Elena Mosaner of AlphaMind Hypnosis & Coaching: How Athletes Optimize Their Mind & Body For Peak Performance
Visualization of your desired outcome or as we call it — future projections — are a way to enhance performance. This is something I used when I pictured myself driving with confidence and at ease. Martial artists who are able to break the board or lay naked on sharp nails use a very heightened state of focus to help them visualize their success. They focus on depicting a completion of the task in their mind and how it feels to accomplish it physically, emotionally and mentally. This way you begin to program your mind and body for the possibility of this outcome.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Elena Mosaner. Elana is a certified hypnotherapist by the National Guild of Hypnotists (NGH), author, and International Coach Federation (ICF) certified professional coach. She holds a bachelor of science degree in creative writing and film as well as a master of science degree in executive coaching and organizational behavior. Throughout the last 15 years, she has worked with professional athletes, celebrities and high-level executives such as UFC Champion Fighter Lyman Good, Oscar Nominee and filmmaker Josh Fox, children of famous pop singers, and she has helped more than 1,000 people transform into their best version using hypnosis therapy and coaching. In this interview, she will use real life examples from some of the results she has had working with athletes to help optimize their performance. In response to the current stressful Coronavirus pandemic, she is offering the public free downloads of her Stress Reduction Audio SET, which includes three recordings. The set is available on www.elenamosaner.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Elena! Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born and raised in Russia and came to the US to study. I have lived here for over 20 years and split my time between New York, California and Russia. Growing up in the Soviet Union was a unique experience. I remember schools were very good and teachers were very strict. But surely no one forgets the times of scarcity of basic goods and the breakup of the Soviet Union, which brought a lot of chaos and system restructuring in the early 1990’s. Coming to the US has been a culture shock and I am largely thankful that I found hypnosis early in life to help me reprogram my beliefs that stemmed from the cultural and social upbringing of the Soviet and post-soviet era.
I have been practicing hypnotherapy for over 15 years helping people with high performance, new habit building, confidence, focus and overcoming irrational fears. I find it to be a useful tool to reduce stress, learn to relax and rewrite internal narratives in the mind in order to modify behavior and attitude.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career as a high level professional athlete? We’d love to hear the story.
I’m not a high level professional athlete, but as a hypnotherapist, I have been sought out and hired by high level professional athletes to help them improve their performance. Hypnotherapy inspired me to pursue my career because it helped me with my own limitations such as my paralyzing fear of driving. I knew because it so effectively eradicated that fear, it could have a similar effect for others and their limiting beliefs. This story explains how hypnotherapy works and why I believe in it.
I grew up in a Russian town of about a half a million people. Not many people had cars back then, and most used public transportation. Neither of my parents drove a car and it was rare for women to drive during that era. For many years I avoided driving, even after I came to America, and it wasn’t necessary living in Manhattan. But you are still limited in your choices for work and travel, as driving gives you an option to explore more places and remain independent. I finally received my driver’s license in New York City in my early 30’s. But I was still fearful. So, I continued to avoid driving, occasionally taking more lessons while still petrified. I would literally freeze every time I sat down to drive, unable to focus or think in a relaxed way.
One day, I decided to examine the fear. I did a hypnotherapy session with myself. I asked myself some thought-provoking questions as I would with my own clients. I found that two things were happening. The fear would result in a horrendous physical tension, discomfort and lack of proper breathing. More importantly as I dug deeper and became brutally honest with myself, I discovered that the negative self-talk was limiting me from being a relaxed and confident driver. Deep inside I believed that I was not capable, not smart enough to be a driver, that it was not for me. I felt inadequate, which stemmed from me not being exposed to driving an early age and often hearing stories and statements like, “driving is not for women,” or “women are bad drivers” or “it is dangerous to drive.” I continued to put driving off and even developed shame with my inability to drive and hence more fear and resistance followed. It was like a perpetuating cycle of growing disbelief in myself.
So, I rewrote my entire internal script and used self-hypnosis to replace old programming with a new one. I also visualized myself driving with confidence and ease, rehearsing it many times until I started to enjoy the “mental movie” of me as a free, fearless and smooth driver. It took me about two weeks of listening to my custom designed self-hypnosis recordings every day. Then, one day, I opened my eyes and the voice in me said: “Let’s go, get on the road now!”
I drive every day and everywhere. I really enjoy driving, it is so freeing and so empowering to me.
