Bringing Together The Mind and the Body
You probably think that meditation is one thing, and exercise is another.
Traditionally, meditation requires sitting in a calm and quiet place, eyes closed, as you try to block all thoughts, while exercise, on the other hand, may be performed in any number of situations, from calm to chaotic and where not much attention is given to what’s going on with your thoughts.
But there’s another side of this: It’s been discovered that you can practice both meditation and exercise at the same time, whether it’s during yoga stretching or during the traditional cardio and resistance training in a gym or fitness center.
Yes, you can meditate while you exercise, and there at least 2 immediate benefits:
In the fitness center, whether you are on the machine for 10 minutes or 60 minutes, you can accumulate a cluster of mini-meditation segments while finding that your workout has been completed easier than expected.
In a yoga or stretching session, whether done solo at home or in a class, it’s the same: You’ll be reducing the occasional pain and discomfort, and seeming to complete the session in less time. Just as with the cardio and weight/resistance workouts, you will be accumulating mini-meditation segments
No More “When Will This Be Over?”
Here’s why exercise can make it easier to meditate, and meditation can help you get through the challenges of your workout. Meditation is all about concentration, clearing your mind of all thoughts and entering a mindful state in which you are only aware of your breathing, or reciting a repetitive mantra. This works for some people, but if you’re at all like me, it’s really hard, almost impossible to keep the thoughts from sneaking back in. Chase ‘em away; back they come. This is why my previous blogs advocate being fully aware of your breathing, and if you are walking, also focusing your vision on a distant object.
But here’s the good news: Exercise makes it easier to concentrate. It may be the beta endorphins, the positive-thinking hormone that exercise stimulates, or it may be that the exercise you are performing is rhythmic, repetitive, cyclical . . . making it easier to keep count without thinking too much about the numbers themselves. Whatever the reason, it works.
Meditating During Cardiovascular Workouts
Let’s start with a cardio workout. After you have warmed up for a few minutes on the stairclimber, the elliptical or the treadmill, start to count your steps, but not in any old way; there’s a pattern you are going to follow to make this work effectively. Here’s how I discovered this easy method.
It occurred to me on the Stair Climber. It was tough going and I found myself counting the steps. Not every step, just the left foot. My counting pattern was 1-2-3-4 on every left step, then repeating the 1-2-3 but now ending on 8. Again 1-2-3-4 and then 1-2-3-16, 1-2-3-4, and 1-2-3-24. I kept this going until finishing the count with 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-48. I also concentrated on breathing by consciously exhales on each left step. Upon reaching 48 I took my mind off the counting (because it can become obsessive). But after a short break (a minute or two) repeat another short session of the 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-8 . . . counting and breathing,
Meditating During Weightlifting/Resistance Exercise
Are you into resistance exercises? Whether you use the fitness equipment - the rower, the chest and back exercisers, the leg lifts, or other machines with weights and cables, or if you prefer free weights - the dumbbells, barbells, and kettle weights, again we find there is a rhythmic pattern that readily lends itself to the same counting with each rep and each exhale. Chances are you want to achieve a specific number of “reps” so practice the 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-8 . . . rhythmic pattern until you reach your goal. Repeat this counting and concentration on breathing again when you begin your next set of reps.
Meditating During Yoga or Stretching Exercises
This technique can be practiced when you are in a yoga class or while doing it on your own, at home. Instead of counting steps or strides as in the cardio example, you will be counting breaths - exhales specifically. It’s the same 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-8, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-16 pattern except you will be counting the long exhales. Your yoga instructor, whether live or on video, undoubtedly will encourage you to take long, deep inhales and long, slow exhales, so your counting of exhales, and concentration on both the inhales and exhales should fit right in.
For all forms of exercise, visualize the numbers as you think them. Picture the 1, the 2, the 3 . . . The combination of thinking about the exhale count and visualizing the numbers is enough to occupy your mind to the exclusion of other thoughts. You will find that unending downward facing dog or treadmill hillclimb or stairclimber or bench presses will go by more easily when you are not thinking about how uncomfortable you are because your focus is elsewhere.
The Hypnotic Pattern
Do you see the pattern? There’s something hypnotic about it. Be sure to concentrate on 2, and only 2 things: The counting of steps or reps on the left foot, and your breathing. Be aware of exhaling when that left foot comes down if you are doing cardio or with each rep during weights, and during yoga simply imagine the count as you exhale. You’ll get the hang of it quickly and find that it’s an easy thing to do,
I recommend a pause for a minute or so then repeat the counting up to 48, or higher if you prefer. I find it’s best not to keep counting indefinitely, but to limit each counting session, pausing for a brief recovery, and then repeating. The result will be a number of mini meditation segments.
Here’s Why It’s Effective
This practice of meditating during your workout is actually more than just getting two things done at once. The exercise and rhythmic breathing enhance the meditative concentration. You know how hard it can be to keep focused during meditation - you try to block or expel outside thoughts and other distractions, but they keep creeping back. But the stress of the exercise and concentration on breathing and counting ensure that nothing else can get into your mind.
The Workout Is Over And You Feel Great
Here’s my prediction: You are going to head to the shower after your workouts feeling better, with optimism and a positive sense of calm and well being. Sure, some days are better or worse than others, the workout tougher, the focus during meditation harder to maintain. But on average, life is going to be better for you as you continue to combine exercise with meditation by following the counting and breathing concentration.
Try it and see! And please let me and our readers know how it’s going and if you discover any exercise plus meditation techniques of your own. Just Leave A Reply, below.
" The sprit of zen embraces inner selfcare as well as physical selfcare. These zen inspirations are to help you bring yourself together and achieve inner calm, spiritual peace.