It was a windy summer day in southeastern Tasmania, and Heather Larsen, a professional slackliner player, was standing on an inch-wide stretch of nylon suspended between two of the tallest sea cliffs in the Southern Hemisphere. Nearly 1,000 feet below, seals bark and waves crash against the rocks.
Ms. Larsen was secured to the ropes with harnesses and chains, but the strong winds and terrible heights terrified her as she passed. So she focused on her breathing. With her arms above her head, her knees slightly bent to absorb the vibrations of the road, she inhales when she takes a step and exhales when she takes another step.
“Here,” she thought to herself as she set her foot down. “Now here.”
Ms. Larsen, 35, uses this breathing pattern and mantra as a form of meditation to keep herself centered while balancing on a soft stretch of fabric. “It just helps me stay in that moment,” she says, and prevents distractions, such as from previous shaky steps or changes in road tension ahead.
Although meditation has been shown to have many benefits, including increasing concentration, reduce stress and a mind remove distractions, it can be a struggle to find time for it during a busy day. But some coaches, doctors, and athletes say it can be incorporated into your exercise routine, enriching your workout.
With a clear, focused mind, you can make quick decisions during a basketball game or react to a game of beach volleyball. And experts say that meditation’s focus on the breath and body shifts the focus from the outcome – whether it’s winning a race, increasing mileage or losing weight – to being active because motivational purpose, which makes exercise more enjoyable.
Usually, this meditation takes the form attention, which Sara Lazar, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, calls “attention to the present moment in an open, curious, and non-judgmental way.” Her research has shown that just eight weeks of mindfulness meditation, including movement-based forms like yoga, is beneficial. structural changes in the brain, especially in brain regions associated with mind wandering and stress. She says that incorporating mindfulness into your movements is simple and can yield some unexpected rewards.
George Mumford, a performance expert and author of The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance, says: Before a sport match or a focused activity, take a few minutes of intentional breathing. Goals can help you mentally prepare. Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. And in the process, deep breathing can help you get out of your head and quiet what he calls the “monkey brain,” a mind filled with emotions and thoughts.
“You are frantic, you are scattered. You are everywhere, so you have nowhere,” he said.
Chiti Parikh, who runs the Integrated Health and Well-being Program at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, teaches her patients how to take deep breaths in a way that absorbs the diaphragm, the body’s largest breathing muscle, preventing distance between the thoracic cavity and the abdomen. Studies show that that deep breathing can activate bodily functions related to calmness and relaxation, as well as a quiet stress response. Also, she says, people tend to take shallow breaths during exercise rather than taking full lunges from the diaphragm.
To train yourself to breathe this way, lie on your back, relax your muscles, and place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach, says Dr. Parikh. Inhale and exhale long, slowly through the nose and watch the hands as they move. Inhale for four seconds, then exhale for six. Over time, lengthen your exhale. Notice that, with shallow breathing, the ribcage moves, but with deep breathing, the abdomen also moves.
Once you can take a deep breath, you can incorporate it into any activity: swimming, scuba diving, or shoveling snow in your driveway.
Focus on the body.
Kalpanatit Broderick, who runs a strength training studio in Seattle, says: Focus on the sensations in your body as it moves – for example, scanning body parts and thinking about the movements. active muscle groups – can also bring peace to mind wandering. and train your heart with mindfulness meditation.
“If I pay attention to my body when doing push-ups, I can feel my shoulders, chest, triceps,” says Broderick, a former national-ranked distance runner. and his quadriceps. Or while running, he says, think about how your arms are swinging, if your shoulders are relaxed, if you’re landing on your heels or toes.
This forces you to be involved in the movement rather than fixated on the outcome, he says. “The current fitness model is results-based,” he said. Working with meditation, he adds, slows the mind, connects you to the body “and then we enjoy what’s around us.”
Dr. Lazar suggested use a meditation app, some of which have meditations specifically designed for walking or other types of movement. Many are free; Others require monthly payments.
Set an intention.
Two years ago, Imani Cheers started doing daily meditative rituals of running, walking, yoga and cycling to combat the stress of working a hectic job as a single mom in pandemic period. A fundamental part of her meditation is setting an intention for each day that she says aloud to herself while exercising. For example, “Don’t repeat bad habits and expect a different result,” or “complete this half-marathon without injury.”
Dr. Cheers, co-director of the undergraduate program at George Washington University, said her routine had more of an impact on her workouts. “At 41, I am healthier, happier and stronger than ever. And who said that after the pandemic? ”
Objective: Find the flow.
Putting meditation into motion can have another benefit: attaining state “Flow.”
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who first coined the term flow, defined it in her book, “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” as “the state in which people enter into. an activity where nothing else seems to matter.”
Anyone who exercises or plays a sport, whether professional or amateur, is likely to experience some version of a flow state. On the basketball court, Mr. Mumford said, the basket got bigger and bigger and time slowed down.
Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s definition of flow looks a lot like the benefits derived from meditative movement: inner clarity, intense focus, and a sense of serenity. And while meditating before or during exercise can’t guarantee flow, it can set the conditions to achieve it. “You’re not trying to make things happen, you’re allowing them to happen,” Mr. Mumford said.
Ms. Larsen, who was wearing underwear, agreed. She is best known for her Abdominal pain relief tricks, such as clones, planting banana trees, and hanging upside down from her ankles, all done at unimaginable heights in the air. One of her favorite runs near her home in southern Utah stretches across a slit canyon overlooking swirling sandstone and cottonwoods.
There, Ms. Larsen can easily access the flow state as she gets better, through meditation, putting aside distractions, ego, and focusing on results. And that is the goal of the meditation movement, she says: “The effort will go away and that’s just it. It feels good, and it feels easy. ”
Jenny Marder is a NASA senior science writer and freelance journalist. She was previously the digital managing editor for PBS NewsHour.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/28/well/move/exercise-mindfulness.html How to exercise soberly – The New York Times