That professional athletes use guided visualization and other Mind Power techniques to increase their level of performance is nothing new. In a previous Topic of the Month (see index) I wrote about basketball legend Michael Jordan’s method. He claims he spent as much time off court practicing making shots in his mind as he did on court. “I practice in my mind being in a pressured situation and making the game winning shot,” he said after winning game one of the NBA finals several years with ago, with a brilliant shot with less than ten seconds left in the game.
But that athletes also use the same method to heal themselves from injuries and illness is not so well known.
Thérèse Brisson was sidelined with broken ribs while she was preparing for the Winter Olympics last season. The painful injury meant that the captain of the women’s national team couldn’t practice with her team. Yet she did practice – in her mind. “I was able to maintain my mental edge by practicing every day in my head,” she says. “I’d go through all my moves and game situations. I would picture how things looked, how they sounded and felt.”
When she came back from the injury, she was ready to play, and she credits her mental efforts for being able to help her team win the silver medal at the Nagano Games. She also claims it helped her to heal quicker.
“Athletes tend to be fast healers, partly because of their positive outlook,” says Gregg Westwood, a somatic psychotherapist at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Mario Lemieux healed himself from Hodgkin’s disease, Jerry Rice and Steffi Graf from knee injuries, Eric Davis from colon cancer, and these are just four of hundreds of documented cases.
Herbert Benson, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, says, “What patients believe, think and feel has profound effects on the body. Thoughts and emotions are 50 to 90 percent effective in most conditions.”
Besides injury and illness, athletes also use imagery to block out pain during competition. Figure skater Elvis Stojko went into deep focus to block pain from a groin injury and won a silver medal at last year’s Olympics. Kerri Strug, the tiny gymnast who would endear herself to millions with her bravery, produced a perfect vault on a badly sprained ankle to give the U.S. a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics.
Gymnast Janine Rankin used imagery to ease chronic back pain. “I didn’t know much about the biology of my injury, but I knew that I needed oxygenated blood circulating through troubled areas, so I imagined it going through the heart and through the inflammation of my back and the troubled areas,” she says. “I pictured the inflammation breaking up and getting carried away.” It worked almost immediately and gave her more energy to compete and train.
This can work for anyone. Not just athletes but anyone who regularly works with their mind. Check out the chapter on ‘Healing Yourself’ in Mind Power Into the 21st Century and two excellent tapes, The Health and Healing Seminar and Healing Yourself, both available on this website.
Every organ, cell, tissue, and muscle in our body is receptive to the thoughts we entertain within. Health is our greatest gift. Use positive thoughts and imagery to maintain your health, and to assist you in healing.