We all go through moments when we feel that our body is intrinsically linked to our mind. Out-of-body experiences are, more often than not, an amalgamation of tricks played by a confused mind and one’s preconceived notions. The muscles of one’s body play an integral role in governing movement, while the mind controls our thoughts. It is at this intersection of body and mind that muscle memory stakes its claim at being the governing factor for involuntary actions.
I am a sports enthusiast and enjoy playing most sports. All things considered—and only because I have to name one—basketball is one of the sports I like playing the most. It has been almost 8 years since I first played the game and it never fails to enthral me. I remember vividly the first time my friends and I started getting used to the nuances of dribbling, passing the ball around, making an innocuous fake, and getting into position for a shot. The first proper game we played was, quite naturally, a recipe for disaster. We barely knew how to coordinate with each other and play as a team. Our bodies worked individually, our minds were distracted and our thoughts definitely were not aligned with each others’. Amidst the coach’s yells and the constant team chatter, we realised that it would take a considerable amount of concentration and physical self-awareness to play it right. Muscle memory had to kick in. The mind and the body had to unite for me to master the game.
As the months went by, our bodies started adapting to the movements. Our supple physiques and immature minds were being reinforced by agility and clarity of thought. I felt a noticeable difference in the way my arms moved when I dribbled the ball, in the way my body crouched before a well timed jump, and the way my torso lunged to the right before making a move to the left, leaving the other player surprised—I felt like every part of my body had a life of its own. I realised, much later, that the mind had a significant role to play in the game than the body itself. It isn’t surprising that people talk about ‘mind games’ being played on and off the court every time a clever strategy is employed. I would go as far as saying that these very ‘mind games’ decide the winners of matches.
As with any other sport, basketball players are prone to injury. Making a comeback and being able to play after an injury is in itself a great achievement. Going back to how your body played pre-injury is a different ball game altogether. Even though the injuries affect the person physically, the recovery and rehabilitation that one undergoes involves the mind.
One of the most common, and probably trivial, injuries an amateur basketball player faces—until his reflexes grow faster—is when the ball bounces back off the rim of the hoop and hits one’s face. I was 13 years old when it happened to me, and that incident left me scared to shoot. Although it might seem comical—even I laugh at those memories now—it was every bit real and frightening back then. My physical injuries were minimum—I was lucky to get off with just a bleeding lip and nothing else. It was my mind that needed reassurance. I had to be confident enough to shoot again. I had to believe in myself without reliving and replaying the incident every time I looked up at the hoop with the ball in my hand. My naive self could not comprehend it then, but now I begin to see how the mind and the body had to function as a single entity—they get affected individually but always heal as one.
I believe that playing a sport gives one an enlightening experience into the internal workings of the wonder called the human body. As your body goes through the motions of the sport, seemingly not under your control, you begin to understand how your mind functions. You spot the glaringly obvious connection between the body and the mind. The union of your body and mind presents a reservoir of untapped potential that can possibly help you think and act better.