How Does Meditation for Athletes Work?

August 7, 2023
How Does Meditation for Athletes Work


Meditation for Athletes: How Focus and Mindfulness Can Help Improve Performance

If you’re an athlete, you may have heard of fellow competitors who swear by meditation. Or perhaps you have a coach who has suggested that you try some mindfulness training.

But how exactly does meditation help athletes?

It turns out that meditation for athletes is a solid practice with scientific evidence to back up its claims of enhancing success.

Keep reading to find out:

• Six meditation benefits for athletes
• Which type of meditation helps athletes the most
• Tips for a successful meditation practice
• And more

When you’re finished, you will probably wish you had been meditating all along.

Table of Contents

Is Meditation Good for Athletes?
6 Meditation Benefits for Athletes
What Is the Best Type of Meditation for Athletes?
3 Tips for Successful Meditation for Athletes
How Long Should an Athlete Meditate?
Find Your Local Body & Brain Yoga Tai Chi and Start Practicing Meditation for Athletes Today

Is Meditation Good for Athletes?

Absolutely! Meditation is a great way for athletes to focus and connect with themselves, which can enhance performance.

One study showed that athletes who implemented relaxation techniques — including meditation — into their routine felt that these methods led to more effective competition. They reported that it helped them:

• Cope with competitive anxiety
• Recover from athletic events more quickly; and even
• Better deal with daily anxieties associated with being an athlete

Other controlled trials pointed to the fact that meditation led to performance enhancement in many different areas of sports. The meditation techniques in these studies included:

• Imagery
• Relaxation; and

6 Meditation Benefits for Athletes

Meditation is a great practice for everyone, but it helps athletes in specific ways.

Let’s explore six different benefits of meditation for athletes.

#1: Naturally Enhance Performance

Meditation leads to mindfulness, an enhanced sense of being fully present in the moment, which helps athletes focus and get into the zone to perform well.

One study of female Division I college athletes concluded that meditation helped the participants reduce negative thinking and the impact of stress, which ultimately led to enhanced athletic performance.

Meditation works in two different ways to improve athletic performance:

1. It helps with overcoming obstacles. More mindful athletes tend to believe they have greater power over perceived barriers, which results in a higher performance rate in a variety of sports.
2. Meditation leads to better flow, a psychological state where you are completely absorbed in your task. For athletes, flow gives the feeling that everything is relatively easy, which can lead to performing at the top of one's game.

#2: Reduce the Risk of Injury

Meditation builds mindful coordination of the body.The focus required in meditation gives athletes a better understanding of what their bodies are doing and causes them to move with intention, which can help reduce injuries.

One study of young male soccer players showed that the group participating in mindfulness training had significantly lower …

• Numbers of injuries
• Average injuries per team; and
• Playing days lost to injury

… than those in the control group.

Meditation may also help aid in the recovery of athletes who are already injured. The University of Kent reports that when injured athletes include mindfulness as part of their sports rehab process, they develop increased pain tolerance and awareness.

#3: Enhance Training and Conditioning

Athletes who meditate aim to train and compete while completely connected with themselves, staying aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Enhanced endurance is one of the best possible meditation benefits for athletes. When athletes practice meditation that includes visualization, it can increase endurance by improving their ability to perform during competition.

Just the act of visualizing specific sports-related objectives and goals can prepare the body to work harder and longer in training and competition.

#4: Reduce Competition Anxiety

Stress reduction is crucial for optimal athletic performance, as competing under stress has been proven to negatively affect outcomes.

Meditation is a great way for athletes to shake off the pressure to perform or the anxiety caused by competition. Feelings of competitiveness aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but athletes who are stressed generally don’t perform well.

Have you ever seen an athlete sitting very still or closing their eyes for extended periods just before an event? They are likely meditating and visualizing their performance.

This focused meditation can reduce anxiety before a competition so the athlete can concentrate on what they need to accomplish instead.

