A prominent Austrian thinker named Ludwig Wittgenstein once wrote, “The human body is the best picture of the human soul.” That means your body is a direct reflection of what goes on deep inside us as humans, the outgrowth of thinking, feeling and experiencing.
It’s worth reflecting for a moment– as we shrug off winter – on the body’s ability to physically perform. The body potentially knows no bounds, a marvel of form and function, capable of feats of speed, endurance, strength, fluid grace, beauty and poetic expression.
Though blessed with our own magnificent little machines, not all of us can perform at the optimal levels of a marathon runner, an NBA baller, a mountain climber, an Olympic diver, a ballet dancer or even a fighter pilot who physically wrangles the seemingly incredible G forces of a jet. But there is a tool you need in your belt to physically perform at a higher level, no matter your personal endeavor.
Even rudimentary mastery of breathing can absolutely help you find new levels of personal performance, the ability to expend energy, recover and keep moving forward. As we’ve learned, if your mind becomes focused on the goal, whatever it is, to the point nothing else matters you will be able to ignore the pain in your arms and legs, as well as the little monkey-brain voice in your head telling you that you can’t go on.
The body communicates when it is hurting, but it’s the mind that ultimately determines whether you continue or not. And the best way to control the mind? Your breath.
“The mind controls the breathing and all its functions,” offers renowned racquetball legend Gulmast Khan. “Your oxygen capacity may be great but once you convince yourself that you are tired, you are finished. You must overcome that thought, and it is overcome through focus. … When you start to wear down you have to focus on your breathing. You must be able to recover quickly and stabilize your breathing.”
Full, deep, diaphragmatic breathing – like our “6-Second Breath” exercise is a great way to start.
Now get out there and move that body like you mean it!