Hypnosis for sports performance is a recognized field that is used to enhance the performance of athletes, both at the amateur and professional level.

More recently the incredible power of hypnosis for athletes had been becoming more widely accepted here in the U.S. For years in the Eastern European nations have used hypnosis with their athletes and have experienced a tremendous difference in their athlete’s performance.

If you look at the top 10% of athletes what separates the elite 1-2% from the rest?

It’s not that they’ve practiced more or have more skill and talent, at this level of performance they’ve all put in the hard work and honed their skills to a fine science.

So what does make the difference?

Their mind…specifically their imagination and their use of imagery.

Imagery and Hypnosis

Mental imagery is the method used to recreate experiences in the mind using information from real events. This information is stored in our memory. Dreaming is a scattered form of imagery and the imagery. The imagery of interested here is structured imagery, where the athlete uses his or her imagination in a controlled fashion to recreate specific images for a precise goal.

There is a difference between visualization and imagery. Imagery is full body sensation, i.e. see, feel, smell, and touch the experience. Visualization is only “seeing” the experience. It has been found that imagery is the more powerful of the two.

There a three main ways of imagery and visualization. 1st person, you see the event thorough your eyes as you are the competitor. 2nd person, you’re watching from the standpoint of a spectator, and 3rd person, it’s like you’re watching a movie.

Research has shown that the most effect perception to use is 1st person. In addition, research also shows that the more able an athlete is to control his or her imagined movements, emotions, sounds etc, the greater the potential performance enhancement.

As for hypnosis, there’s nothing mythical about it…all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. The process of hypnosis is nothing more then getting the brain into the Alpha state. This is a state where there is direct access to the sub/un-conscious mind. Basically this is simply a method of inducing a state of heightened relaxation and awareness. And when achieved, provides an ideal mental environment in which to practice imagery.

Indeed, the effects of imagery can be even more powerful when practiced in an Alpha state (hypnotic).

How Imagery Works

Research has shown that visualizing a specific muscle movement (in the mind) can create electrical activity in that same muscle even though there’s no actual movement in the muscle itself! In addition, the specific pattern of muscle activity closely resembles that seen during actual movement.

So what does this mean?

• Detailed and controlled imagery can stimulate electrical impulses in the desired muscles, and then ‘prime’ those muscles for the physical activity to follow.
• Physical skills can be maintained or even improved by appropriate imagery when practice isn’t possible, i.e. injury, off season, etc. Evidence also suggests that using imagery can even accelerate rehabilitation and recovery after injury.

As for the best type of imagery to use, until recently evidence suggested it depends on what you’re trying to achieve. For the acquisition or improvement of sports skills, it was thought that using an external perspective (i.e. that of spectator) was best for learning or retaining those skills. For ‘psyching yourself up’ or priming yourself for an event, an internal perspective (i.e. imagining the feelings in the muscle) produced better results.

Now, new research indicates that the best results are archived when using first person or internal perspective, although there are benefits from the second person perspective as well.

Imagery can also be combined with other techniques such as the use of music to enhance performance or enter the Alpha state. By combining both mental imagery practice and physical practice it can be more effective than physical practice alone. Data from various studies have also shown that mental imagery conducted in a state of hypnosis (Alpha) results in far more vivid and realistic imagery than without.

The practical use of imagery while in hypnotic (Alpha) state is numerous. It can be used for skill learning, preparation for an event, injury healing and what if scenarios.

Practical Use of Hypnosis

Aside from being extremely relaxing and enjoyable in its’ own right, hypnosis can enhance the efficacy of the imagery techniques outlined above and assist in developing mental strength. The heightened state of awareness that hypnosis produces will enable you to experience a more vivid mental rehearsal, and so benefit from more effective ‘muscular reprogramming’, whatever your sport. Remember, if you can imagine it, you can achieve it!

Author's Bio: 

Gregg Swanson is a certified mental strength coach, clinical hypnotherapist and personal fitness trainer. He owns Warrior Mind Coach and Training. To receive a complimentary copy of the mini e-course “Powerful Secrets to Creating The Mind Strength of a Warrior" please visit: http://WarriorMindCoach.com