The breath, it slows. The heart, it beats with ease. The mind—the restless mind—it is at rest.
This is the common experience of the individual who combines exercise with meditation. They aim to raise their heart rate through exercise in order to experience the bliss that follows. They have mastered the ability to exist moment to moment inside the expansion and contraction of each breath they take. The goal? Inner peace.
They are the modern-day monk, the spiritual warrior in a commoner’s guise. They walk among us, speaking, working, thinking, and living as we do, but they remain above it all. Their peace is perpetual. Fear, anxiety, depression, and worry cannot attach to them, for they are like the waters of the mountain river, constantly fresh and cleansed by the melting snow. They are in a class of their own, but a class available to all who apply.
In today’s society, meditation and exercise are too often separated entirely. As a result, we are missing out on some incredible benefits. Scientific studies have begun to show that mediation and exercise can ease the stress, anxiety and depression that affect our inner peace and poise.
A recent study by Rutgers University, involved 52 individuals who suffered from anxiety and depression and another 30 who did not. Each day, for 60 days, the participants spent 30 minutes engaged in mindful meditation immediately followed by 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. At the study’s completion, the individuals who suffered from anxiety and depression reported a significant drop in thoughts that were pessimistic and negative. The healthy students reported an increase in life satisfaction, optimism, and thought control.
But how do the runner, the weightlifter, the walker, the cyclist, and practitioners of other physical disciplines incorporate meditation into their exercise routines? Yoga probably exemplifies the closest integration, but there are many ways to blend meditation with exercise.
For example, the weightlifter can integrate meditation before or after each lift. By steadying the mind, controlling the thoughts that come in and out, focusing solely on the lift at hand—and then enjoying the effects of the lift recently completed—meditation is achieved.
The runner, walker, or cyclist can integrate meditation by focusing on their breathing and the beauty and immediacy of their natural surroundings. By taking a few moments in silence before and after an exercise routine begins and ends to be completely present, mediation is achieved.
Whatever your preferred outlet for physical activity, with these examples and the science that has begun to prove the positive benefits of combining meditation with exercise, let’s make the conscious choice—together—to commit ourselves to this practice.
5 Steps for Integrating Meditation into an Exercise Routine
Be present (1-2 minutes)
Close your eyes and say to yourself, “for the next 15-30 minutes, I will not stress about work, family, friends, etc. This time is for me and I am giving myself the permission to be quiet in thought and present in body.”
Get into warm up mode (5 minutes)
Begin with some light stretching or light cardio. Focus on your breathing. Take long, slow, deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Make sure that your breaths are coming are coming from your diaphragm and not from your chest.
Pick up the tempo (5-10 minutes)
This is the heart of your exercise routine. Whatever your choice exercise, begin to increase the level of effort. Your mind is clear, your body is warm—this is the perfect time to test your limits. Don’t overdo it, but do take it up a notch or two!
Enter the cool down zone (5-10 minutes)
Allow your body to slow; try not to stop all at once, but begin easing off the gas pedal. As your heart rate comes back to where it was during your warm up, you are finished with your physical workout. Spend another few minutes stretching and paying attention to the positive effects of the workout completed.
Meditation (5 minutes)
You have pushed your body to a new physical level and your mental focus enabled you to do it. You now deserve to be in peace and at peace. Find a quiet, comfortable space to sit and following the rhythm of your breath, drop deeper and deeper into a state of tranquility and poise. Be proud of your current self and be optimistic about your future self that is growing—glowing—inside the heart of your commitment to combining meditation with exercise.
Kalpanatit Broderick is a former Nike sponsored professional runner and lifetime meditator.
For more information on how to get started in developing an exercise and meditation practice of your own, contact Kal at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website, peacefultraining.com.