Mindfulness meditation has only recently become mainstream. It used to be associated with Buddhism and appeared complicated and difficult. However, over recent years, mindfulness has become a remedy for anxiety and depression among many people. By calming the overstimulated nervous system, mindfulness also assists with anger and stress management. Many people, therefore, conclude that mindfulness is not appropriate for athletes because it makes them lose their edge. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Many elite athletes and coaches nowadays use mindfulness meditation as a training technique, right along with cardio and weight-training. In this article, Russell Herbert Jack, a Southland-based yoga and mindfulness teacher, explains how meditation can be used to improve athletes’ performance.
Meditation is an extremely beneficial component of a professional athlete’s routine and will give them more of an edge rather than taking away the athletic edge. We are seeing more and more athletes, from Lebron James to Derek Jeter, incorporating meditation into their training plans. It appears that the Buddha’s teaching on non-attachment fits perfectly with the mental game of winning championships.
Meditation can be very beneficial to athletes because it helps increase focus. Athletes have a lot of distractions, from the crowd noise, mental struggles, and negative thoughts to what their teammates and competitors are doing. By practicing meditation, athletes can learn how to focus on the moment and drown out those performance-inhibiting distractions.
It’s no secret that athletes put their bodies through a lot. From grueling practice schedules to game-day injuries, it’s pretty common that athletes spend a good portion of their time in pain. Studies show that meditation can reduce your sensitivity to pain. So, athletes that practice meditation will learn how to better cope with pain and push through the training and game day moments where it seems like the pain is too much to bear.
Adequate rest is critical for athletes who are constantly putting stress on their bodies and meditation has been shown to improve sleep. Allowing the body to rest, recharge, and heal will definitely increase an athlete’s athletic edge. Sometimes ahead of a big game or competition, athletes feel anxiety and have trouble getting the rest that they need. A little bit of meditation can ease anxiety and soothe them straight to sleep.
Meditation also helps boost the immune system. This is another important component of an athlete’s grueling schedule. They train all year and really can’t afford to “call in sick” on big competition or game days so immunity is key for athletic performance and edge. Studies show that meditation can boost immunity as well as shortening the length and decreasing the severity of illness.
Meditation also helps reduce stress levels. In addition to putting stress on their bodies, athletes face a lot of pressure in their lives to perform. It could be pressure from coaches, teammates, family members, and especially themselves, it is a stressful job. When stress becomes too much it can impact an athlete’s performance. Mediation is a great way to ease some of that stress, help them re-center, focus, and get on their way to optimal performance. Some athletes will turn to smoking or drinking after a big game to celebrate and de-stress. Instead of putting more stress and toxins in the body with alcohol and tobacco, an athlete that meditates will de-stress by also doing something good for their body.
To conclude, meditation will not take away an athlete’s edge; it will help strengthen it. Whether it’s to prepare and focus on competition or relax and recharge afterward, meditation has plenty of benefits to help athletes increase their edge and performance.
About Russell Herbert Jack:
Russell Herbert Jack is a 24-year-old yoga instructor and mindfulness teacher from Southland, New Zealand. He is passionate about spirituality, the vegan lifestyle, animal rights, and living in sync with nature. Russell specializes in Vinyasa Yoga, Qigong, and guided meditations. Vinyasa yoga or flow yoga heightens consciousness by moving from one position to another seamlessly, using breath. Just like Vinyasa Yoga, Qigong has many healing properties to body, mind, and spirit.