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Integration between Sport, Soulspension and Mindfulness

Cinzia Pogliani

Pilates teacher, Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Yin Yoga, Pancafit, sports trainingMilan

I am a doctor in Sports Science and I have been teaching for more than 20 years, alternating various techniques in my teaching method.

My training was based on the anatomical-physiological and biomechanical analysis of the sporting gesture as well as on teaching, but I have always sought a parallel path that allowed me to delve into in the mind-body connection, an aspect often forgotten or left out in traditional training.

I soon began to realize that in addition to physical tests, there was a mental participation that had considerable importance in athletic-sports performance, but more than 20 years ago during the my studies, the word Mindfulness was still almost unknown or reserved only for an area that was far from my knowledge at that time. I took sports psychology exams and realized that the subject interested me very much.

I also took biomechanics, anatomy and neuroanatomy exams, thus being able to precisely study the structures responsible for motor gestures and coordination. Yet there was a mystery that I still couldn't decipher: 'The mind', which understood as extended awareness, does not have a precise location in an anatomical atlas. Where exactly is the mind located? Why is the mind capable of interfering with sports performance? How? How can emotions and thoughts interact with our motor skills?

Is it enough to concentrate, or is managing your mind something else? Where is the mind while the body moves and coordinates with the sporting gesture?

We can use the mind in our favor so that it can be present, but at the same time make it non-judgmental on the results, actions or thoughts thought... and accomplish that action of 'surrender' whereby the body guided by technique and its innate knowledge can act in the best way?

And how can breathing modify mental activity? Questions I wanted to find an answer to.

Mind and breath, breath and mind.

One thing was clear to me: the mind, like an obedient puppet, is brought back to its seat by the breath, I understood this already through the first techniques I had studied: autogenic training, psycho-physical relaxation and other meditation techniques.

So the right conclusion is that the mind and breathing are connected and can collaborate skillfully, indeed conscious breathing and breathing well lead to a condition of pleasure and well-being , such as shortness of breath, apnea or shallow breathing, are linked to states of malaise, agitation and suffering.

Therefore breathing brings with it immediate effects not only on the body but also on the mind and emotional state.

Our fears, our impulses, our age, our physicality, our emotions and the quality of our thoughts and desires are expressed in breathing; essentially represents the movement and continuous exchange between inside and outside... not only as a mechanical and physiological function of vital importance for the body, but also of fundamental importance to the life of the mind and heart understood as emotional space.

If I think about my first sporting experiences, I remember my mind sometimes getting distracted or not allowing me to create the necessary space within myself to be able to perform the sporting gesture correctly , a practical exam or a competition, reducing the technical result, yet I had studied and done the correct training.

So I began to research and study all those methodologies that could help me to delve deeper into the fundamental aspect of the mind-breath-body awareness connection.< /p>

I have always considered myself a curious researcher rather than a simple teacher. I constantly research and study in order to offer my students valuable experiences that they can keep and reuse at the appropriate time during their training practices or simply in everyday life.

So about twenty years ago, having already graduated from Isef and graduated in Physical Education, I got to know the Pilates method, I studied a lot and specialized in this discipline, a perfect combination of body , mind and spirit.

At the time I thought: 'what a curious thing,....completely new for my training!' Then again in the following years I dedicated time and study to Integral Yoga and Hatha Yoga, Yoga Nidra and subsequently to the more dynamic Vinyasa Yoga, up to Yin Yoga, more introspective and profound, based on the principles of traditional Chinese Medicine, to rediscover that precious bond in the succession of asanas and breathing.

Ancient and modern transversal methods and methodologies have always been the basis for my personal study and teaching: postural practices, bioenergetics, positive thinking, the study of smell and oils essential, studying the limbic system and its connection with the emotional aspect; Furthermore, I was studying music and I graduated with a thesis on music therapy, therefore I often used techniques which, through sound and particular frequencies, allowed the breathing to find its rhythm and the mental state to return to its inner room.

Subsequently, the study of Mindfulness applied to my teaching brought invaluable help by building a more solid bridge between all the aspects mentioned above. In light of everything, each technique tested was more or less effective, depending on the situations, the type of students and the objectives of the people to whom I proposed them. All this has allowed me to have a wide range of knowledge and methodologies that integrate perfectly.

But I felt that something was still missing.

Not all students were ready to connect and make their body, mind and breath collaborate, so sometimes it was even difficult to explain to them how important this connection was.