That’s one reason I believe in the power of self-hypnosis and hypnotherapy as of one of the approaches to make change happen in how you think and behave. Seeing how the simple process of changing the structure of your belief system and practicing self-hypnosis relaxation techniques can calm the nerves and make you more at ease — this alone inspired me to pursue my career in hypnosis to help others become a better version of themselves. We should be the authors of our lives, and not let the events, the limitations of our upbringing, society or culture dictate the way we think and behave. Hypnosis is one way for this type of self-authorship.
Today, I work with performers of all kinds. Working with athletes is very rewarding because they are very open to hypnosis and are naturally accustomed to the idea of mental states, like focused attention and concentration. This is like hypnosis. Athletes also understand the power of practice and repetition, which is important in rehearsing your moves in order to perfect them. Repetition is also key to hypnosis, when you program yourself with new mental narratives. And finally, they understand the power of mental rehearsal of your game, and this is largely what we preach in hypnosis — future progressions and visualizations of your goals — to enhance confidence, motivation and focus.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
Actually, my mother. She eventually received a driver’s license when she was in her fifties. I was very proud of her. I think every generation becomes more advanced and evolved as we move forward. My mom grew up in a village with five other siblings. They didn’t have the basic things we have today, like the proper modern toilet or baths. They had to wash their face from a bucket and had no proper clothes or nutrition. As kids they were often used for child labor in exchange for food by other villagers. Not to mention, as kids they barely received attention and care from their parents the way I am able to provide my children today. But my mom survived these harsh conditions and moved to the city, went to school and developed herself. I am eternally inspired by her tremendous sense of survival and fearlessness. She just has a way of bringing things into focus, no matter how much distraction there may be or things not going as well as she desired. She redirects her energy somehow and never gives into the weakness of the body and mind. She is not an athlete, but when she stays with us in California, she goes to the gym every day for a 2-mile walk and a half-hour swim in the pool, and she’s 65!
My mom always told me to walk “past the walls” and see no distraction in the direction of my goals. She taught me fearlessness. I want to pass it on to my daughters. Who knows, maybe they will fly their own airplanes one day!
Can you share any inspiring moment and time in the course of your career working with athletes and performers? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
During the COVID pandemic, athletes are the people we can learn from. They are natural optimists and always strive for the power of positive thinking.
It is always invigorating to work with athletes. I recently worked with a client who is a surfer. And hearing her speak about the power of connection with the ocean and her surfboard is mind blowing. I helped her overcome some specific negative cognitions associated with catching the wave at the right time to avoid wiping out. She needed help improving her pop up timing, trusting herself on wave selection and confidence to catch larger waves. Working with clients I learn a lot, and sometimes suggestions I speak to my clients work backwards on me as well.
I look forward to learning surfing myself, once I deliver my second child this fall. Luckily, I live in California now, near the ocean.
Today, it is very easy to get sidetracked with the unsurmountable amount uncertainty, things collapsing, plans changing. Many are left jobless, closing their business, trying to develop new opportunities. Those of us who stay afloat despite the difficulties we face — are the true optimists able to see positive outcomes, create new opportunity, change the way we think, as opposed to getting wallowed in the contingency plans to avoid disasters and negativity that we face almost every day.
An archetype of an athlete is a unique one. You don’t have to be a professional athlete, but you can adapt some of the qualities of one. The relentless confidence, self-discipline, showing up every day, pushing forward and the ability to see through the woods. This attitude keeps you alive, upbeat and still enjoying the way of life, no matter the circumstances.
What advice would you give to a young person who aspires to become an athlete?
I learn from my athlete clients that discipline, repetition and practicing the power of positive self-talk are key to their success. The mind can be very useful, but also very distracting if we don’t learn to use it properly. The mind tends to produce various thoughts and wallow people down the rabbit hole. You have to be able to control that. This can be attainted with practicing regular mindfulness. Learning basic self-hypnosis techniques is essential to help manage stress and anxiety.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
For about two years I have been working on my self-hypnosis app, called AlphaMind.
The app allows users to choose relaxation techniques recorded by me and combine them with scripts, which they can choose from our library or design their own. The scripts consist of ten powerful affirmations, which they record in their own voice. Then finally, they can choose any background sound or music and in just a few minutes they receive customized self-hypnosis audio in their inbox, ready to listen and make change happen.
This app is particularly good for building new habits and improving focus, motivation and performance of any kind. I developed this app with another programmer to help me solve my own problem. Instead of using voice memos or tapes like I did 15 years ago or even applications like garage band, which requires skills and time, I wanted something easy and quick, that only requires a few steps to create self-hypnosis audios. This is how the app came to life.
