Meditation for Athletes
By Nicky Ruszkowski
One of the greatest benefits associated with meditation is a reduction in mental and physical stress caused by increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This hormone is responsible for many of the harmful effects of stress on the body. These effects can result in poor quality sleep, lead to depression and anxiety, increased blood pressure, decreased libido and lower your ability to concentrate. A review by Goyal et al (2014) that included 47 studies with 3515 participants found that mindfulness meditation programs showed evidence of improving anxiety, depression, and decreasing pain. They found some evidence of improved stress/distress and mental health-related quality of life. Another study (Martires &Zeidler, 2015) examining insomnia and meditation found that participants who meditated fell asleep sooner and stayed asleep longer, compared to those who didn't meditate.
How to Meditate
If you’re new to meditation, here’s what you'll do. Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor. You can use a blankets or a cushion to ensure that your back is supported. Close your eyes and take a several slow, deep breaths. You’re working to relax your breathing completely. Now if you’d like, you can add in a mantra, repeat it slowly and steadily, trying to match it to your breath. Once you’ve said it aloud ten times, start to repeat your mantra silently, moving only your lips for another ten times. Finally repeat it internally without moving your lips.
If you decided a mantra wasn’t your thing, then you’re going to count the seconds as you breathe slowly in and out. Breathe in for maybe 4 seconds, then breathe out for 5 seconds. Use the counting of the breath or the mantra as your home base. Now hear this and absorb it...its okay if your mind wanders. Just notice that it happened and so back to your home base.