A few days after I drafted my prior post on musical accompaniment to asana, I read a fascinating New York Times article, “How to Push Past the Pain, as the Champions Do” (October 18, 2010). In assessing how elite athletes edge out their competitors, despite equivalent “pain,” experts made two points. First, it helps to be familiar with the conditions (such as the race course), for optimal pacing. Second, it helps to “associate,” to concentrate on your sport and the task at hand.

Regarding the second point, John S. Raglin, a sports psychologist at Indiana University, says that less accomplished athletes tend to dissociate, to distract themselves:

“Sometimes dissociation allows runners to speed up, because they are not attending to their pain and effort,” he said. “But what often happens is they hit a sort of physiological wall that forces them to slow down, so they end up racing inefficiently in a sort of oscillating pace.” But association, Dr. Raglin says, is difficult, which may be why most don’t do it.

Association, not dissociation, works

Maybe I see yoga connections everywhere, but I found this point applicable to the music question. Asana is not an athletic competition, but yoga practitioners all face physical and mental strain in challenging poses (see “Holding the plank” for one example). Do you use music (or other forms of dissociation) to push through? Or do you focus on your muscles and bones, your form and alignment, your breath and mind?

Image: lifeofMimi.com, Mimi daydreaming of cloud carrots