Beyond triathlon, I often work with people who are intensely driven. And even though I’ve been practicing yoga for over 20 years, I realize that it’s not for everyone. Nobody wants to be told to take a breath or try meditation, or yoga. Even I’d say that’s not helpful, perhaps even counterproductive. I’m not a particularly good meditator, but I’ve been trying. I feel like yoga is my form of moving meditation, but I’m still interested to see if I can meditate even just a little bit and if it works for me, perhaps can I suggest it to my clients. I recently read 10% Happier by Dan Harris and think I enjoyed it so much because he was skeptical, like me. Can meditation work? Is there value in try to quiet your mind when it’s going 100 mph. Does it count if I can’t meditate for 20 minutes twice per day? Does it take away from the attempt at meditation if I judge it so much? I can never recommend something for a client unless I believe it myself so I’m constantly exploring and researching, it’s all an experiment after all.
I’ve found taking 3 deep breaths to be very effective –in through your nose and out through your mouth, as a calming or refocus method. I don’t call it anything but what it is: breathing. There is something quite mindful about it and it’s short, simple and perhaps an invitation to something more, or not. I’ve often interjected this suggestion especially when a coaching client is really worked up and can’t focus. Then I suggest that it become an experiment, which could turn into a practice or not. Everyone needs to find what works for them.
Recently, I came across an article of academic research about breathing from Stanford, which goes beyond yoga and I think many might relate to more. The gist is that you can change your mood by focusing on your breathing. The neurons in your brain can be triggered into letting you relax just by taking that deep breath and thus give you more focus. The best leaders utilize mental training techniques to give themselves more emotional intelligence which in turn makes them better leaders. It’s the science beyond yoga that I find interesting.
The next time you find your brain spinning and you’ve lost your focus, or your at the start of a race, try this 30 second exercise of 3 deep breaths. Make an experiment out of it and take note of how you feel. Does it help your focus? Shift your energy? Change your mood? Calm you down? Try it out and notice if it leads you to something more.