Michael Fukumura: Optimize Your Performance
Tune Up to Optimize your Performance
My sports outside of yoga are surfing and running. So, the hallmark of peak performance when I run is the feeling of frictionless gliding. When I surf and am completely in sync with every subtle movement of the wave, I feel a dynamic stillness within, even as the power of the ocean surges inside of me. You will always remember those moments in your sport of choice where there is a quality of effortlessness, grace, lightness of being, ease, and where you are totally in the moment. It may happen occasionally for you or even more frequently.
The following is my way of bringing yogic teachings to your sport of choice so that you can recreate the experience of optimal performance on a more regular and consistent basis.
Through my years of being an athlete, what I have realized is that the “just do it” action-oriented approach does not work for me. That strategy of facing every challenge with sheer determination and individual willpower, led to over-heating, imbalance, blockages in the body/mind, and less than optimal performance in whatever I was doing.
So, instead of just jumping into whatever you are doing, pause and connect to whatever renews and revitalizes you. I do this by simply giving gratitude for something or someone, or even to the ocean for every wave that I will ride. By cultivating a sense of gratitude, you automatically begin to release built up tension and there is a natural expansion inside.
Your mind is very powerful and your energy will go wherever you place your awareness. So, if you are distracted, regretting something that happened in the past or anticipating or planning something, your energy will be scattered. Therefore, take a moment to center your mind. You can simply follow your breath until you feel more present. Following the breath calms the mind as it synchronizes with the waves of breath. Then, stay with the breath. When you are in the midst of action and you feel anxious or stressed, return to the practice of steadying your breath and notice the increase in concentration and presence. All it takes sometimes is a “moment” to shift the momentum from one of frustration to one where you recenter yourself wholly to the activity at hand.
Another key technique is relaxation in action. In fact, I use this in proportion to the challenge that I am facing. For example, when running, the faster I run, the more I keep relaxing deeper inside even as all of my systems are operating at their highest capacities. This will allow you to run or act more efficiently. Aside from maintaining a steady and rhythmic breath, another way to stay relaxed is to get spacious inside. I remember what inspires me and I naturally get more open inside. At its essence, whatever you are doing should have an element of fun or play, even if you are seriously training. You can even invoke this quality by making a game out of the challenge. The more relaxed you can be, the more you conserve your energy and the more you perform with ease.
Staying relaxed and in tune with the rhythm of your breath, your energy will be channeled when you commit to whatever action you are undertaking. Your commitment will be directly related to how meaningful your actions are. So remember your intention for what you are doing and it will broaden your perspective. Then, recommit to that intention. This will give you the opportunity to pour your heart into your actions. Your actions will have the juice of your spirit. As you embody commitment in your form, your energy will be organized so that it becomes more uniform. When you are faced with a challenge in your sport, it can then inspire the highest commitment in you. This is how you make a shift and transform an ordinary session into one that is extraordinary.
Be willing to adapt to whatever life is offering you. So, instead of holding to a set of expectations about the outcome of what your are doing, make adjustments by constantly bringing your awareness to the whole so that every part of you is flowing together and in concert with the surroundings. Even as you remain dedicated to your actions, when you adapt to the changes rather than resist them, you will find that your energy will flow more optimally. You can recognize that you are resisting the bigger flow of life when you feel yourself forcing your body, your mind contracts, or you lose inspiration. Back off of the intensity, realign your breath, relax, renew your inspiration, and then resume your action in a way that feels balanced so that you are not over-working. Then, you operate at peak performance.
If you have not yet done yoga, then consider adding yoga to your practice routine. Yoga will reveal energetic imbalances caused by doing only one sport or activity. For example, surfers have tight shoulders, runners have tight hamstrings, golfers rotate to one side. Through regular yoga practice done with good bio-mechanical alignment and awareness, you re-balance the load on connective tissue and joints by strengthening underused muscles and stretch overused muscles. This dynamic balance of energy flow allows for optimal performance.
Most of all, have fun. In those peak moments, there will be an irresistible urge to smile (if not outwardly, then in your heart). You are so in the flow of life that you feel the magnificence of life flowing through every part of you.
~ Michael Fukumura, prAna Ambassador
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