Direct practice without too many explanations was easier and faster. The body is wise and knows how to reach where the mind offers resistance.

You just have to trust and rely.

The meeting with SoulSpension

A few years ago, while surfing the internet, I discovered this curious instrument, I observed it, it gave me positive sensations, so I decided to purchase it for my personal practice, or rather letting myself be guided by a sensation more than positive, I immediately purchase two, one flexible and one rigid. I had never heard of it before, I had never seen it and I didn't know its creator. With intrepid anticipation I await the delivery which would arrive in a few days.

So impatiently, I open the package, place the instrument on my mat and lie down on it...and...MAGIC!!

A few moments, a few breaths and my body calls my mind back to bay which immediately returns to its secret space.

With much amazement I asked myself, 'that fast? Is it ever possible? ..... ok maybe I've tried a lot, but this tool is really like an instant nice!

I tried and tried again... the effects were increasingly surprising.

I therefore decide to experiment with the tool on various types of students:

1) students dedicated to sports at both an amateur and competitive level, dancers, practitioners of oriental disciplines, golfers, cyclists, tennis players, swimmers, freedivers and surfers.2) students who do not practice any particular sporting discipline, but who consistently dedicate themselves to physical and postural well-being.3) students who are taking their first steps... who have never practiced any physical activity.


The general effects that I noticed immediately and that all types of students gradually reported to me as feedback, were:

  • Immediate body-mind-breath connection

  • Better respiratory awareness

  • Muscle distention

  • Transformation of states of anxiety

  • Decrease in joint stiffness

  • Sensation of myofascial tension of the muscle chains - Unlocking of the diaphragm

  • Mental clarity

  • Improvement of night rest and dreams - Improved work productivity

  • General sense of peace

  • Feeling of acquiring personal space/time - Increased creativity

  • Reduction of sensitivity to pain - Mental well-being

  • Decreased mental rumination

Soulspension and sports disciplines: sport is not just external performance

I want to focus in particular on the use of Soulspension for the first category of students: practitioners of various sports disciplines at both an amateur and competitive level. One of the major difficulties faced in this case was to bring a sports person to awareness of breathing and mental presence, so as to be able to create this connection and be able to go beyond the sports technique already acquired and studied, to contact that inner space where the 'click' that brings the mind 'home' and uses it best to improve athletic performance.

Often those who practice sports dedicate very little time to meditation, awareness of breathing... or yoga, they are seemingly distant worlds. Western sports training is conceptually different from the more introspective methodologies of Eastern origin, as if one had to necessarily exclude the other. Or out of boredom or 'lack of time' or because the sport being practiced already takes up most of the time available.

I realized that they had already dedicated so much attention to classic stretching, where 10/15 minutes were already considered too much, often underestimating its great importance. I had to find a solution, because as I had understood, the sporting gesture, before being projected externally, must arise internally as listening to oneself, to breathing, as awareness of the here and now; and in my opinion by integrating these techniques with specific sports practice, sometimes surprising and unexpected results are quickly achieved.

Sports performance, breathing and mental clarity

Already in the 70s there was talk of the usefulness of meditation or rather of awareness for the improvement of stress in sport, inspired by Zen philosophy and humanistic psychology.< /span>

The athlete often has to face two challenges: an external one and an internal one with his own moods or self-doubt, insecurity, anxiety and decreased concentration, judgmental thoughts. It is obvious that technique is a fundamental skill, but often technique supported by good breathing and careful mental presence leads to the almost immediate resolution of a refined sporting gesture.

The mind affects results and above all improves them, increasing concentration and consequently stimulating the nervous system and the immune system. So as athletes and sportspeople came to my lessons, I proposed a mini Soulspension session.

Therefore, preparing a specific lesson for my students, I dedicated a first part to posture, muscle strengthening and the resolution of fine connections with the sporting gesture practiced, in the second part of lesson I dedicated time (initially about 15/20 minutes) to practicing Soulspension without giving many explanations.

The only initial instructions I gave were: 'position yourself on the instrument, don't think about anything and start breathing!'

The effects were immediate, the two sticks resting on the vertebral bands immediately offered a massage sensation to the most rigid and tense areas and the head placed on the support felt like two hands allowing the release of the cervical bands, the sensation of detension on the connective tissue brought the nervous system to a state of calm and the diaphragm began to free itself offering a wider breath.

