Meditation is no longer the buzzword of the health and wellness world and it’s no longer reserved for yogis and spiritual leaders. It’s an essential practice for everyone looking to maintain mental health and boost mental performance.
It’s commonly said that sport requires a 10% physical and 90% mental effort, and if that’s truly the case then meditation should be a key part of your training regime.
What is meditation?
Meditation is simply a technique for resting the mind and attaining a state of calm and clear consciousness and ‘being’, which is different from our normal hurried, multitasking, busy state of ‘doing’.
“Meditation is bicep curls for the brain”
The 12 benefits of meditation
- Reduces stress, anxiety and tension in the body
- Activates the parasympathetic nervous system – the rest and relax state of being
- Encourages natural and diaphragmatic breathing
- Helps you mentally cope with pain
- Helps you mentally deal with fear
- Improves focus and concentration
- Increases self-awareness
- Benefits cardiovascular and immune health
- Slows the ageing process
- Improves sleep
- Develops mental stamina and control
- Stabilises emotions
How do you get started?
Like physical training, to build up mental fitness you start small and build up. Start with a 5-min practice a day, after 7-days try a 10-min practice. Keep increasing the time until you get to 20-mins, and then try twice a day.
Practice first thing in the morning when your mind is fresh, it’s a great way to kick-start the day. I also love to meditate during my lunch break, to reboot my energy for the afternoon.
You don’t need to be a yogi master or Tibetan monk to master the art. It just takes practice and a daily commitment to see results. If it’s a new practice for you, be patient with your ability to form new habits and skills.
It’s not about clearing your mind, it’s about being present, increasing your awareness to your mental and environmental chatter and learning to be discerning about your thoughts.
When the mind wanders, and it inevitably will, focus your attention on the breath. Slow and steady wins the meditation race.
A great beginner’s meditation for athletes is the body scan meditation.
It helps bring awareness to each part of the body and allows you to give gratitude to a body that supports you so well in your sporting endeavours. Try this today:
Body Scan Meditation
Sit or even lie comfortably with your eyes closed. Begin to cultivate a deep and slow breath, in and out of the nose. Let your belly gently rise and fall with each breath.
Mentally bring your attention to your feet, noticing how they feel and how they touch or contact or the floor. Sensations you might notice include buzzing, tingling, pressure, tightness or temperature. Or perhaps you feel nothing at all and that’s ok.
There are no right answers. Just tune in to what’s present, as best you can, without judgment. Use the 20-mins to breathe slowly and mentally work your way through each muscle and joint of your body until you reach the top of your head. Or start at the head and work down to the toes.
Throughout this practice, allow as much time as you need or want to experience and investigate each area of the body. As an athlete this is the perfect time to give gratitude to your amazing and hard working body, and also to identify any aches and pains that may need a little more restorative work.
Want to learn more? Download my FREE beginner’s guide and 7-day meditation challenge.