Today I’m going to give you a few tips on how you can use the slackline with awareness to improve your focus power. If you’ve never tried what I’m about to suggest, whatever your slacklining ability, give them a go – they will only benefit your balance practice!
For the purpose of this article, I’m going to define Focus as directed attention.
You can train to increase your focus power much like you can train to build a muscle. Training your focus power using the slackline works on your subconscious mind to become comfortable and familiar with balancing, whilst your conscious mind pays attention to a specific instruction. Mental coordination, in effect.
A couple of principles to bare in mind before you try these exercises:-
- Focus, in this instance, does not mean visual focus
- Do one exercise at a time
- Start each exercise with a clear intention and understanding of what it is you are about to practice – this is important, because in the heat of the moment when you’re on the line, it’s all to easy to forget what it is you’re supposed to be working on.
- Rest between the exercises for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Your brain needs to recover!
- Everyone has around 3-6 seconds of unbroken focus available within them, as standard. You can grow this up to 3+ minutes with regular practice on the line. How long are you able to hold unbroken focus for, right now?
Exercise One : Focus on the Breath
This is probably the most valuable of all the exercises, as you can transfer this skill to any physical sport or activity.
- Begin focusing on the breath before you stand on the slackline; take a couple of breaths whilst standing on the floor – breath comes in, breath goes out. And be fully aware that for this next effort on the slackline, you are going to be focusing on your breath only.
- Take a relaxed, deep breath in to prepare.
- As you exhale, stand up on the line.
- If you are just practicing balancing, maintain focus on your breath; in, out, in, out, etc. You can count your breaths if you wish. The more breaths, the longer you’ve balanced for on the line – serves as a great measurement to monitor your balance and focus progress.
- If you are walking on the slackline, breath out every time you take a step. Maintain your focus on this breathing pattern until you get to the other end of the line.
Once you’ve managed a complete walk of the slackline without your focus wavering, it’s time for you to remember the process of how to focus on your breath, in the heat of the moment when you’re wobbling. Simply because, when you’re wobbling, if you can consciously remember to focus on your breathing in, out, you will cancel out the wobble and become stable again. This is pretty much my default technique for keeping my balance when shit starts to hit the fan and the mega Elvis-leg comes in to play.
Exercise Two : Focus on the Feet
Earlier I mentioned that Focus is not about visual focus. For this exercise, you’re going to send your attention to your feet.
First, to the whole of each foot:-
- Try to feel the slackline through the whole surface of your foot as you balance or walk. If you can’t get a good feel for the line in shoes, take them off. Pay attention to the sensation coming through the soles of your feet; is the line hard, or soft? Where is the line on your foot; is it straight down the middle, off to one side? Is the ball of your foot in contact with the line?
- Second, send your focus to the sole of your foot, where your big toe meets the ball of your foot. Again, keep the focus on this area whilst balancing, or walking, asking yourself the same questions as above as you go. This is where your focus should be for each step, anyway, especially when it comes to longlines or highlines, and definitely when you lose your focus, this is a great way to regain it.With a few hours clocked in your Focus bank, you’ll have something to rely on when you lose your balance. Often, a loss of balance is a loss of focus, so get training your brain and see where it takes you!
Harry Cloudfoot is a slackline instructor based in London.
If you interested in taking a lesson with him, you can contact him here.
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