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Meditation and Mindfulness as an Athlete's Secret Weapon

We live in a culture that tends to think there is a tradeoff between sleep + meditation and productivity + performance, but there isn’t.

Sleep and meditation are performance enhancers. This is especially true for athletes.

Just because athletes practice the same moves over and over, doesn’t ensure execution of all of the hours of training during competition. 21st century athletes are training harder than ever, placing extreme demands on their bodies and likely not taking intentional time for recovery practices, let alone time to be still and do nothing.

Outside of the classroom and athletic arena, today’s student-athletes are constantly observing everything - taking pictures, and over-spending time on social media - but never taking the time to observe themselves. Generally speaking, most student-athletes lack the concept of mindfulness and are not getting enough sleep. Additionally, the accumulating stress stored in the body's tissues, both from the physical and emotional exertion required for their sport, academic and peer pressures, and mental tension from adhering to coaches and parents demands, can make for really stressed-out athletes.

Student-athletes regularly experience feelings of stress, burn-out, fatigue, and the inability to cope with stress through self-regulation, in a body prime for injury. Costly fouls out of frustration, lack of team cohesiveness, the inability to execute in pressure situations, lethargy, and moodiness are all signs of exhausted athletes headed toward total burn-out and possibly the sideline.

Scheduling 5 minutes each day - time that they would never think to take on their own - is a simple but profound way to begin to development more mindful, aware and relaxed athletes. They gain the opportunity to observe themselves and things that may be lying beneath the surface, that, if they don’t have that time to sit quietly on their own, they’d never pay attention to.

5 minutes to sit in quiet, mindful awareness each day, preferably in the morning as a way to set yourself up for the rest of the day, rather than constantly chasing the day. When athletes can learn self-regulation and mindfulness they become able to remain in control and dictate the day, so they can better manage their breath and mood, and stay calm and poised to handle anything that comes their way. Sitting in silence is the truest opportunity to observe the self, listen to the inner-self and to watch what comes forward.

Athletes who practice meditation and mindfulness are athletes playing with better poise able to endure pressure situations in hostile environments by staying in the moment, remaining secure in who they are a competitor, and as a team. Never too high, never too low, just being in the moment, poised and primed for peak performance.

By learning mindfulness and practicing meditation, athletes, and all people, can realize an additional 30 minutes more of quality sleep each night. Take it as a challenge to find the space, log-off and shut things down, quiet your mind and begin to realize greater focus, higher quality, restful sleep. Other benefits realized through meditation are greater connection to the self and the sport, increased breath awareness and endurance, physical and mental stamina, improved concentration, ability to self-regulate the nervous system, and a lighter feeling to the body due to less deep-rooted stress and tension.

A few well-known highly accomplished athletes that practice meditation regularly include basketball greats LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Michael Jordan and the late Kobe Bryant; Volleyball team-mates Misty May-Treanor & Kerri Walsh; NFL Quarterback Russell Wilson; baseball greats Derek Jeter and Barry Zito; and women's soccer phenom Carli Lloyd. Mental focus and a strong mental edge is what separates good athletes from ground-breaking medal-winning athletes.

Not sure where to begin? In my class, Yoga for Athletic Balance, practitioners spend between 5-10 minutes in guided meditation and quiet contemplation prior to and capping off their mindful movement practice. This class is an active recovery practice for any athlete, regardless of sport or level and includes 1-2 deeply restorative poses to help open tense, tired and fatigued muscles and tissues. Yoga for Athletic Balance happens every Tuesday evening from 6:45 - 7:45 pm in my Mayfield, PA studio and reservations are required.

For more details on this class and many others visit my Class Descriptions page here.

Athletic coaches interested in Yoga for Athletes for your team, please email me your interest at:

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