So lesson after lesson the physical improvement brought fine improvements in the sporting gesture but that wasn't everything.

Each student brought back to me the sensation of having found space for breathing, more presence and awareness, a release of tensions and emotions (sometimes tears or laughter), even of being able to sleep better in the days before the race.

I have often advised these people to purchase the tool for self-practice to be carried out before or after usual training or in preparation for competitions, thanks also to its easy portability and its discreet use.

So I had found a way to make these sports students experience an immediate connection with their mental state through the instrument.

It was very simple in this way to access the 'Body Scan' typical of Mindfulness and other visualizations and meditations in which breathing and listening to various psycho sensations are involved -corporeal.

All this has allowed them to learn to relax by managing stressful moments in a healthier way and to have a more positive and proactive mental approach that is certainly useful for improving sports performance.

Stress is an enemy for every athlete and also weakens the immune system and if attention is not paid to this aspect, cortisol, the stress hormone that raises the levels of inflammation significantly.

So by regularly using this tool we allow the body to automatically improve the immune system's response, reduce blood pressure, improve cognitive function and resistance to fatigue.

Other results reported to me after constant use of the tool:

  • Better management of negative emotions, fear of making mistakes or losing and keeping dysfunctional thoughts at bay that can negatively influence performance.

  • Acceptance of the result and non-judgement, welcoming what arrives in that moment without making predictions about what will happen, without expecting anything afterwards.

  • Management of anger and reduction of anxiety in relation to the competition by decreasing negative thoughts related to the race and facilitating the flow of thoughts, thus entering that state of 'flow' that is, the sensation of being truly focused and concentrated as a fusion between action and awareness and presence.

  • Improvement of proprioception, general static and dynamic balance, fine motor control.

  • Increase in awareness of each muscle and muscle chain, a fundamental aspect for avoiding unnecessary injuries and allowing progressive training within the right limits.

The time dedicated to listening and awareness also induces structural changes in the brain by altering and improving the activity of brain networks (Neuroplasticity), i.e. the capacity of the brain to modify its structure and the functionality of its neurons in response to new stimuli.

So through breathing we use our energy, refine it and store it so that we can direct it through the will towards external objectives, whether they are the desired sporting gesture or simple activities . Breath is therefore the secret door of vital energy.

It is important to practice for a long time in consciously listening to the breath, in everyday life, in every moment, until you learn to grasp the breath as an ever-present friend and ready to help us.

A mind that 'breathes' expands and opens outwards, shines with curiosity towards new experiences, managing to fully concentrate and focus, expressing maximum creativity.

In the same way, a breathing heart is capable of opening up emotionally to others, giving and welcoming new energy.


The application of mental awareness in sport is a recent practice and Soulspension is a valid and precious help; In my opinion, all athletes of every discipline and level should use it by integrating it into their specific routine. Every athlete must be aware of the state of their mind and body in the present moment and without this awareness, the subtle balance necessary for optimal performance is easily lost.

The continuous search for perfection, control, judgement, competition with oneself and with others often increase not only physical but also mental pressure.

Great athletes are in fact aware of the importance of the mind in all sports and in some specific ones (such as golf for example) where the mental condition must remain focused on the objective, it is more fundamental than ever, in addition to awareness of oneself, of one's limits, strengths, fears and qualities.

To conclude my research I can say that I am fully satisfied with the results obtained with the use of Soulspension, using it alone in its methodology, both for individual and small lessons groups, but also in combination with other methods such as: Pilates, Yoga, postural techniques, sports preparation and other techniques of my knowledge.

Seeing the smile and shining eyes of the people who rely on my guidance is the greatest satisfaction, but equally satisfying is knowing that each of them manages to dedicate a a little time and space for daily self-practice, drawing great benefits not only on a physical level but also on a personal and work level.

As I always say to my students: ''having a teacher who guides you in the correct way is important, indeed very important, but the real lesson begins when the 'academic lesson' ends!!'', that is, finding a way to simply and consistently apply what has been learned, in everyday life or in the sporting activities practiced.

The body is wise and is the true 'Master' of all of us, we just need to know how to listen, in silence, calmly and patiently.

*Thanks to all the students who rely on my teachings,

and heartfelt thanks to Patrizia Gavoni, the creator of the tool and Teacher of the teacher training courses, for giving me the opportunity to increase my knowledge, experimenting and welcoming new stimuli.

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