The Hard Way w/ Joe De Sena

On Spartan Health we’ve talked about how important your senses can be in terms of your cognitive function and physical health. In this episode, we take a deep dive into how you can tap into your sensory system as a powerful tool for optimal mental and physical performance. SImple techniques that can get you ready and set for you next Spartan Sprint, Super, or Beast!



We all experience it now and then. You want to focus, get in “the zone” but you’re having a tough time. Here’s 5 easy steps that will help you get centered fast. Each of them is a different tool or technique and each activates a different sensory pathway. What do I mean by that?

Let’s say you want your brain to focus or concentrate. An effective way to do that is to send a signal on every one of your sensory pathways (your sense of sight, touch, sound, taste and smell). Your sensory system is your only connection to the outside world and it’s pretty powerful. It works 24/7 sending signals to your brain and you’re deciding (often subconsciously) if it’s a positive or negative stimulus and your body and mind respond accordingly. So, being in tune and mindful of your sensory system can carry you a long way to better focus and getting your “game face on.”

What to do:

  1.       Sight: now this first one is both sight but it’s also something physical. It’s a yoga pose: called tree pose. The challenge of tree pose is maintaining your balance on one leg. Unlike most poses, this one requires eyes open, which helps cultivate focus. Select a point for your gaze and hold that it will help alignment of your posture. When practicing, it helps to imagine your body as a tree and that the foot you are balanced on are the roots and your leg is the trunk. Regular practice of this pose improves concentration, balance and coordination.
  2.       Touch: your sense of touch can be engaged by acupressure. Acupressure unlike acupuncture does not use needles but, instead stimulates (according to TCM) certain active point locations on the body can elicit a response.  Such as, improved focus. There’s a number of points you can use but here’s an easy one: It’s called Governing Vessel or GV 20. It’s on the crown of your head between the cranial bones to find the point make a line with both fingers from the back of your ears and they’ll meet at the top of your head where there’s a slight hollow. That’s GV20. Gently rub or stimulate the point for a minute or two. This can be repeated as needed.
  3.       Sound: Sound and Music can be powerful. The types of music to listen to that aid concentration are typically songs with smooth melodies and a peaceful harmony with minimal lyrics are the types of sounds that help the mind calm and allow the brain to focus.
  4.       Taste: this is an going to be a tea blend. Both green tea and ginseng can help the brain focus. You can use one or the other or combine both for an extra punch. Green tea has a relatively low amount of caffeine but that caffeine is coupled with another compound found in tea, L-theanine. These two together help calm but focus your brain. Another option or a great addition is ginseng – this herb has several different types and it’s the panax ginseng that can help improve aspects of working memory and focus.
  5.       Last up, smell; your sense of smell or olfaction offers one of the most direct sensory connections to the brain. So for this sense aromatherapy but I’m talking about the actual herbs in the form of essential oil not synthetic mimics. Two to try: rosemary and basil. Inhaling the scent of these herbs has a stimulatory effect on the brain and be uplifting. You only need to inhale for one to two minutes. You can repeat several times throughout the day for a quick boost.


Ok, lots of stuff covered here let me give a quick review of key points for each sense to be treated:

1.Sight: Tree Pose

  1. Touch: acupressure point GV20
  2. Sound: minimal lyrics, a peaceful harmony, pick something you enjoy
  3. Taste: Green tea and /or Ginseng
  4. Sense of Smell:  Rosemary and Basil.

Now, get in touch with your sensory system and you’ll be amazed as to how you get in tune and in sync with your body and mind.


  • Consciously and unconsciously your body responds to sensory stimuli around you.
  • Your 5 senses are your connection to the outside world. They take in environmental stimuli 24/7.
  • To get the best response from your brain to improve mental focus: use your entire sensory system - sight, touch, sound, taste, and smell.
  • Stimulate each sense to improve mental focus: Touch - acupressure, Sight - yoga poses (provides both a  physical reality and visual aspects), Sound - minimal lyrics, pick something you like, Taste - Green Tea and Ginseng, Smell - invigorating rosemary and basil
  • To be “all in” for your next Tyrolean Traverse, Sled Drag, or Atlas Carry - tap into your senses!




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“View through a window may influence recovery from surgery” Science. 1984 Apr 27;224(4647):420-1.

“The potential of positive places: senses, brain, and spaces” Intelligent Building International 2010, 2: 218-228.      

“Integrative health services in school health clinics” Adolesc Psychiatry 2015 Apr; 5(2): 132–139.

“Internal and external imagery on sports performance among swimmers” European  Academic Research Feb 2015 Vol. II, Issue 11.


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Producer: Marion Abrams, Madmotion, llc.

Writer and Host: Nada Milosavljevic MD, JD


© 2018 Spartan

Direct download: 05_HEALTH_MENTAL_FOCUS_IN_STEPS_W_GFX_1_01.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:30am EDT