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Training is primordial in sports. Many athletes and coaches focus on the physical training and teamwork, but not many take into consideration the training of the mind. Stress, emotions and life events all affect athletes, and when they do not have a clear, focused and determined mind, they simply cannot perform well. Meditation is a crucial influence where athletic performance is concerned. This article discusses its benefits.
There are countless cases when a very well known and successful sportsman has failed and left us all gawking in surprise. However, this can be avoided by including the practice of meditation in the training of athletes. The body must be strong, but so must the mind.
Meditation and Athletic Performance
Some of you might have heard different definitions of meditation. Is it a state of mind, is it a process of training your mind, of reaching relaxation and peace, of motivating oneself? Well, in a few words it can be named a training of the mind. Meditation has and is a part of many beliefs and religious traditions, and has been practiced since the times of Antiquity. Its purpose is to induce a consciousness mode in order to acknowledge the content of the mind without it being regarded as the same, as well as realizing a certain benefit for the mind.
Meditation refers to numerous practices, from developing or rediscovering virtues such as love, generosity, compassion, forgiveness, patience, empathy or honesty, to building life force or internal energy and achieving relaxation. However, meditation can also be used as a means to gain a sense of well-being which can resist no matter what people are going through in their lives.
The practice often involves educating the mind and controlling it, but also clearing the mind in order to ease concerns related to health problems or noxious states of the mind, such as anxiety and depression. The practitioners are also known to use ritual objects that can remind them of the different stages or aspects of meditation. But the practice does not stop here. Furthermore, meditation can include analyzing a certain emotional state by specifically generating it, or repeating a mantra.
Although associated with Asian cultures, different versions of meditation are part of many religions and beliefs across the whole world, including: Bahá’í Faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Taoism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, New Age, Sikhism and other pagan and occult religions.
Secular meditation is present in the West, in various forms such as sound-based meditation, mindfulness and mental silence. However, different practitioners have different views on the aspects on meditation and a very conspicuous matter is the one of using drugs to reach various mental states. The Native American Church and the Rastafarian movements have integrated the use of intoxicants to their lifestyle, while other religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Sahaja Yoga and Transcendental Meditation are against it.
Meditation, Athletic Performance and Neurological Research
As for health research, meditation is currently being studied in the field of neurological research. It would seem that eliminating negative thoughts and calming oneself can improve chronic health conditions as well as bad psychological states. Furthermore, it can also enhance the quality of life and determine people to work towards their goals no matter what difficulties or challenges they face. Athletes who meditate are known to have better performances and reach their goals of becoming the best at what they do.
It is well known that in sports, the opponent is not only in front of you, but also inside of you. Here is where meditation comes into the scene. Many professional coaches have already started to include the practice in training their athletes, like Phil Jackson, who won eleven NBS championships.
So how can meditation improve the performance of athletes?
- Improved focus, by eliminating other distractions around you: what you see, feel, smell, hear or taste.
- Secondly, it helps you cope with physical pain, since many sports involve accidents when training or the physical strain of the body.
- Meditation can also guide you to handle your fears, since fear does not truly exist and is projected by our minds.
- Furthermore, your immune system is improved, and thus athletes can use meditation to support overall health.
- Meditation also contributes to developing more resilienency by showing an athlete how to navigate negative thoughts.
- Additionally, meditation reduces stress and stabilizes emotions, which is primordial in sports.
- Last but not least, it makes you able to see and recognize your blind spots, Athletes need to fight their own battles in order to overcome their fears and emotions, and this is where meditation is helpful.
- and improves the quality of sleep.
Meditation is a complex process which you can learn mostly by practicing. Reading many books or articles on the subject is good, but it cannot help you without practice. Many people expect their mind to become clear the moment they start meditating, but in order to gain the sense of clarity you also need preparation.
Meditation Exercises for Athletes
There are numerous meditation exercises you can do, which involve different types of practices. The following meditation includes Tantric inner silence steps, as well as breath awareness, that will improve your awareness and your sense of clarity, as well as get rid of all distractions in order to reach a peaceful state of mind.
The whole process takes about twelve minutes to complete. First of all, you must be seated comfortably, either on a chair or on the ground. However, it is recommended to stay seated in order to avoid falling asleep. Next, you have to close your eyes and listen closely to all the sounds you can hear.
You must let all sounds reach you, but not concentrate on one in particular, but rater allow them all to blend. After you have done this, try to feel the clothes on your body and your temperature. Next, you move on to the other senses, like feeling all the smells that surround you, as well as the exhalation and inhalation of your breath. With each breath you take, tell yourself that you are breathing in and breathing out.
This will help you concentrate on the meditation. Remember to stay relaxed during the whole process. Furthermore, after taking these steps you can mentally visualize your goal or the sport technique you are trying to perfect: it can be either you standing on the podium or the perfect example of the skills. By focusing on the goal you want to achieve, you can make your dreams come true. It is important to do this meditation each day, as it takes twelve minutes to reach the state of relaxation. Additionally, you must do it for ninety days because this is the standard period in which you can break or establish a habit.
Even though the human mind is still a labyrinth of mysteries, it is becoming clearer and clearer that meditation is one of the best ways of keeping it focused, determined and fearless. Research on finding the link between the practice and sports is still ongoing, but the first discoveries are encouraging. Not only can meditation keep you healthy and sane, but it also pushes you to work hard towards your goals and finally achieve them, whether you are an athlete or not.