Come Back to Now

Xperience Growthblogposts

My favorite form of working out is yoga.

I especially appreciate it because it not only is a physical workout, it also is a mental exercise as well. There’s a conscious link between the mind and the body during the practice. As a mental performance coach, I appreciate that overt link.

Yoga is also challenging. You can continuously push yourself into trickier poses and more strenuous variations. And the foundations of the practice can always be optimized.

As I challenge myself with more intense practices I’ve found something surprising. It also keeps me in the present moment. When my mind leaves the studio for any length of time, I am not able to follow the instructor’s cues.

Just this week I was in class flowing from pose to pose. I looked up and the whole class was down near the ground and I was doing a completely different pose standing straight up. My mind had wandered and I was momentarily lost.

This is such a great parallel for life. When our mind wanders from the present moment, we’re lost. A non-present mind is fertile grounds for judgments that are not conducive to our growth, performance & happiness.

When our mind goes back to the past, we can ruminate with judgment over our actions, leading us to question ourselves. When our mind goes out into the future, we can take the uncertain future and project negative events will happen, which is the basis of anxiety. Being fully present doesn’t have those symptoms. The present moment simply is and then we have greater capacity to respond in the best way possible.

A body of research shows the positive effects of being present or otherwise mindful. People who are able to stay in and more importantly come back to the present moment nonjudgmentally have improved mental wellness, immune system functionality, increased cognitive functions – even with aging, improved clarity & focus, heart-health increases, self-confidence & leadership improvements.

Regardless of where you’re at in your journey, you want multiple of these improvements listed above. I raise my hand for all of them!

Not only does my yoga practice help keep me in the present, a key element of the practice is the feedback when I’m not.

Feedback is a critical component to increasing performance of any kind. In the landmark book on achieving world-class performance “Peak” Anders Ericsson says the immediate feedback is core competent to deliberate practice. With immediate feedback we can figure out if we need to course correct to achieve the result.

In yoga, when my mind leaves the studio, I realize in a very short time that I’ve lost the teacher’s instructions. That is immediate feedback. I am quickly able to bring my attention back to the teacher and my body in the yoga environment. Also, when I attempt a new variation to something, I get immediate feedback.

My encouragement today is simple. Find activities that allow you to stay in the present moment and be fully & non-judgmentally present. Yoga is a go-to of mine. Bonus points if there’s a built-in feedback loop for when you’re in the zone and when your mind wanders.

You’ll begin to see your clarity, confidence, performance & joy rise.