How Meditation Can Improve Your Workout

Try these everyday ways to tune into your body and mind, and you’ll never think of meditation the same way again.

For centuries, meditation has been seen as an integral part of healthy living, with both mental and physical benefits. And yet for many people, meditation often calls to mind purposeful breathing, convoluted poses and an extended period of peace and quiet that no woman we know gets to enjoy regularly in her everyday life. Sitting in a quiet room on the way to Nirvana sounds great if you can turn off the chatter in your head — unless you meditate yourself right into a nap.

But here’s something you rarely hear: Using meditation to get and stay healthy is actually more about opening your mind than about emptying it. And you don’t have to plant your body on a hardwood floor to do it. Read the ideas below and find the active meditation technique that suits you best.

Walking Meditation
This activity engages the physical, mental and emotional experiences of walking to develop greater awareness.

Begin by standing tall with relaxed shoulders. Let your arms rest naturally at your sides and focus on your breath. Notice your feet connecting with the ground and the small adjustments your body makes to maintain balance. After taking a few moments to feel the stillness of your body, begin walking at a comfortable pace trying not to modify your gait. Notice your feet as you shift weight from one to the other; be aware of your heel, arch and forefoot working together. Feel your ankles, knees and hips as they transfer weight back and forth. Be aware of your body as it moves through space or simply focus on your breath. Spend at least 10 minutes walking to get the full affect before stopping and returning your focus to your still body.

Jump Rope
Looking for something with a little more gusto to get you going? The repetitive nature of jumping rope provides another, more heart-thumping alternative.

Begin by making sure you have the proper length rope: when you stand with one foot on the center of the rope and pull the handles up they should reach your armpits. Take a few deep breaths and begin jumping. The choice is yours: pay attention to your breath or the rhythm of your feet hitting the ground. As your focus (at endurance) gets better, you’ll find you’re able to jump longer and longer. Each time you catch the rope on a foot and have to start over, notice what thoughts or feelings were going through your mind. As anxiety or fatigue set in, you’ll see immediate and tangible changes in your performance.

Moving in water adds extra serenity to a meditative experience. Mindful swimming doesn’t usually include knocking off hard sets of intense exercise, but rather slow and patient swimming that focuses on form and feeling.

Spend some time adapting to the water temperature and begin swimming at a comfortable pace. Bring focus to your breath until you establish a confident rhythm. Gradually begin to notice the feeling of water surrounding your hands as you move them, eventually moving focus to the rest of your arm, then you feet and legs. Spend as much time as you like on the different physical sensations before eventually moving back to your breath and finishing your swim.

Sun Salutations
Perhaps the ultimate form of moving meditation, yoga focuses on connecting breath and movement. Sun Salutation captures both mind and body with its restorative, athletic movements.

Begin by standing tall with your feet shoulder width apart and your hands at your side, noticing your breath in and out. On an inhale reach your arms up over your head, then exhale as you bend at the waist and drop your hands down to your toes. With the next inhale move your hands to your shins or knees and flatten out your back, then exhale placing your hands on the floor and stepping back into a high plank position. Inhale as you slowly lower your body to the ground, then exhale as you plant your hands under your shoulders and slowly push to an upward dog pose. Inhale stepping back to downward dog; exhale back to a forward fold. Finish the sequence by inhaling your hands up overhead, exhaling your arms back down to your beginning pose. Complete anywhere from three to ten Sun Salutations each morning to begin the day feeling refreshed and connected.

Go ahead and try these same techniques on any other repetitive or breath intensive activity. You’ll quickly learn meditation can be done anywhere and anytime — on a run or holding plank position on the living room floor.

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