For a long time, meditation was seen as something that was only done in Yoga classes or by monks in remote monasteries on top of mountains. Today, however, it’s solidly mainstream and is practiced everywhere from schools and sports fields to boardrooms and beach parties. The benefits are no longer in any doubt. It reduces stress, controls anxiety, increases focus, lengthens your attention span, helps with visualization, improves memory, aids sleep and provides a host of physical health benefits too. Better yet, you don’t need any fancy equipment or special training to meditate and can do it just about anywhere, anytime.
In short, it’s about as good a life hack as you’re ever likely to find. When it comes to exercise, meditation improves performance and is likely to amplify any benefits derived from doing physical activity. So, should you meditate before or after exercise?
Meditation before exercise
Meditating before you work out, train or compete can help you to improve your performance and get the most out of your session. Here’s how:
- Increases focus – Taking some time to breathe and cultivate conscious attention will help you to rid yourself of mental noise and focus better on the task at hand.
- Improves performance – On a physical level, meditating before exercise will relax your muscles and other soft tissues, increase your oxygen levels and help you to control your heart rate, amongst other things. It is also a great opportunity to practice visualization, another proven method for improving performance.
- Reduces anxiety – While you may not necessarily get very anxious about your daily workout, if you’re competing in an event or trying out for a team, this is an invaluable benefit. By reducing cortisol levels (the hormone primarily associated with stress), meditation helps you to relax and let go of nerves.
- Helps with avoiding injuries – The above-mentioned mental and physical benefits also mean you’ll face lower chances of picking up an injury while exercising. This means fewer disruptions to your training schedule, avoiding the often arduous process of recovery and less pain and discomfort from niggling injuries.
Meditation after exercise
Post-exercise meditation can also help you to maximize the benefits of your training in a number of ways:
- Re-balances the body and mind – When we exercise we temporarily alter the body’s systems and natural processes, including the vascular and nervous systems, our hormone levels, brain chemistry and just about everything else about us. Most of these changes are beneficial, otherwise, we wouldn’t be exercising. However, a few could be considered harmful side effects while others can be detrimental if they continue for too long. Meditating after you exercise will help you to return normal functioning and calm the body and mind.
- Aids recovery and reduces pain – By helping to stabilize the body and mind post-exercise, meditation also aids in recovery. By lowering cortisol levels and helping you to re-oxygenate the blood, meditation helps the body’s recovery processes to set in quicker and increases their effectiveness. Meditating also releases endorphins that help to reduce pain. This makes it especially useful after extremely intense exercise or for those with recurring injuries that cause discomfort after exercise but are otherwise under control.
- Increases the effectiveness of your training – The ultimate effect of all of this is more effective exercise that provides greater physical and mental benefits. Faster and more effective recovery starts a positive feedback loop where can up your effort, which in turn helps you to improve faster and ultimately speeds up progress exponentially.
So, should you meditate before or after exercise?
At this point, you probably know what’s coming. It’s clear that there are valuable benefits to meditating before and after exercise, meaning you’re going to be better off if you simply do both. Even if you’re not rich in time, surely you can squeeze five minutes extra onto either side of your session? If you’re that person who always arrives at class just as the instructor is closing the door because your meetings always run late or you have to squeeze your workouts in when your kids finally take a nap or visit friends, just do whatever you can. Ultimately, any time spent meditating is going to increase the quality of everything you do.
Finding a meditation specialist on Heck Yeah
Meditating is one of the easiest things in the world to do. All you need to do is focus on your breath, keep your attention in the present, and voila, you’re meditating. Just doing this kind of simple mindfulness meditation has many benefits, but (yes, there’s always a but) there are plenty of other forms of meditation. Many of them come from yogic or Eastern spiritual traditions, meaning your best bet if you’re looking for a knowledgeable meditation teacher is to start with a yoga teacher.
On the Heck Yeah app, you’ll find trainers, teachers, coaches and instructors from all major activities, including yoga teachers from a number of disciplines. If you’re looking to deepen your knowledge about meditation or want to enjoy personalized guided meditations, 1-on-1 sessions are a great place to start. Download the app and find the right teacher for you. It might just be the best decision you ever make.