Monday, February 22, 2010

Going for the Gold

"If it was all about one jump, they'd give us ten seconds to go out and do our jump not four minutes forty seconds. I was working every moment to put in the extra footwork to rack up the extra points. It was hard, very hard." Evan Lysacek

Who ultimately deserves the Olympic gold medal, the athlete with the best tricks or the athlete with the most artistry?

In the 2010 Olympics this question was hotly debated in the men's figure skating competition. The gold medal was awarded to Evan Lysacek in a close match with Evgeni Plushenko.

Evan Lysacek skated brilliantly with artistry throughout his whole routine. He never lost focus or control of his movements. It was grace in motion.

Evgeni Plushenko, the reigning gold medalist from the previous Olympics, landed a quad jump of extreme difficulty, but the rest of his performance did not have the smooth flowing quality of Lysacek's performance.

Plushenko put his hopes on the the difficult quad and the rest of his performance suffered from his effort and possibly unbalanced focus. Lysacek focused on the whole performance, making each move and jump equally important, including even the smallest details of his footwork. This gave him the freedom to express his inner joy of skating, rather than placing most of his concentration on performing one difficult move.

Every moment counts and being in the moment and loving what you do gives an athlete the edge to win the gold. Our focus and intention play an important role in what we do and how we do it. The top athletes have discipline, focus, and artistry. They move from their hearts digging deep inside themselves to offer something that is uniquely their own.

Top athletes know how to breathe fully, use their energy efficiently, and visualize their performance. They don't give up when things get tough. They respect the importance of the mind/body connection. They also have a support system in place - their family, coaches, and team members.

Olympic athletes know that nothing is certain. The gold medal is a gift that may be given to only one athlete out of a number of possible athletes for that Olympic event. If their only reason for competing was the gold metal, the disappointment of not getting it would devastate them. Years of intense training are necessary to develop the mental and physical skills needed for competition. And the competition itself is often over in a matter of minutes.

For Olympic athletes even though winning is extremely important, it is not the only reason they practice their sport. It is more about being the best they can be. It is about exploring the limits of their sport and their abilities, and creating new limits. It is about the excitement of being part of the Olympic event with the energy of hundreds of athletes from all over the world coming together to test their abilities. It is about accepting the outcome of whatever happens knowing that the journey was worth it.

Practicing yoga with the focus of an Olympic athlete can inspire us to a new understanding of ourselves and each pose. Put your heart into each movement, be curious about what you can do with your body and mind working together. Use each pose as a way of going deeper into your own unique individuality. Appreciate the support you have from your breath and the energy in the people in your life.

The powers of visualization and intention are often underrated. But they play such a huge role in our growth as an individual as well as our performance of any given task. Willingness to accept the outcome of our efforts also affects our commitment and self-image. If the only reason to do something is to win or be better than someone else, then it is not worth doing. Be the best you can be. know that life is not about doing the best tricks, it is more about loving what you do and living fully in each moment.

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