Some of my recent articles lately have focussed on a couple of recurring themes – running, yoga and mindfulness and it struck me that these all actually work really well in combination!
For me a big part of mindfulness is the ability to go into a meditative state to gain some inner calm. This doesn’t necessarily mean sitting down, legs crossed and chanting Ohm. In fact, a meditation course I did during my Diploma of Energetic Healing opened my eyes up to many different ways of meditating. Sometimes it’s just doing something repetive that allows you to focus on the moment.
Many people argue that running is a moving meditation, in which you get into ‘the zone’ and experience a state of little to no conscious thought, just a sense of awareness of everything all around you on the one hand and the blocking out of distractions on the other.
I my case both yoga and running are two of those repetitive activites that gets me into this state (Forget for the moment that sometimes breathing is the only thing I can think of or I’ll pass out on the track or in the studio!) I can only focus on the moment. But wait a minute what does that sound like? You got it…MINDFULNESS!
But it works the other way around as well. While running can help meditation (certainly in my case) mediatation can also benefit your running.
There are a number of reasons why meditation can be so beneficial. The race is truly one in your head first.
“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.” – George Sheehan, running legend and bestselling author
Many people thing meditation is weird and New Age, but it has been around for more than 5,000 years and is really just a way of training the mind in the same way that runners wish to train their bodies. It is a way of developing mental strength and consistency, which will help get you off the sofa and running every day. So in the first instance mediatation allows you to gt your head right for running and focus on what you are doing and what you want to acheive – keeping you in the moment.
But it actually has physical benefits as well. During yoga meditation, the breathing also deepens and steadies. This exactly the kind of ‘deep belly breathing’ that will give the most oxygen when done through the mouth while running. It also works all the muscles in the torso and abs, giving them all a good workout. In addition, the outward breath is forceful enough to clear the lungs completely, expelling stale air and other impurities from the lungs.
It is also ideal as a way of warming up the mind even as you warm up the body before each run. During your warm up sessions, you need to get your breathing and heart rate pumped up and your muscles ready for action. Many yoga poses are ideal for dynamic stretching, that is, moving to increase flexibility and range of motion, as compared with static stretching, where you bend down to touch your toes, for example, and stay there. Meditation improves the poses, and in turn, movement can become meditation.
Meditation develops body awareness and decision making. If it hurts, do you stop due to concern for injury, or run through the chafing and blistering. Meditation puts you in control of your stretching, breathing and running, making it an ideal tool for anyone who wants to improve their performance and level of concentration.
So do you meditate as part of your running practice? How has it helped you improve your performance?