What You Can Learn about the Mind-Body Connection from an Olympic Pole Vaulter

Several weeks ago, I kicked off our blog series speaking about my appreciation for a good sweat, stemming from movement’s ability to stir up endorphins and a positive emotional experience. This week, I am excited to be introducing you to Pauls Pujats, who has been a Fat Leaf Water supporter since our Kickstarter days. We are thrilled to have Pauls in our sphere, as we align on our views of health + wellness in a similarly holistic and natural space.

Pauls is a pole vaulter, who represented Latvia in the 2016 Olympic games. He is also a yoga and meditation practitioner, who specializes in trigger point therapy. Pauls deeply understands the mind-body connection that I referred to in our first post.

As a child, Pauls was introduced to eastern philosophies through his father, who invited Buddhist monks to visit with their family to teach meditation technique as it related to athletic performance. While Pauls became familiar with these practices at a young age, it wasn’t until he was older that he learned how to more deeply connect with these ways of thought to transform his overall mindset.

Five years ago, Pauls decided to dig deeper into this spiritual realm and practiced meditation for one month at a Shaolin Temple in China, learning image therapy techniques as well, which opened up a new life purpose for Pauls. He discovered how to recover the mind and body, by learning which emotions to harness and which to let go, ultimately helping to focus the mind in the present to reach peak energy.

In speaking with Pauls, I was eager to learn some techniques to connect more deeply with our minds through movement. Here are a few of words of wisdom that I gleaned from our conversation:

· Meditation is only possible when in complete stillness. So while a yoga flow itself is not a form of meditation, it aligns our bodies and minds up for the practice.

· We can target specific chakras to help with a variety of imbalances. For example, sun salutations tap into our lower belly chakra to release an immense energy. And the exercise known as Nauli, which massages the intestines, helps to reverse aging and improve gut health, tapping into our “second brain”.

· It’s important to be cognizant of which life activities energize us and which deplete us. For Pauls, pole vaulting takes energy away, so he uses mindfulness to replenish himself and to prepare himself for a competition, using a mix of breathwork and affirmations.

Going into my interview with Pauls, I was most excited to learn about a specific personal experience he may have had, where he felt a particular emotional response from movement. So I asked him to tell me about his most memorable mind-body connection moment. His answer surprised me:

“Each day that we wake up is an amazing moment and a miracle. It’s a moment in time that has never before been experienced. I’m not saying that we need to throw a party for ourselves every morning, but we should celebrate it in a little way.”

While I was expecting to hear something like an epiphany he may have had at a pole vaulting meet, this answer was so much more inspiring. And so much more relatable — for all of us. He went on to say that he is motivated to help others to enjoy this life as much as possible, without waiting for “something to happen”. This focus became apparent to him after attending the Olympics. While it was a dream come true for him to represent Latvia at the games, he realized how important it is to make every day just as amazing; no need to wait for a grand event to live and love life to its fullest.

Aside from Pauls’ work focused on mindfulness, he also dedicates himself to encouraging healthy nutrition habits and has even written a book on the topic, Healthy Food for Athletes, to help his clients fuel their practice. Of course, one of the key elements of good nutrition is proper hydration, which is a priority for us at Fat Leaf Water as well. So perhaps the next time you hydrate, you can think about how that simple act will keep you at your peak — to have a clear mind, to move with clean energy, and to celebrate each end every morning.

Elyse Sara is the Founder of Fat Leaf Water, a cactus-water based sports hydration beverage, that is currently available on Amazon. She is based in Long Beach, CA and is celebrating her morning.