Meditation is an ancient eastern practise that is becoming more and more mainstream in the west for its mental and physical benefits.
Believe it or not, those benefits are numerous and can be exploited by athletes seeking performance gains.
If you’re a beginner interested in trying out meditation or someone who has already developed an appreciation of mindfulness, here are six reasons to maintain a consistent meditation practise.
Cope With Pain Better
Researchers have found that meditation can reduce your sensitivity to pain. A study in the United States 10 years ago measured how a group of participants responded to a pain stimulus before and after attending four 20-minute meditation training sessions over four days. They rated the pain 57 per cent less unpleasant and 40 per cent less intense after they went through the meditation training.
Flow states are often talked about by leading sports psychologists, and most athletes will have experienced one at some point. It happens when you forget the consequences of your actions and aren’t thinking much at all. Meditation can help us to enter a flow state by enabling us to fully focus on the present moment.
Meditation encourages us to become more aware of the body, strengthening the mind-body connection. This can help athletes to be more in tune with their capabilities and limitations in sport.
Improved Thinking Under Pressure
Top athletes are able to stay calm and think clearly under pressure. Individuals who have logged many hours of meditation are proven to be some of the best in the world at focussing on tasks. They are able to react to situations with more clarity and logical thinking.
Sleep is fundamental for athletes seeking high performance and meditation can improve it. Its even sometimes recommended for insomniacs by the NHS. Our sleeping hours are when many of the adaptations and recovery processes are taking place.
Athletes lead busy lives and stress can accumulate from long, high-intensity training hours. When the body is overly stressed, illness or injury usually follows, which is why mechanisms like regular meditation to keep it under control are important for athletes.