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14th Feb 2012, 03:15 AM #1
Concentration tips from an ace shooter
Ace shooter Suma Shirur shares concentration tips which can be beneficial in everyday life
It was the qualifying round for 2004 Olympics. Suma Shirur from Panvel hit 40 shots one after the other, bang on the bulls eye over a span of one hour and 15 minutes. Not only did she qualify but she also created a world record for achieving all 40 shots precisely and accurately. She was the first woman from India and sixth in the world to do so.
Shooting requires the ability to exclude everything from one's consciousness except the immediate task at hand. The average attention span of an adult is 10 to 20 minutes. Suma can keep focus for up to 75 minutes.
She and Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra train under the same German coaches - Gaby Buhlmann and Heinz Reinkemeier. According to Suma, not only on the shooting range, a single-minded attitude is an asset in all areas of life. She shares some exercises which help her stay focused.
It's been proven by neuroscience that the neurons in your brain are controlled by thoughts you are thinking. If it's a negative thought, the neurons go in an unenthusiastic mode affecting your mood and if it's positive, the neurons act cheerful. Everything that you are is the result of what you have been thinking and how you have been acting upon it.
In pursuit of a goal - be it earning more money, excelling in exams, maintaining a diet or getting up early in the morning, it's important to catch the negative thoughts which derail you.
Monitoring thoughts didn't come easily to Suma. "It took me months of practice to realize that I was not thinking right. For instance, at the training facility thoughts such as 'It's a world level competition. I won't qualify', 'I am missing home, I don't want to do this', would creep in. The moment I caught them I would say 'stop' and replaced, them with a positive thought such as 'I can and I will do it'. I would repeat it 100 times a day," she says.
Visualising your goals coming true gives powerful visual messages to the subconscious brain. These mental images have been proven to impact the cognitive process including motor functions, perception, attention, planning and memory. When you visualise, these processes get activated and prepare your brain for the actual performance. If you succeed in your brain, you are likely to succeed in reality. Sherlock Holmes, played by Robert Downey Jr, has been shown practicing this technique in the film to assess the outcome of a plan of action.
Months before the qualifying round at the Olympics, Suma imagined herself shooting the target all 40 times. "I'd close my eyes for at least half an hour and visualise each detail of getting out of my house, walking into the training facility, loading the gun and pulling the trigger to finally shatter the target," she says.
You can start practicing this technique by sitting quietly for about five minutes to let your breathing normalise. Then imagine the details of yourself doing or achieving what you have desired for another five minutes. It could be something simple as reaching office on time or getting into shape.
Gradually increase the time you spend visualising to half-an-hour. If you continue for at least a month, your subconscious brain will be trained to direct your consciousness into achieving the goal.
Indulging in self talk during a task reinforces thoughts and in time bodily reactions. It allows you to reflect u p o n what is occurring and create awareness about the situation at hand. For Suma, self-talk such as 'focus on the target' worked better than motivational talk such as 'you can win'.
"Me and my inner self have to be in one team to achieve a goal," she says. "Great athletes have lost because their inner self pulled them down. Before a performance, when I worry about unnecessary things such as the weather, I would say to myself, 'This is how its is going to be today. I must make the best of what I have at the moment'."
Breathing exercises help concentrate the entire energy of the brain on a single idea by restraining thought processes. "When your focus is restrained, your pursuit is relentless," says Suma.
B r e a t h i n g e x e rc i s e s release feelg o o d e n d o r - phins, remove toxins, promote better blood flow and replicate the focus of the brain when actualising a goal. Suma practices anulom-vilom, kapalbhati, ujjai and bhramari.
Here's an exercise you can start with; it takes only 10 minutes. Sit in a comfortable position with hands on knees. Close your eyes and breathe deeply through the nose.
Slowly exhale while counting to five. Pause for couple of seconds and inhale slowly, counting till five. Repeat 20 times.
Other than regular cardio, aerobic and weight training, Suma does exercises which require her to use her brain. "These require balance; if I don't focus, I fall," she says.
1. Swiss ball
You can execute an entire body work-out with the ball. To do crunches, lie on your lower back on the ball and place your hands behind your ears. Then roll up and lower yourself back down after a short pause. Repeat in three sets of 10-12 repetitions. The trick is to ensure the ball does not slide from underneath you. This ups concentration.
This asana requires you to balance your body on one foot. Keep your legs straight and your arms on either side. Lift your right leg and fold it at the knee. Holding the ankle with both hands, pull the leg up. Rest your right foot on the upper part of the left thigh. The toes of the right foot must point downwards. The folded leg must be perpendicular to the left leg. Balance your body on your left leg. Join your palms in front of your chest. Inhale slowly and gradually raise armss above your head. Keep your arms slightly bent. Stretch your hands and body to the maximum limit.
Gaze ahead. Keeping your balance, relax for as long as possible. Bring down your hands to chest level. Lower your right leg.
Repeat with opposite leg.
14th Feb 2012, 05:45 PM #2
Re: Concentration tips
Very useful and well constructed article Viji.
1st Jun 2015, 07:35 AM #3
Re: Concentration tips
Good read, thanks for sharing