03 May The Benefits of Adding Meditation To Sports
Believe it or not, sports and meditation go hand in hand.
Performance based on grit alone seems to be quite outdated based on the performances by NBA teams such as LA Lakers and Golden State Warriors - who practice the art of meditation to help not only themselves but their teams to reach great heights of success! The story behind their success lies in certain amazing mindfulness facts that mental training coaches count on.
Number 1: Players such as Micheal Jordan and (super slam dunk star) Aaron Gordon are no strangers to the art of positive visualization. This helps them to believe that they can make a shot or slam dunk even before doing it. A lot of times players get lost in what happened two minutes ago. A steal, an air-ball, an unnecessary foul etc, can really get distracting. But with sports, players have to learn to focus and refocus again. When the stakes are high, being in the moment and trusting your ability to go for it- marks the difference between a good player and a player that can get their team to the championship.
Number 2: Training the mind before training the body is crucial to any sport- an accumulation of negative thoughts gives dominance to negativity. This let’s anxiety build up and grow over time. When a player can see the finish line, the trophy, the celebration is just one shot away- these negative thoughts and anxiety can affect clutch points, unless they practice the mindfulness technique of mental noting- this means that you notice a thought and don’t give much attention to it and then you put them away.
Number 3: Meditation also helps a player’s individual trajectory and also the overall psyche of the team. The ability to spot your teammates and make a play where you pass to an open team mate, without fumbling can be achieved by being relaxed yet alert. This mental state is very calming to the body so you trust in your pass, while being alert ensures that you made the right pass and to the right person!
Number 4: Mindfulness establishes resilience in players. To mentally bounce back from letting yourself and everyone else down, takes a lot of strength. But this can be achieved through the act of self-compassion. It’s not what a competitive person wants to hear- but all the best teams practice the act of self-compassion. It means to let go of the things you cannot control. A score you missed 2 seconds back is not in your control, this moment, however is.
Number 5: Steve Kerr, the coach of the Golden State Warriors, strongly believes that his team must have 4 qualities: Joy, Mindfulness, Compassion and Competition.
Number 6: Mindfulness teaches players that, you may have to try a 1000 times to focus on the task at hand without being distracted- but it’s okay. With the practice of daily meditation- we understand that the mind is a constant chatter box, and we can start to give some space to it by focusing our attention on breathing. So we begin to feel calmer as we are breathing and in the moment. Similarly, an important goal or score is just a mindful breath away.
Number 7: Meditation helps players to become more open to their experiences, rather than push away from it. If there’s an area that they lack in, or need to work on, mindfulness helps in becoming more accepting of those shortcomings. Simply because we do not name them or categorize them as negative or lacking issues- we just put them in a place without any judgement, and look at achieving change and improvement with a more accepting mindset.
Number 8: Lastly, meditation helps them to go from violet warriors to mindful warriors- In a game, it’s kind of like a combat- there needs to be planning and preparing for the task at hand, players have to put up a strong face to begin the battle. A lot of them however don’t realize that competition has led them to become better players in their field. Competition to athletes are like fire: it can either cook your food, keep you warm or it can burn down everything. But mindful awareness teaches us that when we play, we push our rival to become better and vice versa. Once you step back, you can realize how grateful you can be to the person who helped you, motivated you to become better than your expectations.
What we can take from this and apply to our daily lives is the ability to focus under pressure. Not many people invest in being mindful about pushing their thoughts away, taking a deep breath and hitting the task at hand trusting their work and practice. But for those who do, it’s always a win!
Nehita is a mindfulness expert who writes extensively on lifestyle management, wellness and ways to lead a healthier and a happier life. She is a part of Aware’s expert team on meditation. She is also an avid artist who spends most her time dribbling amazing stories through art.