By Bhavan Kumar
An athlete is not the first thing that springs to mind when you think of meditation. Chanting, incense, and monks might be more likely associations for it, but meditation can actually be an incredibly effective tool for athletes. Meditation was once the domain solely of the religious or mystical but now we know its benefits apply in a host of other settings. Meditation is a way of training the mind which is as important a factor in athletic success as physical training.
One of the most important element of meditation for an athlete is the ability to calm and control the mind. An undisciplined mind is a monkey mind, racing from one thing to another and easily distracted by changing surroundings or situations. These kind of distractions are often the downfall of top athletes who need to focus everything on the task at hand and on the end goal. Meditation can teach an athlete how to empty his mind and keep it focused on one thing at a time.
An interesting aspect of modern athletics is that competitions are frequently won or lost on the basis of a few seconds or even less. Physical conditioning is so thorough and complete that it is essentially a science in itself. Athletes go through virtually identical physical training rituals and have their bodies fine tuned to such a degree that their abilities are in some cases almost identical. Mental fitness can make a huge difference in such circumstances. An athlete with a highly trained mind naturally stands a better chance against an equally physically prepared opponent.
Meditation and visualization can also help an athlete succeed. Clearing the mind gives room for an athlete to “see” themselves performing at their peak and visualize their victory. A mantra can help the athlete focus during meditation and during their competitions. The mantra can simply be a phrase stating what the athlete wants to achieve, such as “I will run faster”, and repeating it over and over is a soothing and empowering act.
Modern competitive and professional athletics is a highly regimented and frequently stressful world. The margin for error is almost nonexistent, and the stakes are very high. Unlike drugs and steroids, meditation is a safe and legal way to gain an advantage over the competition. Maintaining a calm mind in the heat of competition is not easy, but meditation can certainly make it more achievable.
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