Dr. Darlene Treese
PO Box 547
Windermere, FL 34786
(480) 296-3358

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Suite 309
Orlando, FL 32835
Phone: 407-278-1598 Fax:407-203-0803

Dr. Dar's Weekly News You Can Use:

Bringing Sports Psychology Into Your Life: Chi

Chi (pronounced chee) is defined as vital energy that is held to animate the body internally and is of central importance in some Eastern systems of medical treatment (as acupuncture) and of exercise or self-defense (as tai chi). It is what Obi Wan of Stars Wars fame calls "the Force."

The focus of chi is a state of mind defined by athletes as the experience where concentration is so narrowly focused and so total that they have no conscious memory of the actual experience. Everything becomes automatic and all the senses slow down. A hitter in baseball or a tennis player describes it as getting into the zone and shutting out everything except the ball. A martial arts expert or football lineman speaks of the ability to shift momentum rather than overpower force with his own strength. It is the art of controlling muscle tension by relaxing and not working against yourself. It's not trying too hard, allowing everything to work together with the mind and the body being one.

What would you be capable of doing if you could focus your chi? How far could you drive a golf ball or how fast could you hit a serve in tennis? What could you accomplish in life if you had optimal control over your muscle tension and were not working against yourself?

The process of focusing your chi is called centering. Centering focuses on your physical body's center of gravity - a point just behind your navel. When you are able to focus on this one point, you are centered and it produces a strong, confident, anchored and grounded feeling. It's what a basketball player at the free throw line or a diver or a gymnast or a track and field star is reaching for because it positively affects strength, coordination and timing.

To have this feeling of centering, pay attention right now to your breathing. Take 3 or 4 deep breaths and watch what happens to your body in relation to the chair you are sitting on. As you inhaled, you probably felt increased tension in your upper body and felt it rise up a bit. As you exhaled, you probably felt as if you were sinking down into the chair. Now inhale deeply from your abdomen (not your chest) and as you exhale relax the muscles in your butt, thighs and calves.

To further get the effect of this, take 4 deep breaths and come up with a number that represents how heavy you feel against the chair before you inhale or exhale deeply again. Let's say it's 5. Your task is to keep that number at 5 on the inhale and not let it rise up to a 3 as before. Then as you exhale become even more relaxed and centered and perhaps allow the heaviness number to go to a 7. On the next inhale, you want to keep that inhale at 7 and exhale, relax and center into a 9.

The reason that breathing and muscle tension get out of control is that we do not pay attention to our bodies. Under pressure, we stop thinking clearly and become aware of tension only after it has negatively affected us. Another benefit of centering is that you cannot simultaneously think about breathing and worry. In making the adjustment in the tension in your body, you have created a mental clearing of negative thoughts. This places you in a position to direct your attention and concentration in a positive way to attend to the task at hand with clear thoughts and appropriate actions. When should you center? When you are most likely to make attention errors due to distractions, when you are most likely to be too tense and tight, and when you feel the pressure has reached an undesirable state. Follow Obi Wan's advice and breathe from your belly.

Next Week: Bringing Sports Psychology Into Your Life: Analyze