Extensive investment in athletic research began in the communist countries in the early 1950's as part of the Soviet space programme. Ancient yogic techniques to teach cosmonauts to control psychophysiological processes while in space were tested . This training focused on learning methods for voluntarily controlling bodily functions such as heart rate, temperature and muscle tension as well as emotional reactions to such stressful situations as zero gravity. Prior to this, most physiologists had believed these functions to be largely outside of conscious control. The Soviets proved that humans could control the autonomic functions, allowing them to control their heart rates, temperature and excitement levels.
Nearly all emotions can affect the autonomic nervous system. For example, anxiety or rage can cause an increase in arterial blood pressure, heart palpitations and cold chills over the skin. Emotions such as worry, depression or pre-competition nerves can have the opposite effect by slowing bodily functions and in extreme cases can cause anesthetisation of the muscles. Sometimes excitation and worry occur simultaneously, causing vomiting or diarrhoea.
Emotional stresses can be extremely detrimental in competition. The constricted blood flow caused by these emotions can cause the focus of the athlete's brain to narrow to the last error he or she made or the last loss suffered, rather than focusing on the goal at hand. Mental concentration can be vastly diminished, accompanied by a weakening of volition (the determination to win).
The physical symptoms of negative emotions are disrupted coordination, shortness of breath, "choking", impaired vision, tearing eyes, cramped or knotted muscles, loss of flexibility and even muscle fatigue.
What researchers have discovered is that mental training techniques not only combat negative reactions but also open the doors to hidden reserves of energy and endurance. The experience of tapping into these hidden reserves is called a peak performance experience.
The peak performance experience is characterised by the following -
- The athlete has an expectation of success
- The everyday world recedes and the athlete begins to act completely in the moment, as though an automatic pilot has been switched on.
- The athlete is totally focused on the present and concentration is so intense that actions are anticipated before they occur.
- There is a sense of possessing extraordinary power which sometimes appears to be coming from outside oneself or from a new source within oneself.
- There is a sense of being completely immersed in the activity, perfectly in tune with the action in which the athlete is engaged.
- There is a sense of joy and ecstasy, the "perfect emotion" as it has been called.
The Kerry Hypnotherapy Clinic provides specialised training programmes for the development and control of peak performance.
These programmes focus on volition, goal setting and mental imagery, controlling concentration and physical intensity, using the powers of the mind to perfect performance, maintaining peak performance feelings, developing your "auto-pilot" internal peak performer.
These skills can be utilised in many other fields besides the sporting with great success.
“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves”
Sir Edmund Hillery, the first climber to reach the summit of Mt. Everest
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