Getting In The Zone: The Power Of Mindfulness


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Doc Ali’s Tight Mind Monday 4-10-17: The Power of Mindfulness

When I traveled to Nepal and stayed in a monastery, the monks talked a lot about mindfulness. Mindfulness is being totally immersed in the present moment. It is having an active attention on whatever you are doing in that moment without judgment. Many times, when you practice mindfulness, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance. Sometimes our minds can go on “field trips,” and we need to bring them home. As gymnasts, we are aware of the power of the present. When we worry about the past or stress about the future, we become too tight and fearful and mistakes happen. So how can we strengthen our “mindfulness muscle” and become more focused in the here and now of every routine and skill?

Here are four mindfulness exercises that can make our minds more resilient:

Focus on breathing

Sit quietly for 10 minutes (which can feel like a very long time for some people… like me) and focus on your breath. Inhale to the count of four and exhale to the count of four. Put all of your awareness on your breathing and counting. Inevitably, when you mind starts to wander, label it as “thinking” and gently bring it back to your breath.

Body Scan

While lying in bed, scan your body slowly from toe to head. Notice any tension in your body. When your mind goes off track, again, bring it back to the body scan by saying “thinking.” Bring your mind back gently as if ushering a young child back to task.

Mundane Mindfulness

Become totally immersed and aware of the simple things you do every day. When you are brushing your teeth, completely focus on brushing your teeth. When you are having breakfast, don’t think about what you’ll be doing in school or gym that day but instead feel the spoon in your hand and food in your mouth. Involve all your senses and become totally absorbed in every bite. You may find you enjoy your meal much more!

"Here And Now"

Be completely mindful this week in every skill and routine at the gym. Feel a sense of calm confidence. Before every turn say to yourself, “here and now.” Then, focus your mind on the feeling of each skill or technical corrections. Don’t allow your mind to go into stress or fear, just continue to pull it back to the feeling of the element you are performing.

Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness releases chemicals in the pre-frontal cortex that help us with calm yet alert responses and blocking out distractions. Sounds like we all could use a little more of that every day in the gym!  

Alison Arnold Ph.D. has been a mental toughness consultant to USA Gymnastics since 1997. If you have questions or want more information about her work go to