You can edit the session at any time, try different relaxation techniques or rerecord your affirmations if you want. I want this app to be available to others to benefit from self-hypnosis in the best way possible. It is so empowering to tell yourself what to do and what to believe in. This is the power of self-instruction. Which is widely used in cognitive behavior therapy and hypnotherapy.
Also, many hypnotherapists agree that teaching athletes self-hypnosis is essential. As it is best for a hypnotherapist after some time to move away and let the athlete become in control of their improvement instead of depending on the encouragement of positive suggestions coming from a hypnotist. Self-hypnosis is a great way to establish that sense of autonomy. That’s why teaching athletes self-hypnosis should always be part of the hypnotherapy program.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As someone who works athletes, you understand the high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?
1.Visualization of your desired outcome or as we call it — future projections — are a way to enhance performance. This is something I used when I pictured myself driving with confidence and at ease. Martial artists who are able to break the board or lay naked on sharp nails use a very heightened state of focus to help them visualize their success. They focus on depicting a completion of the task in their mind and how it feels to accomplish it physically, emotionally and mentally. This way you begin to program your mind and body for the possibility of this outcome.
2. Practicing positive self-talk. When I worked with UFC fighter Lyman Good, he shared how he learned to dismiss negative mind chatter. He compared it to talking to a negative person, whose statements you should never take personally or close to heart. Just observe it and let it pass, because deep inside you should always know who you are. Self-hypnosis is an invaluable tool to help reinforce self-esteem and self-confidence with a simple set of about 10 self-empowering mental statements about one’s skills, ability and attitude.
Here is what Lyman Good said after we had a few sessions:
“I am a professional fighter who competes in the UFC. Mental preparation is a very important component necessary to win. As an athlete I believe it’s as important to have your mind armed with the ability to focus and harness a level of confidence that will support your goal of not only winning the competition but having your head straight to train every day at 100 percent capacity. I’ve had difficulties in the past which made it tough to not only prepare right mentally but also compete with my mind sharp. After working with Elena, it was clear to me the weak links in the chain of MY thoughts and what I needed work on. She helped me to vanquish doubt, negative thinking, rumination, and comparisons to other people. The more we worked together the more I felt “unlocked” and “unchained”. I felt a rise in confidence and a much clearer understanding of my goals and my focus. It showed in the night I competed recently in UFC 230. I felt a clear focus and confidence that translated physically for me to have won the fight that night. The best part of working with her was how simple she made it seem. How she simply dialed in some reprogramming of the mind, pattern of thinking, and how it easily changed my behaviors. I thank her for the work she’s done and will continue to practice an invaluable tool she help arm me with to be successful both in and out of the cage. Thank you Elena.”
3. Breathing techniques to relax the body and mind for high performance are important to learn and practice. There are a variety of techniques. The main benefit of these techniques is to get into the state of focus and control and as a result enhance your ability to stay calm and resourceful. Some are able to program themselves in those moments of deep relaxation, like lower or increase their body temperature or simply learn to trust their body to do what it needs to stay alive and at its peak performance at any given time.
When we feel nervous, our body tenses up, our breathing rate increases, the heart begins to beat faster and the cortisol level in our blood goes up. All of this distracts us from staying focused and thinking positively. The only way to break out of this cycle is to breath deeply all the way down into your stomach, really expanding the lungs, and exhaling slowly. This triggers a relaxation response in the body, which is the opposite of the fear based fight or flight response.
Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques to help optimize performance?
I teach my clients to focus on deep and slow breathing through the nose, deep into the belly. It is sometimes called belly breathing or diaphragmic breathing. Your nose is the primary organ to oxygenate the body, while the mouth is meant for chewing and getting food into your digestive system. We are nose breathers by nature. So it is best to breath in through your nose. When you breathe, let the air fill up your lungs all the way while slowly expanding your stomach.
You can take anywhere from five to 10 deep breaths this way. If you are pressed on time, even one or three deep breaths will make a difference. This simple breathing exercise can lower the cortisol in your blood and make you calm in seconds. Stressful and negative thoughts tend to subside.
Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?
Yes. One way to develop focus is to start paying attention to the outside world. Let me give you an example. Lack of focus means being in a state of blurry, which means you don’t see clearly what is ahead of you. You are either in your head with racing thoughts or experiencing some sort of discomfort in your body.
To become focused, you simply need to find at least one point of focus in front of you, almost as if you were adjusting a lens on a camera. You may notice a tree, a hill, or a wall, white sand or blue sky. Whatever it is, focus only on that one thing. This will take you out of your head. You will naturally establish focus. Your eyes should not be meandering all over, they need to adjust focus like a camera lens. Imagine you were shooting a movie with a camera; how would you move it and adjust focus as you moved it? Professional shooters move the camera from one point to another very quickly and quickly adjust focus where the camera points.
