January 2017 Newsletter: Mindlessness versus mindfulness

December 2016 Newsletter: Routine

A recent Wall Street Journal article argues being distracted is actually good for us. It’s associated with greater creativity during problem solving, and facilitates learning new information.*

This, of course, is opposite the argument that we should be more mindful, living in the movement and savoring the experience.

When you think of learning a new movement skill, the first few times you try something it requires every ounce of concentration you have. I see this when I teach yoga to the Navy Captains; those that have never done yoga are thinking, trying to make sense of where their leg goes and what to do with their arm, and oh, right, breathe. There is no extra energy or attention for nuances, or even a chance to think about what’s for breakfast in 90 minutes. They are the opposite of distracted, and the level of focus they bring can be felt across the gym.

Compare this to an expert at, say, tree pose. The person can enter into tree pose without much thought, set up perfectly, and ponder whether buying a new car is really the best idea right now, all while balancing on one leg. What if the expert starts analyzing how she is performing the pose? What happens then?

She might fall over. Research indicates experts perform movement automatically, without consciously thinking about how the movement is done.  Choking, a term commonly used when discussing professional athletes suddenly not being able to perform a routine task they have successfully completed thousands of times, occurs when athletes think too much.* By analyzing how to do something they already know how to do, the conscious focus interferes with the honed skill. As a result, everything falls apart. 

Occasionally, I am asked how I write as much as I do with a full time business. The answer is actually quite simple: I run. While I run, I let me mind wander. I think about things I am reading, blogs I would like to write, and workshops I would like to give. I think about clients I am struggling with and how to progress or regress exercises. In the space between thoughts I check in with how I feel; assuming my body feels good and I don’t have to change anything, I return to my thoughts. I am, quite simply, distracted while running, not by music, but by my own inner voice.

I don’t necessarily think it’s a question of mindfulness versus mindlessness; rather, having periods of your day where you are present contrasting with periods of the day where you aren’t fully focused might be beneficial for allowing the magical inner workings of the brain to do its thing, to make connections and begin the process of learning and understanding. Maybe performing skills without overanalyzing every aspect has a place in the world of coaching and teaching.

Yours in health and wellness,
Jenn

*http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-benefits-of-being-distracted-1480357109
**https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2009/jul/26/sports-psychology-choking

Upcoming events:
What: Introduction to Handstands
When: Sunday, 1/15/17, 10-1
Where: Planet Granite Sunnyvale, CA
Cost: $90
Registration: calebchiu@gmail.com

What: Exploring the hips (day 1) and shoulders (day 2)
When: Saturday, 3/25/17 from 12-4; Sunday 3/26/17 from 10-2
Where: 360 FitHaus, LA, CA
Cost: $85/day
Registration: https://clients.mindbodyonline.com/classic/home?studioid=198170

What: Nature and Movement: a two day, Napa Valley retreat
When: Friday, 6/2-Sunday, 6/4/17
Where: Mayacamas Ranch, Calistoga, CA
Cost: $600-$900 through February 1; $675-$975 after
Registration: www.bewellpt.com

Suggested reading, podcasts, and resources:

The complete shoulder and hip blueprint, Tony Gentilcore and Dean Somerset: http://completeshoulderandhipblueprint.com                                                                               Yoga and movement research: http://www.arianayoga.com/thepodcast/
Pain Memories, from Seth Oberst (http://www.sethoberst.com/articles/pain-memories)
Eccentric exercise for proximal hamstring tendinopathy, Dave Tilley (http://www.shiftmovementscience.com/eccentric-exercise-for-gymnasts-and-dancers/_
Connecting the core and pelvis floor, Ann Wendel. Interesting perspective on this: https://www.girlsgonestrong.com/blog/injury-prevention/ask-ann-core-training/
A systematic approach to end low back pain. This article was a bit of a passion project for me: http://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/a-systematic-approach-to-end-chronic-back-pain
Best books of 2016, Ryan Holiday: http://ryanholiday.net/the-very-best-books-i-read-in-2016/
(If you haven’t read “Deep Work” and “When Breath Becomes Air,” you really should).
Running and cognitive function, New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/14/well/move/running-as-the-thinking-persons-sport.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0