You already know meditation is good for you and cleanses the soul, but let’s take a deeper look. As my trainer likes to put it: meditation exercises the mind through resistance.
Adding meditation and mindfulness to your workout routine can lead to better form, faster weight-loss, easier muscle maintenance and better sleep.
Meditation is not just sitting cross-legged with open palms resembling a statue at a spa, it’s an exercise in mental and emotional clarity. Here’s how you can add it to your workout routine.
How to Start Meditating
Delving into meditation can be done in baby steps. If you’re someone who’s challenged by sitting still, start with a 30-second meditation and work your way up from there.
Close your eyes and take a long, deep breath by filling your lungs deep down into your diaphragm. Release your breath slowly and connect with the air leaving your body. Repeat.
Focus entirely on your breath. At first, your mind may drift, but making the effort to usher your thoughts back to your breath is the “exercising your mind through resistance” concept mentioned above.
Exercising your body isn’t easy, and exercising your mind shouldn’t be either. In the end, both your mind and body become stronger with exercise.
Most people warm up before starting their workouts, which is a great opportunity for meditation.
Fun fact: you can meditate while you move. If you don’t have time to add five minutes of still meditation before your workout, you can practice active meditation during your warmup.
While stretching, practice the breathing and focus techniques mentioned above. You’ll find that meditating while stretching will send you deeper into your stretch and ultimately increase flexibility.
If your warmup includes jogging, squats, jumping jacks or anything more vigorous than stretching, your meditation can take on a different form.
Turn your mind toward your muscles and connect with the movements your body is making. Take the time to set intentions for the upcoming workout, and show gratitude for the healthy choices you’re making in the moment.
These all seem like simple and logical things to do while warming up, but let’s be real, you’re definitely scrolling through Instagram during that calf stretch.
Meditating While Weightlifting
When I was a gym novice, I used to watch other guys lift with the same austere expressions on their faces. On strength days my trainer always told me, “focus on the muscle you are working, not just physically, but mentally.”
The overall idea is that when you focus on one task physically and mentally, it yields better results, in this case, greater muscle growth. Whether you are looking to tone, lose weight or build more muscle, focus will get you optimal results.
My favorite weightlifting meditation is concentration curls.
How to Do Concentration Curls
To start, sit on the weight and bench lean forward, keeping your back straight.
Rest one forearm on your thigh with the other arm extended towards the floor.
Choose an appropriate weight that won’t cause your back to curve or jeopardize your form.
Slowly begin your curl up towards your shoulder.
While in motion, watch your muscles contract and take your time as you curl.
Try counting to four as your curl up on tempo.
Make sure to keep your breaths long and drawn out as you perform this exercise.
Connect the mind and muscle so they function as one.
Meditating During Cardio
At my previous job my boss was an endurance runner, her usual being eight or 16 miles on a good day. It always blew my mind that this was doable by anyone. When I asked her why she does it she replied, “when I run it gives me a chance to clear my mind, collect my thoughts and well, it’s relaxing.”
As you can tell, I thought she was crazy. For most of us, cardio is never relaxing and it’s the one exercise we all hate. But in this case, it was her place to meditate and think deeply for a period of time as a method of relaxation.
During your next cardio session, focus on your breathing and the incredible electricity your body is creating. This will cultivate a positive mind-body connection, as opposed to the when-will-this-be-over disconnection we’re so often used to.
Once you find meditation and clarity in running, cycling or any high-intensity cardio, you’ll reap the benefits of a stronger heart and lungs, and a clearer mind.
You just gave that workout your all, and you can’t get your mind off that hot shower. At the same time, you know you need to stretch to avoid cramping and crying at midnight with a Charlie horse.
Before you dash out the gym doors, sit down and stretch it out. As important as it is to warm up, it’s equally important to cool down and stretch, which is prime time for meditation.
Here you can use the same methods you used for pre-workout meditation. Focus on your breath and turn your mind toward your muscles that’ve just been put through the wringer.
Approach the end of your workout with gratitude for your strength, focus and everything your mind and body accomplished that session.
Like all exercises, with great practice, comes greater ability. Adding meditation to your workouts gives you more time to reflect on your inner self as you work on your outer self.
If anything, it gives you a chance to breathe, turn inward and find out what’s needed to become a greater version of yourself. And without sounding too much like every guy with a man bun, namaste.