Flow State, Yoga and Adventure
What do Yoga and Adventure Action Sports actually have in common? Flow!
You could be forgiven for thinking that Yoga has nothing to do with extreme sports. However, after over a decade of combining adventure and yoga awe have realised, we aren’t alone out there! Often, people feel as equally drawn to sports as they are Yoga and flow. In fact, AdventureYogi was founded upon this synergy between adventure and Yoga! From the start, our ethos was to build a community for people that value a lifestyle of abundance, self-discovery and some good old fashioned fun!
But, what is this odd compatibility between the mindful, quiet practices of yoga and adrenaline-pumping action sports?
The Flow State
To begin, it was in the 1960s when renowned psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi first coined the term ‘Flow’.
‘state of being where a person experiences heightened focus leading to total absorption to the point where self-identity is lost and merged with the activity itself.’.
Furthermore, Csikszentmihalyi found that people were in flow-state during an activity. People reported experiencing higher levels of reward and enjoyment in a flow state. Amazingly, they became more productive and efficient too. His longitudinal surveys recorded the experience of various experts and masters from different fields such as music and art. Furthermore, people experiencing the flow-state regularly were also those that reported more happiness and joy in their lives in general. Finally, Csikszentmihalyi concluded that flow was the key to happiness and has been hugely influential within the field of positive psychology.
The Key to Attaining Flow
According to Csikszentmihalyi the 8 key components necessary to cultivate the state of Flow within an activity are as follows:
1) Set clearly defined goals.
2) Receive immediate feedback to gauge performance.
3) The amount of challenge appropriately matches the person’s level of skill.
4) Feel in control.
5) Complete focus with no distraction.
6) A sense of total absorption.
7) The person ‘loses’ himself.
8) His sense of time in the activity.
Positive Psychology from Ancient Roots
Csikszentmihalyi admits that what he describes as the flow state is not new. In fact, it is very much in line with ancient teachings within Far Eastern philosophies.
Indeed, traditional yogic texts such as the Yoga Sutras describe in great detail how the path of Yoga is to maintain our attention on a single point of focus (ekagrata). Inevitably, this leads to the cultivation of concentration (Dharana) necessary to generate a state of meditation (dhyana). Meditation is described as the continuous stream of consciousness directed at the focal point. Sustaining meditation eventually leads to total blissful absorption (samadhi). Whereby Subject and Object merge, duality dissolves and our sense of self expands.
From Yoga to Extreme Sports
Externally, it is difficult to tell what the yogi is experiencing. So, recent developments into Flow theory from research based on extreme sports has been insightful! This is because the outward expression of the flow-state is more visible. In his book ‘The Rise of Superman: Decoding optimum Human Performance’, Steven Kodler describes scientific research into the flow state and adventure sports. Kodler finds that action sportsmen such as skateboarders, surfers and snowboarders are exceptionally prolific at accessing the Flow state to attain peak levels of performance. This is even more so in high-risk scenarios.
Luckily, the explanation for why is clear. For instance, a sport such as surfing is the epitome of the Flow experience. It is vital that a surfer sustains high levels of concentration as at times, their life may depend on it! Furthermore, the risk creates euphoria and bliss that surfers often describe, keeping them coming back for more. The flow-state could be described as the Surfer, the Wave and the act of surfing all becoming one.
So it’s clear to see now why we are passionate about combining Yoga with Adventure! Whether its surfing, diving, hiking or skiing, we have the action covered! Come flow with us on our next AdventureYogi Retreat!