Meditation 101 for Athletes
Learn Effective Meditation Techniques
Meditation is no longer thought of as something only new age people or Buddhist monks do. The physical, emotional, and mental benefits of meditation are well established in research, although when I first started using meditation techniques in my practice, it was not as widely accepted as it is now.
I use these techniques with my athletic clients because of their demonstrated effectiveness time and again. I have found many people do not know how to harness the power of meditation to maximize their mental game. Thus, I have taken the time to provide you with some of the most effective, yet simple meditation techniques to increase your mental game.
Meditation is especially helpful for athletes.
Before You Meditate: Work Out Your Obstacles
A common obstacle I usually hear from my clients is self-misconceptions. This is my favorite one to tackle with a client, because it is my expertise. Usually, people don’t even realize their own thoughts can hinder their progress in nearly anything they want to accomplish, but this is especially problematic when athletes are trying to do everything they can to build a tough mental game. Self-misconceptions can also interfere with utilizing all the tools one could use to build a strong mental game.
For instance, I can’t tell you how many times I have heard athletes, and yes, even martial artists say, meditation doesn’t work for me, or I’m not the type of person that can meditate. When I ask the person, why do you have that impression about yourself, the answer I receive most often is, or, I can’t sit still long enough. They are often surprised when I tell them they can reap the benefits of meditation with short, five-minute sessions.
Another obstacle I work with my clients to overcome with meditation is misconceptions about the practice of meditation. For instance, a common misconception is that one must clear his mind in order to meditate. A mind clear of distracting thoughts is not something everyone achieves immediately. A mind clear of thoughts is something one can achieve after some time practicing meditation. It is more of a byproduct of the practice of meditation rather than something one can just will to happen
Take the time to examine your thoughts on meditation See what objections come up when you reflect upon meditation. Then go about changing your mind.
Meditation is simple if you take it step-by-step.
Steps for Meditation
Working out your obstacles is important, and I wouldn’t recommend skipping over it, because even though I can get my clients meditating within minutes, I have found that not doing the mental work for your mental game interferes with your progress later. Moreover, the moment you have a belief that you can’t, you won’t be able to maintain the daily practice of meditation.
As a matter of fact, you can follow along with the below exercise and begin meditating right now. You'll find it's fairly simple. Just doing meditative breathing can help your mind, your body, and your stress levels.
Step 1: Get Comfy
Start by sitting in a comfortable position. Try to sit in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor, your spine as straight as you can comfortably manage it, and your hands on your knees, palms facing the ceiling. You can also go where you feel comfortable and recharged. For instance, some people like to meditate on building rooftops. Others like going to their favorite lake or park. Or, if you have a nice backyard, you can meditate there.
Step 2: Breathe
Close your eyes. Pay attention to your breath. Feel your chest rising up and down. Then start to breathe with your diaphragm. In other words, drive your breath with your belly rather than your chest. Feel your stomach extend as you take your breath. Feel your lungs fill up with the air as your belly extends outward. Slowly let out your breath through your mouth. Do this until you feel comfortable breathing this way.
Now, take a deep breath in through your nose. I usually like to count to four as I breathe in slowly. Hold it for four seconds. Then slowly let your breath out through your mouth for four seconds.
Believe it or not, by doing these simple things even for only a few breaths, you are already meditating. You are consciously directing your body’s breath, and by using these breathing techniques, you are oxygenating your entire body, as well as helping your body enter a more relaxed state.
Step 3: Visualize
I have worked with clients who have trouble with visualizations, so I will keep this simple. Practicing meditation in easy, simple steps is a sure-fire way to start you on your road to mastery.
When you have practiced the above and feel comfortable with the breathing technique, you can move on to coupling the breathing with visualizations. When you breathe in for a count of four, imagine a golden, white light entering through your nose, going down your windpipe and into your lungs. With every breath, I like to envision the white light traveling a little further each time, from my lungs, to my bloodstream, to my muscles, nervous system, and brain. The light feels warm. Feel this loving light relaxing all of your muscles. You can visualize the light traveling all over your body while you hold your breath for four counts as well.
When you release your breath slowly through your mouth, feel all your stress, anxiety, and worries leaving your body. Imagine your stress and pain leaving your body in a puff of black or gray smoke.
With every breath you take, the white light is soothing and healing your body, mind, and soul, driving out anything negative, fearful, or painful.
When you feel your body is full of light and you have driven out all the dark colors, sit and enjoy the feeling of relaxation, centeredness, and calmness.
Meditation can be performed anywhere, any time.
Keep Practicing Every Day
When you have practiced meditation for a little while, it takes less and less time to achieve that sense of calmness and focus. Many of my clients can put themselves in that mind state within seconds, so even if they aren’t in an advantageous position, they have the ability to remain calm and centered so they can figure out a way to turn the tables to their favor.
By the time I teach my clients my custom meditations, each of them experiences an improvement in his or her mental game and performance. For example, when I worked with Darren Morgan, Australian Top Fuel Drag Racing Champion in 2011, he called me whenever he had a race for that day to go through the meditation with him. On one crucial race day, both his car and his opponent’s car blew up, but because we ran through the meditation together right before that race, he was in the calm state of mind he needed to be to get to the finish line first. This gave him enough points where in the next race all he had to do was qualify. From that point, he was unstoppable and he clinched his 2011 title.
Anyone can meditate, and anyone can start meditating today. It’s an effective technique that has been around for thousands of years, and science is now proving its effectiveness on practitioner’s emotional and mental states.
- Meditation can be as simple as breathing.
- Turn your attitude towards meditation into a "can do" attitude.
- Meditation can help your focus and stress levels during your athletic event.
- Just a few minutes of meditative breathing per day can help your athletic performance.
If you have tried meditation in the past and didn't keep up with it, what were your biggest obstacles?
Meditation helps you grow.
Do you use guided meditation audios or videos?
Many people who get into meditation for the first time opt for using guided meditation audio CDs or videos. Do you use audios or videos? If so, what is your favorite one?