(image via pinterest)
In dealing with the stress that bombarded my system a few weeks ago, I have been actively looking inwards, taking a step back to journey through my self and discover my own calm, my sense of self, and my own strength. Part of this journey has involved beginning my yoga practice again, picking up the strands that I started many years ago and working with the stepping stones it provides into the psyche and the body.
When I first spoke to one of the yoga teachers at Yoga Kula in Chapel Allerton (my studio of choice, and they have been amazing, but where ever you are please try and find a teacher or teachers that are understanding, supportive, and most of all encouraging - it makes all the difference), I spoke about my desire to become physically and mentally strong again. I had been buffeted by so many external expectations and opinions that I had lost my self in the mire of negativity that was swirling around me - I needed out, and to get out meant working on the physical and mental. Marie, the teacher I spoke too, understood where I was coming from and when I told her that I wanted to feel like I used to feel when I was swimming, her face lit up and we both had an uh-huh moment.
Sport is meditation.
It is!! In it's simplest form sport is all about conditioning the body and focusing on the breath - just like yoga - which is a meditative practice in itself.
What I had in swimming was repetition, pattern, focus, physical and mental strength, but most importantly - breath. To swim is to create a high awareness of the way that one breathes. You do exercises where you breathe on the one side, or you alternate sides, you hold your breathe for ten strokes and then breathe every ten strokes, you breathe by taking air in through your mouth and pushing it out of your nose, you are aware aware aware of each and every breathe, you have to be . . . otherwise your timing is off, you get exhausted quicker, and most importantly, you lose focus.
Meditation is about the breath. Meditation is about gliding along on tranquil waters, observing the body as it strengthens, stretches, and lengthens.
(image via pinterest)
This epiphany has woken up a desire in me to observe the breath everyday, in whatever it is that I am doing. I also think it is something that should be considered as a valuable tool for everyone - especially those in sport.
Meditation can be used to strengthen the athletes focus
Meditation can be used to help deal with the physical and mental stress of competitive sports
Meditation boosts the immune system . . . um, that's a no-brainer really!! Show me an athlete that likes being sick and I will show you a flying pig!
Meditation boosts your circulation, making sure that your muscles (and brain) are getting the oxygen enriched blood that they need
Meditation eases muscle tension - a HUGE concern for athletes . . .
Meditation gives you perspective - was that swim really that bad? What were the good points?
Meditation reduces anxiety, enabling you to focus on the job at hand, to be in the moment
Essentially, swimming was like a yoga practice for me, the twice daily training sessions, the pushing of the body and mind to achieve my goals, the all consuming work - every single day - towards the Paralympics! Yoga is about getting on the mat everyday, focusing on gently finding the spaces within which you can take the body and mind, the work - every single day - that takes you towards strength and calm!
the main tenant of this sport and this yoga is the meditation, the focus on the breath, the breathing in and the breathing out, that gets you from here to there, in the moment, and with grace and calmness.
So, do you play sport? Do you utilise meditation as a working tool for your sport? If so, please let us know in the comments below . . .