphones on and not talk to anybody,” he said. “I’m a lot more open and relaxed now.” There now is that voice of experience.

On a much more mundane level, my husband came to me the other day with his face pinched in frustration. Part of his printing tray had completely disengaged itself from the mainframe and subsequently paper was flying all over the floor as he was printing.

“Can you fix this for me?” he asked. He used that slightly plaintive tone that he knows works well on me. I simply have more dexterity than he does so I’m the one who usually takes care of little fiddly jobs around the house.

It wasn’t a good time for me to stop what I was doing. As I was attempting to match up parts to click into place, my husband was hovering over me with impatience. And so, I found myself becoming more and more irritated with the frustrating task at hand. My eye kept drifting to the clock. I had to leave for work in a short while, and I was beginning to resent this imposition on my time. Needless to say, I was not relaxed.

“This is NOT working!” I exclaimed. “Let me try it later when I have more time.”

So that evening, the black plastic paper tray and escaped part was waiting for me.

Now I was in the challenge mode of  “I AM going to fix this bleeping thing”.

OK so it took me three TV commercial breaks to get it in place, that’s about 12 minutes.

  1. I relaxed my mind and expectations.
  2. I looked at the diagram in the handbook and actually read some of the instructions.
  3. I kept gently maneuvering the parts around, instead of doing so with annoyance.
  4. I patiently tried, this and that, until I felt the pieces engage and slip into place.

It felt like a victory as I proudly showed my accomplishment to my husband. No gold medal, but a big thank you and smile from him. Total satisfaction! And this was accomplished because I simply approached the task at hand in a more relaxed manner.

You may be thinking, Well that’s not such a big deal. And indeed it’s not. But I have come to realize that it’s the little day-to-day triumphs that matter to us. As we accumulate successes by relaxing more, life has a funny way of changing around us.

We have the option of responding differently to various situations. All I can say about choosing to go with the flow, rather than putting up barriers and resistance, is that it works, and surely feels a lot better than the struggle that ends up strangling us in one way or another.

Throughout the year I will be approaching this subject title from all perspectives: Physical. Emotional. Mental. Spiritual. All of us are impacted in our daily lives by these four levels of being.

So as you take a nice deep breath right now, you might want to ask yourself: How does relaxation feature in YOUR life?