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Podcast: Pretty Tough Peak Performance Episode 006
November 11, 2009
Sporty Saturday Spotlight
November 14, 2009

Feel the flow – musings on the mind-body connection

Meditation for AthletesIt can happen on a ski slope, when the mountainside flies past in a timeless manner. It can happen on the crest of an uphill climb, as you realize you’ve stayed ahead of the other riders in the pack. It can happen on the soccer field as you unite with teammates after a magnificent play.

We’re describing how a whole athlete feels, a person whose dimensions—mind, emotions, spirit—have developed in such harmony with the physical self that you can’t imagine them as separate anymore. You can achieve this mind-body state of grace by supplementing your usual cardio and strength workouts with disciplines such as yoga and/or meditation – practices that work not only your body but all facets of your being.

Meditation

The goal of meditation is to quiet your mind. If you’re like many, however, clearing your mind enough to actually relax is tougher than it sounds. Learn to meditate and you’ll discover a host of fab benefits. The process involves focusing on one thought, chant, object, or mental image for a period of time. Once a spiritual practice, meditation is now thoroughly mainstream.

A common variation on meditation for athletes is visualization, where, say, a downhill skier envisions a successful race-course run. Practiced daily, both meditation and visualization clear the mind of distractions and focus it on the task at hand, making you better prepared to overcome any obstacle.

Guidelines

  • Try to meditate every day, preferably at the same time (morning is best).
  • Best to meditate before eating, when the stomach is empty.
  • Find a quiet and semi-dark place to use only for meditation.
  • Set aside at least 20 minutes (you may have to work up to this).
  • Basic Technique

  • There are many different types of meditation and no right technique for everybody. You need to find out what works best for you. Most types of meditation include the following basic elements:
  • Position

  • Sit in a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair.
  • Clasp your hands and let them rest in your lap.
  • Keep your spine straight and vertical, but not rigid
  • If you sit on the floor, choose one of these three poses:

    1. Cross-legged with a cushion under your buttocks
    2. Japanese fashion (on your knees, with your big toes touching and your buttocks resting on the soles of your feet) with a cushion between your feet and buttocks
    3. Yoga full lotus position (not recommended for beginners)

    Focus
    In order to direct your thoughts:

  • Let your eyes relax but not shut tight.
  • Focus your attention on one of the following: A silent thought, word, or chant; a mental image; the sensation of each breath as you inhale and exhale;
  • Attitude

  • Do not be concerned about your goals, or whether or not you are meditating correctly. Keep the following points in mind:
  • As a beginner, it is natural for your attention to wander frequently.
  • When your attention wanders, gently redirect it back. Do not try to force your attention. Meditation should not be stressful
  • Breathing

  • Focusing on breathing in and out evenly while listening to each breath develops the capacity to concentrate better in all areas of school, sports and life.
  • Breathe through your nose, if possible.
  • Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
  • Focus your attention on your tummy and diaphragm rather than your nostrils and chest.
  • Place your hand on your tummy and feel the sensations as you inhale and exhale.
  • Your tummy should rise when you inhale and fall when you exhale.
  • Be attentive to your breathing, but stay relaxed and breathe naturally.Now, breathe in. Breathe out. There, you’ve started. Focus. Continue breathing. In. Out. In. Out….
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