Pre-Game Meditation For Athletes Yields Big Benefits

As a meditation instructor, I have seen firsthand how meditation can help athletes to perform better, reduce their stress, and even help with motivation.  

In this guide, I’ll share some of the best exercises, how they can help you to improve athletic performance, and I’ll explain the science.

Pre Game Meditation

  1. Sit comfortably with good posture. Make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight but relaxed. Slightly lower your chin to lengthen your spine. Close your eyes. 
  2. Focus on your breath moving around your body. Watch as your breath moves your diaphragm and expands your stomach. Continue to observe the breath like this for ten minutes. 
  3. Visualize yourself performing at your absolute peak. Clearly visualize what you would feel like, how you would be moving, and what you would be thinking. Make this visualization as vivid as possible. 
  4. Your mind might produce obstructions. For instance, you might think, “I’m not going to perform at my best because I’m not feeling 100%”. If negative thoughts like this enter your mind, simply observe them, and let them come and go, then return to focusing on your visualization. 
  5. Continue for a minimum of 10 minutes.

This is the meditation I most often teach to athletes. However, there are other options, as follow.

More Meditations for Athletes

Guided Meditation

Movement meditation: 

Movement meditations will relax your mind and heighten your mind-body connection.

Exercises like qigong, tai chi and dance are all good meditations for athletes. They combine relaxation with mind-body awareness to help you hit peak condition.

Yoga exercises

Yoga techniques combine the very best of meditation with the best of mindfulness.

Refer to our main menu for more on these.

Taoist methods

Taoist meditations are all about finding your inner harmony and making your body and mind work as one. 

These are the types of meditations Bruce Lee did. And we all know how awesome he was. Again, refer to our main menu for a guide to all meditation techniques.

Benefits of Meditation for Athletes

Arguably the number one athlete to tout the benefits of meditation is Bruce Lee [Read: Bruce Lee Meditation Techniques]. And he repeatedly stated that meditation is one of the most important exercises in the world. 

Why? Well, just consider these benefits.

Meditation reduces the pressure

Meditation helps to reduce the weight on your shoulders. Figurately, I mean. All athletes deal with different emotions, expectations, and pressures regardless of the level at which they are competing.

What separates the great from the good normally comes down to the athlete’s mental strength or mindset. Talent is a key ingredient for success along with good coaching, but how an athlete responds in critical moments is usually the difference-maker.

All the world’s best athletes are the ones who were able to grind it out through the stress that tough times, crucial moments, and controversy brings to the table.

There are many ways for athletes to deal with stress, such as getting efficient rest, engaging in pleasurable activities, maintaining a positive perspective, spending time with friends, and laughing.

Meditation techniques such as Jon Kabat Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction are highly effective ways for athletes to handle stress.  

novak djokovich meditating


A study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that for athletes, meditation offers a way to stay motivated to exercise and practice regularly.

It also helps them feel satisfied with the work and effort that they put in.

Being present with the help of meditation gives athletes the capacity to tap into their inner motivation and to feel satisfied. 

Stops negative thoughts

Data shows that upwards of 50,000 thoughts go through our heads daily. Many of these thoughts tend to be on the negative side of the spectrum. For athletes, negative thoughts equate to inferior performance.

A period of mental pause before practice, a workout, or a game allows us to reset our minds and to enter that next activity in a space that promotes positive thoughts and positive intentions.

Pre-game meditation can be the difference between a win or a loss. Hence why so many sports stars do it, including Bianca Andreescu, Derek Jeter, Michael Jordan, Carli Lloyd, Ricky Williams, Novak Djokovic, and LeBron James.

klay thompson meditating

Balance beliefs

Studies show that beliefs affect real-life actions according to health psychologist Juliana Breines, Ph.D.

Negative beliefs can profoundly impact an athlete’s performance. But you can change those negative beliefs by being more conscious of your thoughts. 

Being mindful doesn’t imply the absence of thoughts; it is about becoming aware of the thought patterns that we do have. The only way to limit negative thoughts is to be aware of these thoughts and to change the negatives into positives.

If we are aware of our thoughts, we can take them to the next level by adding an element of visualization to them through meditation.

For example, let’s say that during your basketball match you missed a three-pointer right at the buzzer and it cost the team the game. This is haunting you. Before you know it, the belief that you can’t deliver when the pressure is on starts to creep into your mind.

But you can change that with meditation.  

While you meditate, imagine making that shot right before the buzzer  See the ball go in the net, feel that feeling of excitement from within, hear the fans cheer from the side of the court.

If we as humans believe in something, if we visualize it, and if we attach the correct emotions to it, it will seem to our minds as if it really happened.

The next time you are faced with that game-winning shot all those past negative thoughts will be gone and you’ll be thinking 100% positively.

Enjoy sports more

Under the pressure of competition, it is easy to lose focus on what sport is all about. It is easy for sport to become all about beating the other athlete no matter what, or for it to be about winning prize money.

Mindful athletes can see sport for what it really is, a place where like-minded friends can compete in a sport that they are passionate about.

Bringing this spirit back into sports allows us to compete for the right reasons, and it lets us enjoy our sports more.

The result of this can often be seen in team sports where a team rallies around their team spirit and around playing for each other instead of losing focus by trying to beat the opponents.

Legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson introduced the idea of mindfulness to his teams. Jackson’s whole perspective was that the team’s performance would be elevated if players could align who they are and how they live with authenticity.

He had initial success with this thought process at the Chicago Bulls. Once he was at the Los Angeles Lakers it became the standardized process for his teams to centre and ground themselves through mindfulness meditation.

tom brady meditating

Sleep better  

Meditation improves sleep quality. And good quality sleep is imperative for athletes that aspire to greatness.

Sleep affects your mood, stress levels, energy levels, concentration and a variety of other performance-related aspects. Plus, it affects the recovery of muscles and the functioning of our immune systems.

A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Health found that meditation improves sleep quality.  

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By Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations.

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