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Sports Hypnosis

Updated on January 31, 2013

Hypnosis For Enhancing Sports Performance

Relaxation and visualization have become staples of sports psychology. The use of formal hypnotic inductions instead of or in addition to these techniques is only beginning to gain ground in professional sports. However, with the recent emphasis on natural ways to enhance performance, it is inevitable that this highly effective form of intervention will gain popularity as more athletes see the benefits.

There are several ways that hypnosis can be used to enhance athletic performance: you can enhance focus and concentration, build upon existing skills, and promote motivation. On the flipside, you can also work to reduce the effects of factors that inhibit performance: anxiety, conflicts, distraction, "the yips", overthinking, etc. A simple hypnotic induction prior to administration can also enhance the benefits of conventional relaxation training and visualization exercises.

Visualization, particularly under a hypnotic trance, induces the brain to essentially rehearse the experience without putting the body into motion. In fact, the same neural pathways that produce the actual action also are activated during visualization activities. One study showed that athletes who rehearse their performance using visualization improve at least as much as those who spend an equal amount of time physically training. The benefit is that this type of rehearsal can minimize the medical risks associated with overtraining, while helping to improve accuracy and confidence.

Photo by Vramak -
Photo by Vramak -

Sport Hypnosis For Finding Your Athletic "Flow"

Sports hypnosis is also useful for enhancing focus and concentration. By working together with an athlete and his coach, a sports hypnotherapist can develop an understanding of the unique ways that the athlete processes information while deeply engaged in the game. The therapist is then able to custom-tailor hypnotic interventions for that player's own individual style and motivations. The salient perceptions can be enhanced, while the unimportant perceptions can be tuned out.

Most athletes experience the best performance when they are in a state of "flow." Sport hypnotists can help the athlete to gain easier access to this important state, in order to allow them to perform at their own optimal level a greater percentage of the time. The difference in performance that this can provide will be different for each individual of course. Many professional athletes operate at a very high level much of the time, so the relative performance enhancements may be small even though theya re significant. Someone who has skill but does not perform regularly or at a professional level may experience more dramatic increases in performance simply because they are currently tapping less of their potential.

Other Uses Of Hypnosis

Hypnosis has a wide variety of application in addition to the emerging effectiveness for sports psychology interventions. More than being a specific type of therapy, hypnosis is simply a tool that allows a therapist access to a greater proportion of an individual's inner psychological processes for meaning-making and creating action. It can be applied to anything that is affected by psychological processes or that can be enhanced by their application.

Hypnosis can even be used all on one's own, and has gained tremendous popularity as a tool for weight loss, for example. You can read more about this at my hub on Weight Loss Self Hypnosis. Another of the massively popular applications of hypnosis is quit smoking hypnosis, although there have been some questions raised about the efficacy of this type of intervention. As is usually the case with such a delicate tool, these problems usually have to do with a lack of skill on the part of the practitioner.

That is why the newer and more dangerous hypnotic tools, such as the experimental gastric banding hypnosis procedure, should be applied so carefully. That is why anyone seeking hypnosis, whether for weight loss, smoking cessation, or improved sports performance should always be sure they are dealing with a qualified psychotherapist or medical professional who has the proper training to deal with any adverse events or reactions.


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