The term altered state of consciousness is a common element of Buddhist practice. In meditation, it is an endgame, a state towards which the monk tries to attain via deep focus and meditation. It is also achievable in the case of substance use. It is also relevant in the circumstances of exercises. There are physical activities that are not just capable of training the body, they train the mind too. Certain movements can very well lead to deep modifications to one’s mental consciousness. Dancing, jogging, and martial arts are all capable of inspiring a changed mental state.
It is normal to wonder if there is anything desirable about inducing changes to consciousness via participation in exercises. What often succeeds a long period of exercise is the tense pain rippling off the bodily muscles and this is often a part of the altered state. Gymnasts often enjoy several altered states such as the runner’s high, the flow of dancing, or the zone. These often lead to an increase in the desire to exercise and ultimately a boost to psychological wellbeing.
Mind you these are not restricted to top athletes alone, anyone who is capable of exercising can tap into them via patience in practice. Whether you are an athlete or not, an altered state is possible for you to achieve with enough exercise.
The runner’s high
Runner’s high refers to the exhilarating feeling that athletes feel while running and even after a race. It is a peculiarly amazing feeling that comes from a great sense of euphoria, sedation, anxiolysis, and analgesia that surges after an extended period of exercise such as long-distance running. This may mean running for up to 45 minutes, an hour, or more as observable in marathons. A similar concept is in boat riding where the rowers experience the rower’s high.
This happens at a level of high synchronicity that often leads to high performance in the participating teams. There is often a coordinated breathing and motion rhythm likewise dep focus which is enjoyable overall. Reaching a runner’s high is mostly dependent on the level of confidence obtained in training, conditioning, and mental state. Beginners often have to be quite patient while starting with a moderate running speed in order to warm up. When fatigue sets in, they are urged to pick up the pace a bit immediately afterward. Where most beginners often stop is when the unpleasant sensations come in, the best thing to do is to maintain a consistent pace. You might need to slow down a little bit so you do not burn out. When you feel an immense surge of energy that increases your speed, use it. The runner’s high will settle in after a while.
Many think it is good to stop at the point of physical exhaustion but that’s not true. It is actually the breaking point that leads to a pleasant state of mind. Intense exercise initiates the release of endorphins in the body but that may not be enough to prove the existence of the runner’s high. Endorphins are sort of like painkillers released within the body. It only exists within the blood and it is not transported into the brain and this, endorphins are incapable of inducing euphoric feelings.
Endocannabinoids present within the human body has been discussed by researchers as possible factors responsible for the mitigation of stress hormone activities in the body. They are similar to the active component of cannabis which makes people high when they ingest cannabis in any form. The difference is that the body produces them naturally. Endocannabinoids are fat-soluble molecules produced within the body and are able to permeate into the human brain as their concentration in the blood is elevated following rigorous exercise. Thus it might be just right to attribute the occurrence of the runner’s high to the effect of endocannabinoids moving around the body. A study also suggested that trekking for about 45-60 minutes can also increase endocannabinoid levels within the body. This was disputed that the intensity associated with running is what makes the runner’s high possible and walking for prolonged periods leading to that state is doubtful. A bit of running would be required in the end to activate the runner’s high despite the period of prolonged walking.
This altered state is common to athletes that fall into what is known as the cross-fit training program. It is highly intense and short. The activities do not require much mobility or movement as in running. It bases on major strength exercises such as weightlifting. The zone is known as the phase of individual optimal functioning. In that phase, everything just seems to synergize perfectly with focus on a single task. The individual is just raring to go as fast ad as hard as possible. The idea of challenge meets capability in the zone of optimal functioning. When a challenge is too difficult, it gets burdensome and overwhelming with a huge chance of failure. However, when the capacity exceeds the challenge itself, it becomes boring and is shunned for their best performance.
Crossfit is not the only way to achieve the zone of optimal functioning. It is a flowing state with the individual lost in the thrill of the activity with deep concentration. One can be in the zone while taking part in any form of exercise or challenging task. The perfect mindset has to be achieved alongside the right level of challenge. A thoroughly planned workout has to be subjected to a due commitment with the necessary repetitions and transitions between exercise modules creating a smooth flow. It is slick and painless with peak performance and technique. Energy loss is minimal and oxygen levels are conserved. Alison Moyer, who has had experience with Crossfit claims that the experience peaks until he becomes in tune with the pain and pushes through the difficult moments. At the end of it is a red tape beyond which he gains an incredible momentum that brings a feeling of invincibility with full consciousness of his environment. The tiredness and numbness just seem to have faded away and the body takes over in the thrill of a sort of superhuman sensation.
Achieving this status is the focus of most athletes in the Crossfit program aiming to get into a painless and concentrated flow while working out. It all happens with the mind and the body at the same time.
The dancing movement has been acknowledged as a form of therapy in clinical practice. It originates from historical practice by ancient shamans going back over thousands of years from different parts of the world. Dance-related sports do not share the same end game as these traditional spiritual activities but the process as it involves the internal state of mind of the dancer working in tandem with the outer visible movement.
Music without dance is a good catalyst for induced states but in conjunction with dancing, it becomes more powerful. It seeps in deeper with intense rhythm and style translated into a steady flow of movement. The synergy created creates an energy flow that causes people to be less conscious of their environment and time but is more conscious of themselves. The energy of music and dance warms the body and induces a sort of brightness that spreads throughout the whole body. The head, the mind, and the rest of the body move in synchronicity as the individual becomes uniform with the music and all thoughts seem to start to fade. This is often termed a state of self-feeling.
To achieve such a state, you need to really get in the rhythm and experiment in movements then let it flow naturally with deep concentration. You don’t have to take dancing classes to feel good about dancing nor do you have to be talented in dancing. You just have t dance independently this is what induces the altered state.
Dance is about the most natural way to enter the altered state as everyone just naturally seems to gravitate towards it. Everyone tends to automatically connect with the sound whether they like it or not. The unconscious tapping of the feet and the head bop likewise other spontaneous movements are some signs of a gradual recession into the altered state of dancing. There is a sense of surrender attached to the spontaneous or the more intentional movements. Everything else becomes lost when the connection to the music sets in as a full immersion is achieved. The sense of liberation is what kickstarts the altered state and the sense of time is lost as they engage in the dance for longer than anticipated. You’d expect that the participants will experience a degree of exhaustion, it is surprisingly stress-free as if no energy was used in the dance movements. It fits the description of an altered state, a state in which the dancer’s mind is only filled with dancing. Just like the zone, it is a form of flow. Those who have enjoyed it before often yearn for it afterward.
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