Earlier I mentioned my surfer client. Focus is everything for her performance on the water and can make the difference between injury or a fantastic surf session.
How about your body? Can you share a few strategies that you use to optimize your body for peak performance?
I know from some of my successful athlete clients that they show up every day performing their own daily routines for exercise. They stay away from sugar, processed foods and white flour foods. Many athletes I work with practice 12- to16-hour fasting. This is good for anyone, even if you are not a professional athlete.
These ideas are excellent, but for most of us in order for them to become integrated into our lives and really put them to use, we have to turn them into habits and make them become ‘second nature’. Has this been true in your life? How have habits played a role in your success?
I personally develop my habits in the way I exercise, eat, work and even the way I spend time with my family like cooking or teaching my daughter. It all comes down to scheduling. I plan how many times I want to exercise, where, when and which days. I schedule which day I take my daughter to the beach to play ball and swim in the ocean. I schedule story time hours with other kids and of course sessions with my clients and other meetings. My calendar is full of events, all in different colors at least a few weeks ahead of time. Some events are even months and years ahead.
Personally, I like challenges. After I gave birth to my fist daughter two years ago, I did a 14-day plank challenge, followed by a 30-day abs challenge. I knew exactly how much time I would spend on each exercise and I would do them at the specific times of the day.
Schedule. Don’t go with flow when it comes to planning important tasks in your life. That’s a good habit.
Can you share some of the strategies you have used to turn the ideas above into habits? What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?
If you have a problem building a habit, you can use self-hypnosis and instruct yourself with specific step by step instructions. This can help you with habit building and motivation.
For example you can say something like:
I choose to exercise at 9 am Monday through Friday
I choose to fast 14 hours every day and do it easily
I choose to swim in the ocean at 3 pm Monday, Tuesday and Friday.
Just by identifying these exact times, dates and personal goals you are one step ahead. You need to dissect a new habit into a step-by-step instruction, like a system. Then you can use hypnosis to program that system in the mind.
For example, one problem I noticed with some of my exercise motivation clients is that they don’t have a clear picture of what type of exercise they want to do and when. They are in a state of blurry and indecision. As they get clear on what the new habits entail, we just need to excite the mind with the benefits of their personal exercise, future visualization of things getting better with regular exercise and articulation of where, when and how they will exercise — all communicated directly into their subconscious while they are in hypnosis.
Stopping bad habits can be done through identifying what the bad habit is and reversing into a good habit. You can use daily affirmations describing a new habit or self-hypnosis techniques, as I mentioned earlier. Bad habits vary from person to person. Smoking, nail biting, eating sugar, slouching, hair pulling, checking your social media more often than you need are the examples of bad habits. People do them unconsciously. They are like a virus software in the mind, slowing down your performance and progress in life. Isn’t that the purpose of a computer virus… to slow down the operating system’s functioning? Thought viruses do the same.
To overcome the bad habit, you can identify the wanted behavior and then choose a new affirmation statement: “I have lost my desire for smoking, I am now a non-smoker.” Try saying this silently within yourself for 20 minutes while very relaxed. You will begin to believe and feel the loss of the old desire. Or you could say something like: “I choose to stay away from social media on my phone. I only spend 20 minutes a day on Instagram.” Be specific with your statements and use verbal repetition to make them reality.
As a hypnotherapist with many years of experience, you likely experience and understand the times when things are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a mind state of Flow more often in our lives?
The last time I experienced the state of flow, my almost two-year-old daughter was taking time to fall asleep, so I sang her a song. Knowing how hypnosis works and how to put one into a sleep like state, sometimes you may use a monotone voice or something repetitive for a while. So, I began to sing one verse of a Russian lullaby over and over repeating it for about 20 minutes. And while she was falling asleep, I noticed myself getting into state of flow. New ideas began to pop up in my mind, some solutions to solve minor creative problems. I always look forward to my flow-producing active meditation, while putting my daughter to bed.
With that said, the way to get into a flow state is to do something repetitive. Running for an hour can produce that effect, using an out-loud mantra for a half hour can get you into the flow. Anything repetitive helps shut down the inner critic and the chatter of the conscious mind. In many ways it can be compared to “opening” your unconscious mind.
Athletes can often experience flow after performing an exercise or the same routine for the periods of time.
Do you have any meditation practices that you use to help you in your life? We’d love to hear about it.
