The importance of mindfulness cannot be overstated. Mindfulness is a vital ingredient of success on the court and throughout our everyday lives.
Luckily, mindfulness is a skill anyone can acquire. The following is a transcript from video two of this Game Changers Webinar.
Kalindi, I want to ask you the same question I asked Joe, but maybe from a lifestyle perspective, especially a wellness and mindfulness perspective.
What would you say are three negatives and three positives, or two or one, mindfulness habits that you see on the court that really then translate in life but also on the court and how we play both?
The first one that comes to mind is not being in the moment. I think we take it for granted that we’re just normally “in the moment”; where else would we be? But let me ask you this.
Have you ever driven somewhere, and when you get to your destination, you can’t actually recall how you got there?
I think that’s a fairly universal experience for those that drive. I love to give that example because most people realize how unsafe that can be.
If you don’t know how you got somewhere because you clearly weren’t focused on driving, it probably happens on the court a lot, too.
Our brains are wired to go. Thinking about the past, worrying about the past. Thinking about the future, worrying about the future. It’s like we want to be anywhere but the present moment. And that’s what a mindfulness practice is all about. It’s about noticing when your mind is going off somewhere else and bringing it back to this moment. And that’s, of course, super applicable in all areas of life as well as any sports, tennis, and pickleball, and that’s why sports can be such a great training ground for mindfulness because you really have to focus on hitting the ball.
That’s your moment; that’s what’s happening next. If you don’t, you’re probably not going to hit an ideal shot, but it’s very tempting thinking about that last shot you missed, the last point you’re worried about.
A couple of others that come to mind; one’s a bit of a preview of the exercise that I was going to take us through later on in this webinar is negativity.
You know that negative, self-critical voice that sits on your shoulder sometimes? Saying mean things about yourself.
Sometimes it’s a much smaller voice, trying to tell that voice to be quiet. So, basically, it’s the self-critical voice that many people have. That can be very challenging. Because of course, it’s good for us to learn from our mistakes and take corrective action and improve. And there might be a moment of frustration or being upset. That’s fine.
But if that self-critical voice turns into a monologue of negativity in your head, that’s not going to help you in life or on the court.
I feel like that completes the mindfulness picture because it’s about noticing when we’re out of the present moment and can we shift any negative talk to be a little bit nicer to ourselves.
Can we treat ourselves like we’re a dear friend or a loved one? We need to work on being good friends to ourselves.
The exercise we’re going to do will give a little bit of a practice of how to do that, and the last one that comes to mind has to do with the breath and breathing, which is so important. We need to breathe to live, and it’s something that happens automatically, but it can be very helpful to think about it because when we get tense, our breath gets shallow, and we’re breathing more from the chest and less from the stomach.
You want to take long, slow inhales and deep into the belly and let that exhale just happen naturally. I found that’s a really good way to think about it, so you’re letting the exhale all out, as much as you can, and then you just let that inhale arise naturally, and just checking in with yourself is just an easy thing to do throughout the day or when you’re on the court.
Just ask yourself, ‘How’s my breathing’?
If you want to try an experiment, make two fists with your hands and squeeze real, real tight. Hold it tight, tight. And after a few seconds of that, check your breathing. It becomes so shallow when we’re holding tension.
Then you take that big exhale and see what naturally happens with your fists; they get loose and relaxed.
Learning to take big breaths and slow down big moments is something we have to learn. No matter your level of play, your game and life will improve when you know mindful breathing.
Kalindi Dinoffer is trained in multiple aspects of mindfulness in life and in sports, sharing on her blog MindfulKalindi.com. She is also certified to teach yoga, fitness, reiki, and MFR. Kalindi also serves as VP marketing at OnCourtOffCourt.com, a leading supplier of tennis, pickleball, fitness and yoga training aids and equipment and has been published in Tennis industry Magazine and Pickleball Magazine, and has conducted workshops at conferences around the world. In her spare time, Kalindi plays tennis, pickleball and table tennis and enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking and biking and cross country skiing in the winter.