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Proof that our thoughts affect your body

by Ed Bernd Jr.
     Can your mind affect your physical performance?

     Sure it can. To see how your thoughts can influence your body, do this:

     You will need a friend to help you. Hold your arm out straight to your side, parallel to the floor, hand open, thumb pointing down. Have your friend test your strength by pushing your arm down while you resist. (If you are too strong for your friend, then test your strength by making a circle of your thumb and first finger of either hand - hold them tightly together and have your friend pull them apart.)

     Now relax for a moment. When you are ready, hold your arm out again in the same position but this time think about a time when you failed at something, when you felt terrible about your failure. While holding this thought, have your friend test your strength again.

     This time your friend will find it much easier to push your arm down. Relax again. Then think about your most recent success, a very satisfying success, one that you are proud of. Once again have your friend test your strength. You will be much stronger when thinking about success.

     Have your friend test your strength as you think about different things -- things you like, and things you don't like. You will find that when you hold positive thoughts, you are strong; when you have negative thoughts, you are weak.

It all begins in the your mind
     Your mind definitely controls your body by directing and regulating the neuro-transmitters in your brain.

     Your brain is under the direction of your mind.

     When you decide to pick up a glass of water and drink it, your mind sends a mental picture to your brain, and your brain carries out the instructions. Brain neurons send signals down neural pathways to the appropriate muscle fibers, they contract while others relax, and your thirst is quenched.

     That is why so many athletes find mental rehearsal such a valuable tool to help them improve their performance. It is best to practice at the alpha brain wave level. If you have not learned how to enter alpha, then do your mental rehearsal while you are relaxed.

Mental rehearsal for better workouts
     Jose Silva's research revealed some very basic truths:

     *Your mind guides your brain, and your brain guides your body.

     *You tend to move in the direction of your dominant thoughts.

     *The most effective way to program your bio-computer brain is with mental pictures. When you create a mental picture, your brain will instruct your body to act out what you have pictured. That's one of the reasons it is so valuable to watch game films. Just make sure that the last film that you watch is of successes.

     Always remember this:

     Positive pictures produce desirable effects. Negative pictures produce undesirable effects.

How to motivate yourself
     To prepare yourself mentally for a workout, enter the alpha level (or relax physically and mentally) and review your reasons for working out. You want to look better, feel better, have more energy to carry out your daily activities, and be healthier. Picture yourself the way you want to be. This will motivate you.

     For even more motivation, remain at your meditative level and think about how somebody else will benefit from your increased fitness level. Perhaps a family member or friend will be happier when you reach your goals. Perhaps you will perform better work on your job, and your employer will benefit. In fact, think of as many people as you can who will benefit. Your increased health and fitness can serve as an inspiration to others.

     The more people who will benefit, the more desire you will have.

     Then when you get up to go do your will have a fabulous workout!

Rehearse the routine mentally
     After you finish the motivation, then mentally go through your entire workout routine. Recall how you feel when you begin. Recall all the things you do, the moves you make, and imagine yourself doing them better than ever before.

     Recall how you feel one-quarter of the way into the workout, halfway through, three-quarters of the way through, and as you finish. Rehearse it all mentally, and keep in mind the benefits to you and to others.

     Then when you are done, go have a wonderful workout!

Scientific research demonstrates effectiveness of mental rehearsal
     Is there any valid scientific evidence of the value of mental rehearsal?

     Yes there is, thanks to Cecelia Prediger of Nyack Junior High School in New York.

     Ms. Prediger wanted to put the Silva Method to the test with a group of students who had gone out for field hockey.

     She called our office in Laredo and told us about the project she had set up. We offered some suggestions.

     She divided the team into three groups. Each group practiced a specific shooting skill for five minutes. But they practiced in entirely different ways:

     *One group of 40 student athletes practiced shooting towards a target for five minutes each day, for seven practice sessions.

     *Another group of 40 sat in the bleachers, entered the alpha level with the Silva Centering Exercise, and imagined shooting at the target for five minutes.

     *The third group of 40 students entered alpha and imagined shooting for two and a half minutes, then went onto the practice field and actually shot at the targets for two and a half minutes.

     The results produced one big surprise.

     *The group that performed the physical practice went from 13 hits at the start of the project to 22 hits after the seven practice sessions, an improvement of 70 percent. That was no surprise.

     *The group that entered the alpha level and imagined shooting at the target for the seven practice sessions improved from 12 hits to 20 hits, an improvement of 68 percent. Again, this was not a big surprise, but confirmed previous research projects.

     It was the third group that produced the big surprise.

     No one had ever published a report of what would happen if you combined both mental and physical practice. Would the practice time be so short as to depress the overall results? Would the results be similar to the other two groups?

     Researchers had speculated that the improvement would be even greater than with either physical practice alone, or mental practice alone. But how much better?

     *The group that divided their practice time between mental and physical practice started with 12 hits on the target, just as the other two groups. When tested again after seven practice sessions, they scored a total of 31 hits, an improvement of 160 percent -- more than double the improvement of either of the other two groups!

     The evidence is clear: Combining mental practice at the alpha level with your physical practice produces spectacular results.

Originally published in New Living Magazine

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