About ten years ago I spent ten days in a silent retreat practicing Vipassana meditation. Ever since then I use this meditation daily even if it’s for a few minutes a day. It helps anchor “the equanimity of the mind,” as the vipassana teachers would call it. Also, if you go really deep into the philosophy of the mediation you will learn that it also teaches you to develop a non-attached mind, you become less reactive toward negativity and non-clingy toward the positive or pleasurable in life. This can be attained through regular Vipassana practice.
The meditation process is very simple. You become aware of your body starting from the top of your head all the way down to your feet. Mentally scanning it, very slowly, truly becoming aware of every part of your body as your awareness moves down. Then reverse it and go back up from your feet to your head. The meditation itself should take about 20 or 30 minutes. Once you get a handle on it, you could use it in moments of stress and quickly do a five-minute run up and down. It will naturally calm you down and anchor ease in the body.
Another way to meditate is by focusing on a mantra. You simply repeat over an over for 10–30 minutes. I once visited a Sufi camp in Albuquerque, New Mexico about ten years ago, and I will never forget the state of almost ecstatic trance I experienced when we focused on a mantra out loud for about one hour — all together in chorus. You could feel the vibration of it in your mind and body. Ever since then I appreciate the power of an out loud mantra while in a seated position. You can do it by yourself in your own room and experience similar effects. It’s not necessary to seek a religious, Hindu or Sufi mantra. As long as the mantra is a positive short affirmation it will be effective in helping you connect with something higher and disconnect from your mind’s chatter. Trust the effect that’s coming your way. You might be surprised by the personal insight and discovery. A simple and effective strategy is to simply and silently say within your mind the word “in” on each inhale and “out” on each exhale for 10–20 minutes while you meditate.
Many of us are limited by our self-talk, or by negative mind chatter, such as regrets, and feelings of inferiority. Do you have any suggestions about how to “change the channel” of our thoughts? What is the best way to change our thoughts?
If your negative self-talk includes ideas that stem from regrets, past failure or feelings of inferiority, then it is best to outline these ideas on paper. Really see your cognitions in front of you. Get them out of your head. It is only for you to see, no matter how ridiculous they may sound or how deeply ashamed you might want to admit you are. Write them down. Get this “clay” out of your unconscious and then start molding a new form. Rewrite these ideas into empowering new thoughts. Do not be afraid to be bold. Use self-hypnosis to “download” these new thoughts into your mind.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are by all accounts a very successful person. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Right now, I focus on helping the clients who come to me for hypnosis and coaching. That’s a way for me to bring goodness. With each happy client, I release one happier person to the world. My intention is to help many more across the globe. I believe my self-hypnosis app AlphaMind can help me attract a wider audience a lot faster. I want to teach people to utilize the power of positive self-talk in the state of hypnosis to improve and become a better version of themselves.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
When I was 14 years old, I took a foreign literature class. Our teacher introduced us to a quote by Henry David Thoreau:
“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
Later, in my journal I wrote over the entire page: “One day I will be living abroad.” Probably about 30 times. I wanted to travel, study abroad and speak English fluently. Three years later, I was an exchange student in America. Years later, I was living in New York City, studying in college, getting my degrees, meeting amazing people, learning and growing.
This quote still resonates with me. I always have had big dreams and ideas and I keep accomplishing them one by one. For me, it’s an exciting forward movement of growth, learning and contribution to the world.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
I would love to meet Cindy Eckert. I just watched her interview on the Tim Ferris podcast. She is a pretty impressive woman. I appreciate her sense of humor and bold confidence. I heard that in her company they nickname everyone who works there and give them a caricature on the wall. Can you imagine the confidence in doing that in this day and age, when we have to be so careful with what we say or perceive about people, especially in a form of a quick judgment or stereotype? She is doing is somehow and using humor to make things slide. Humor is a great way to shake through tension and open up for a fresh new thought.
I also appreciate her goal to help female founders with mentorship and seed funding. In fact, when I saw the tagline on her web site “The entrepreneur behind ‘female Viagra’ wants to make women really f*ing rich!” I was stunned for a bit. I think it is so bold to say that. I am mainly referring to the word “rich.” You know for a while, I would have shame associated with the word “rich” or even the word “wealth.” Especially, if I said it in my native, Russian language. Once again, all stemming from the upbringing of the Soviet era. But I reworked this pattern, thanks to self-hypnosis. I think someone like Cindy could be a great mentor and partner in getting my self-hypnosis app AlphaMind to the masses so that more people in the world would learn natural ways to program the mind with life-changing narratives to improve their performance, build better habits and become unshakably confident in the face of any fear. So, I would like to have a chance to meet her in a private meeting.