I had the opportunity to attend a two-day workshop about how to flow with power and strength, using my own creativity to be a powerful conduit for the flow of energy through my body to a steel mace. (Check it out here: https://youtu.be/b820RIl4ks8) It was a powerful reminder of the benefits of finding that flow state, and how in finding flow in my movement practice, I can start to access flow in more areas of my life.
The dictionary defines Flow as ”to proceed effortlessly and smoothly”. Imagine what this concept means when applied to our ideas, our perceptions and of course (because this is a newsletter from the Fitness department): our movement practice.
Flow state can be compared to the ‘runner’s high’. I have experienced flow state out on the tennis court (with the ball machine as well as with my coworkers, right TYLER?!) and on my bike, as well as at home as I knit the dark winter nights away. It also happens when I am engaged in learning, especially learning through movement. It is a state of transcending time, where your entire focus is on the present moment. Each moment, flowing into the next.
One of the key components to accessing flow is challenge. In fitness, when we are familiar with a movement, we tend to let our mind wander away from the moment. We start thinking about what happened at work, a conversation with a friend or family member, thoughts of comparing yourself to others, or to yourself from last week, or worries about an upcoming meeting, or we start watching the clock. Tick tock. Tick tock. But when we are fully engaged in the act of perfecting our movements using breath control and proprioception (where our body is in space) it brings our focus into the present moment. The more we focus “here” (in the present), the less time our minds spend “there” (in the past or future). And that’s where true change happens.
Accessing a flow state can happen spontaneously, but through regular practice, it can be accessed intentionally. A powerful way to capture and access that state of flow in movement is to time your breath to your movements. There are many breath practices out there that help access different experiences within your body, but they all speak to the idea that connecting to your breath accesses power and energy from within. It also means that holding onto your breath cuts off the energy - literally stops it. And that can be an effective tool as well. As a simple, get-started practice, try playing with it the next time you are learning a new move or trying a new sport or practicing your serve. The idea is to be so focused on the quality and pattern of your breath and your movements, that everything starts to merge together. The chatter in your mind quiets and if you are lucky, you will feel that kind of mental, physical and spiritual weightlessness as judgment, assessment and time cease to exist. And you feel the power and energy that is Life itself.
“Sounds pretty hippy-woo-woo” my husband used to say. But guess what? There’s SCIENCE behind it! Check out what is being discovered as scientists report on their findings:
“Since flow requires challenges, it must be supported by short-term stress (the good one) that assumes physiological protection (e.g., enhancement of immunoprotection) to deal with challenges. On the contrary, long-term stress (chronic) impinges on reaching the flow state and disrupts the immunoprotective effects on various physiological functions (Dhabhar, 2014).” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5138413/)
Finding flow in your fitness practice will have an impact on accessing flow in other areas of your life. This article from Psychology Today provides a deeper look at what Flow State is and what it can do to access more brain function and creativity: “we still have no real idea how to train people to be more creative. But “flow states” change this equation.” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-playing-field/201402/flow-states-and-creativity)
Flow state is a personal experience, but it can certainly happen in large groups of people. We are alone together in a state of Flow and, as I experienced in the workshop, when I set my watch at the door and trust that for the next period of time, I just get to connect with how this body of mine operates, Flow can happen. This is what I absolutely love about Personal Training and group fitness experiences.
Your trainer/instructor can guide you through movement patterns, offering cues to get your mind and body moving together powerfully. All you have to do is show up and be willing to do the work to access that Flow.
Wanna know more about flow in fitness?
As we start developing our fitness programs in preparations for BTTC’s Fitness Training expansion, keep a lookout for opportunities to try a new class and take your life to a new level. I also offer flow-state based coaching, both in class and one-on-one. Find your flow state in movement and take everything from your tennis game to games with the kids or whatever adventure your life offers to a heightened state of awareness, appreciation, and awe.