We all know that exercise and meditation are both good for you, but you might not have thought about incorporating them together in your day-to-day routine.
The two practices have different effects on the mind and body, making them excellent complementary tools. Here are a few things you should know about how exercise and meditation tie in together and how meditation can supercharge your workout.
1. They Aren’t Substitutes For Each Other
People often say to me, “exercise is my meditation.” What they are really trying to communicate is that exercise relaxes them or relieves stress, which is great, but it’s not the same thing as meditation. Exercise works by exciting the nervous system, which speeds up your metabolic rate, releases endorphins and has many other positive effects that you’re probably already aware of. Meditation similarly has many benefits, but the mechanism is totally different.
In the style I teach, you access a verifiable fourth state of consciousness which is different than waking, sleeping or dreaming. In this state of mind you are de-exciting the nervous system, which gives you deep rest and releases the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin (aka bliss chemicals).
So you don’t want to try to meditate and exercise at the same time, but alternating the two keeps the body and the mind in peak shape.
2. Meditate Before You Work Out
I often suggest that my students schedule their meditation for right before a workout. Because meditation gives the body rest that is 5 times deeper than sleep, you feel more awake afterwards and have more energy for a great workout. Also, gym locker rooms are a convenient place to sit and close your eyes for a meditation session before you go out and sweat!
The one exception to this rule is if you’re doing yoga. Yoga was designed to prepare the body for meditation — some say it was originally created for 17 year old boys who couldn’t sit still through meditation and has evolved from there.
Each pose in yoga is called an asana, which is a Sanskrit word that means “seat.” So yoga is preparing the body to become a seat for consciousness to sit in during meditation.
3. Use Meditation To Push Through Discomfort During Exercise
Mindfulness meditation is scientifically proven to be even more effective than morphine for pain management.
That may sound crazy but it is true. In mindfulness, you are taking the time to listen to the cues the body is sending. This allows the sensation to decrease instead of intensify.
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Think of the pain as a toddler who wants attention, and mindfulness as an act of listening to the toddler. By practicing mindfulness you bring your attention to the painful sensation and close the feedback loop between the brain and body which makes the toddler feel heard so he doesn’t go on to wreck the house.
4. Meditation Can Help Guide Your Workout Choices
Since meditation makes you more attuned to your internal state, you are better able to hear to what your body needs both in and out of the gym. Some days you might find you have more energy and want to push yourself a little harder during your workout. Other days, what your body might be craving is rest.
When you are more aware of what your body is saying to you, you’re better able to work with it as opposed to against it. This helps improve the quality of your workouts and prevent injury.
5. Stay Consistent To See The Benefits
Just like working out, meditating requires practice and persistence in order to get the best results. You can think of it as taking your brain to the gym; the more you do it, the more the muscles will develop and the easier it will be to fit into your routine.
Also, take care to find a teacher who you respect to guide you through the process of beginning a meditation practice. This person will essentially be a personal trainer for your brain, so it’s important that it be someone you trust.
Once you have a consistent practice, meditation will help you refill your tank of energy, so you’ll have more fuel and commitment for your workouts.
This article was originally published on Ziva Meditation by Emily Fletcher.