Doing my pre-workout meditation has completely changed the way I feel about exercising and the way in which I do exercise. Meditating before exercising has given me an increased appreciation of my body and has helped me to take my exercise to a new level.
It’s a fallacy that when you meditate, you must sit with your eyes closed. In truth, there are lots of meditations that include physical exercise. Two of the most popular include Tai Chi and yoga, both of which traditionally do involve meditation. [READ: Tai Chi Meditation]
There are, in fact, many ways in which meditation and exercise benefit one another. By meditating before a workout you can focus your mind so you get the most out of your exercise. And by exercising you boost your cognitive abilities. For instance, exercising increases focus and concentration , making it easier to meditate.
You can meditate before your workout and during your workout. Let me show you my favorite pre-workout meditation, and how to meditate during exercise, so you can get more out of your workouts.
Your pre-workout meditation should be a time to focus your mind and tune-in to your body. It is an opportunity to let go of your day so that you can truly put your all into working out.
In my experience as a meditation teacher, the best pre-workout meditation has three stages. In the first stage we calm and focus the mind so that we can concentrate on exercising. In the second stage we tune-in to the body by becoming mindful aware of our physical form. In the third stage we do some simple mindful movements that warm-up the body while also increasing mind-body awareness.
Here’s how to do this three-stage pre-workout meditation technique.
1: Calm And Focus The Mind
It is good ideas to relax the mind and boost your concentration by meditating before a workout. The best way to do this is to simply close your eyes and focus your mind on your breathing. Simply take 108 mindful breaths while letting go of any residual thoughts and feelings from the day.
2: Connecting with the body before exercising
The second stage is to cultivate mind-body awareness. This is a mental state in which we are more conscious of the body and of physical sensations. The best way to do this is with a body scan meditation.
3: Warm-up mind and body
The final stage of our pre-workout meditation is to warm up both the mind and the body. To do this we practice some simple mindful exercises, such as tai chi or yoga. You can practice any type of stretching or warm-up you like. The trick is to do it in a mindful way, by exercising slowly and focusing your consciousness on the way your body is moving. This will make you more aware of the way you move and will also help to relax and focus your mind ready or your proper workout.
Meditating While Working Out
With the pre-workout meditation we warmed up both the mind and body, and we cultivated conscious awareness (mindfulness). Now we are ready for our proper workout. By meditating while working out, we will be much more focused on exercising and we will also develop mindfulness of body.
So, how do you meditate while working out?
There are many ways to do this. It all depends on the type of workout you are doing. You can learn how to combine meditation with workout in my guide to dynamic movement meditations.
Let’s look at an example of meditating while lifting weights.
By meditating while lifting weights we help to focus all our mental effort on lifting the weights. At the same time, we will be more aware of our movements (which can hep us become aware of potential problems, and thereby reduce the risk of injury from working out).
To meditate while lifting weights, you will want to break each movement into its different parts, do each part slowly, and focus on the movements in each part. For instance, let’s say we are doing a bicep curl. We will want to pick up the weight slowly and focus on the sensation of holding the weight. Then we will slowly do the curl, while being mindful of the movement. Stop at the top of the curl and notice any sensations there. Then end the curl and let the weight rest. Be mindful of both the physical sensations and the mental sensations after each lift.
You will find that when you do this you feel much more consciously aware of your movements and your exercise. Not only will this train your mind (by increasing conscious awareness) it will also help you to go further in your workout, because your mind is working at optimum capacity.
Benefits of combining meditation and exercise
So now you know how to meditate before and during exercise, you are probably interested in the benefits. Why should you meditate while working out?
There are many reasons, both physical and mental. I’ve created a complete list of benefits of meditation. But let’s take a look at some of specific ways meditation helps you work out.
The most obvious benefit of meditating while working out is that it exercises your mind. You’re spending an hour or so exercising your body. You might as well exercise your mind at the same time.
Secondly, meditating while working out will reduce your risk of injury. When you meditate you become more mindful of the way you are moving your body. This improves your form. And as you probably know, better form means less risk of injury.
Then there’s the fact that meditation improves physical performance. One way in which meditation achieve this is by improving oxygen consumption rate, which is essentially the rate at which oxygen moves through your body. This is vital for maintaining muscular strength while working out. Research has shown that while meditating oxygen consumption is reduced by 10% to 20%.
Meditating after working out can also help speed-up the recovery process, for numerous reasons. For starters, it is proven that when the mind is relaxed the body recovers faster [source]. Studies also show that mindfulness reduces the symptoms of pain, so if your workout left you aching you can reduce that pain by meditating. And finally, post-workout meditation helps normalise blood pressure and heartrate, so if you workout a little too hard, one way to get through is by meditating post-workout.
Simply put, meditation and exercise go together like Mork and Mindy. They offer mutual benefits, each one helping the other. But perhaps my personal number one reason for combining physical exercise with meditation, is that if you are spending time exercising your body, you should spend an equal amount of time exercising your mind, and meditation is argulably the best way to do that.