Sport, fitness and meditation
“In sports we need energy, strength and dynamism. When we meditate, we make our mind calm and quiet. If inside us there is peace, then we will derive tremendous strength from our outer life… This strength is almost indomitable strength, whereas if we are restless, we do not have strength like that.”
Sports, Fitness and Meditation
Throughout the ages, sports and spirituality have had a strong and unique connection. From archery in the Vedic area to the yoke between athletics and morality in Ancient Greece to the modern-day Marathon Monks of Japan’s Mt. Hiei, these dual disciplines have thrived for centuries.
Today, the connection between the inner self and the outer body continues to be explored by countless sports enthusiasts—from professional athletes to fitness beginners.
Sports and Meditation:
Two Mutually Beneficial Pursuits
The relationship between sports and meditation is a mutually beneficial one: Those who pursue physical fitness can and do experience spiritual insights and a “higher state” of peace and joy. At the same time, spiritual seekers of many different backgrounds have found that physical endeavors provide a strong outlet for quieting the mind and furthering their spiritual disciplines.
And one need not be a great athlete to achieve the benefits. Meditation can be incorporated into almost any fitness regimen. This mutual pursuit of inner and outer fitness can be an effective means of seeing results whether one is training for an Ironman or simply endeavoring to walk a few miles each day.
3 Practical Ways to Unite Sports and Meditation
Let’s examine three practical ways in which you can unite your interest in both sports and meditation…
1. Meditate before a race, game or workout.
Your performance and enjoyment of fitness is naturally increased when your mind is clear, your nerves are calm, and your focus is strong. What better way to accomplish this than through a few minutes of meditation prior to your fitness endeavors?
Here’s a sports meditation technique you can try…
Find a relatively quiet and private space where you can close your eyes and turn your focus inward for a few minutes. Take three or more deep, cleansing breaths and concentrate your mind on a single focus: the race, game, or workout ahead of you.
Visualize a great performance—whatever that means for you. Remember, only you define success for yourself. It’s not about beating anyone else; it’s about nearing or meeting your own goals and enjoying the pursuit of self-transcendence.
To visualize success, close your eyes and imagine that you’re seeing yourself after having achieved this great performance. Hold the image in your mind for several moments, using your concentration and will power to give power to your visualization of success.
2. Meditate while doing sports
You also “go within” while you’re actually participating in your sports or fitness activity.
The right choice of a sports meditation technique depends to a great extent on which type of fitness activity you’re doing. If you’re playing a team sport, for example, naturally you need to communicate with others. In more solitary athletic pursuits, such as running or swimming, you have a little more freedom to be alone with your thoughts.
One way to experience a meditative consciousness while doing sports is to focus on the breath. Try to view your incoming breath as not just air, but rather cosmic energy that radiates throughout your being, giving you boundless strength and stamina. As you continue to exercise, feel that your breath is a connecting link between your spiritual aspirations and your physical movements.
Another effective technique is to repeat a mantra. A mantra has the power to calm your restless mind and focus your awareness—two ideal qualities for an athlete. This is especially conducive for solitary sports where there’s a natural rhythm: the pace of your feet as you run or the repetition of swimming strokes, for example.
Using this rhythm, chant a mantra such as “peace”(or shanti, the Sanskrit mantra for “peace”) or “joy.” Alternatively, you can repeat a phrase that feels personal to you, such as “I have infinite energy,” or “I will not give up.”
3. Cool down with meditation
Many people like to listen to pop or rock music while exercising. This makes sense, as the upbeat tempo helps athletes find the energy to keep going. To get even more fulfillment from your workout, try this sports meditation: For the last several minutes, play some meditative music. Then, once you’ve stopped, sit down for a few minutes to meditate.
This is an excellent way to wind down and to experience gratitude for your health, for your access to sports or exercise, and for your commitment discipline and self-improvement.
Sri Chinmoy speaks about sports
Sport and meditation book
For more information and inspiration, the book Sport & Meditation by Sri Chinmoy is an excellent resource.