Being centered and relaxed improves:

• Focus
• Concentration; and
• The ability to remain calm

Athletes who consistently practice meditation will train their bodies to relax in stressful situations, which can build their self-confidence and lead to a more positive mindset.

#5: Better Sleep and Recovery Time

Good sleep is important to everyone, but it’s especiallycrucial for athletes.

Studies have shown that athletes who don’t get enough sleep will experience negative effects such as:

• Inability to maintain focus and concentration
• Decreased motor control
• Increased anxiety and depression
• Mood disturbances; and
• Weight gain

Since meditation may lead to better and deeper sleep, it can help athletes stave off these symptoms.

Enhanced sleep has been shown to positively affect athletic skill components such as:

• Reaction times
• Sprint times
• Tennis serve accuracy
• Swim turns
• Kick stroke efficiency; and
• Free throw/three-point throw accuracy

It also enhances overall mood, which usually results in better performance.

Furthermore, meditation-enhanced sleep may support optimal recovery for athletes. It may help the body bounce back more quickly from training, competing, and even injury.

#6: Develop Your Lung Capacity

The breathwork done during some kinds of meditation can be beneficial to athletes in a couple of different ways.

Studies have shown that people who practice yoga — which includes components of meditation and focusing on the breath — have increased pulmonary functions over those who don’t.

So it’s possible that athletes may benefit from this practice as well since stronger breathing can improve performance and recovery.

The breathwork combined with meditation may also help athletes synchronize their respiration and heart rates, which could aid them in reaching an ideal performance state.

What Is the Best Type of Meditation for Athletes?

Mindfulness meditation can be an effective way for athletes to enhance their well-being and performance.

This method of mental training practice teaches them to:

• Slow down racing thoughts
• Let go of negativity; and
• Calm the body and mind

It generally involves deep breathing plus concentrated awareness of the mind and body

Body & Brain instructors teach a Korean version of mindfulness meditation called jigam (stop thinking and emotions) in which the mind is focused on the energetic sensation in the hands, breathing is slower and deeper. Visualization is usually employed in this guided meditation.

Mindfulness Meditation for Athletes

Mindfulness meditation may help athletes enhance their performance, improve their focus, and calm their minds.

If you are an athlete who wants to use mindfulness meditation, it’s important that you take note of any stressors in your life. By being aware of perceived stress, you begin to recognize your triggers and breaking points and learn to deal with them more effectively.

Developing self-awareness may calm the sympathetic nervous system, which leads to a lower heart rate. And a lower resting heart rate can produce better physical performance through:

• More efficient heart function
• Greater endurance; and
• Lower perceived exhaustion

Some athletes who attribute improved performance to their mindfulness meditation practice include:

• LeBron James
• Derek Jeter
• Misty May-Treanor
• Kerri Walsh; and
The Seattle Seahawks

3 Tips for Successful Meditation for Athletes

#1: Find a Meditation Style That Works for You

Meditation doesn’t look the same for everyone. Even people practicing the same style, such as mindfulness meditation for athletes, may do it very differently.

If you have never meditated before and are interested in learning more and reaping its many benefits, consider attending a class with Body & Brain Yoga and Tai Chi instructors. We offer online and in-studio options and would love to help you achieve your goals through the world of meditation.

#2: Incorporate It Into Every Workout

Focus and mindfulness can be incorporated into every workout. Whether it’s a …

• Soccer practice
• Gym workout; or
• Early morning run

… taking the time to connect with yourself and move with intention during every practice or workout will eventually turn meditation into a second-nature habit.

#3: Don’t Give Up!

Learning to meditate takes time. Athletes don’t achieve success overnight — it takes practice and concentrated effort.

Meditation is no different. Sticking with it is the only way to reap the benefits.

How Long Should an Athlete Meditate?

There is no set amount of time recommended for athletes to meditate. It’s okay to start slow and build your way up to longer and more frequent meditations.

Meditation takes time to master, so trying just a few minutes at a time at first and building up to longer sessions is usually recommended.

One study done on the University of Miami’s football team found that just 12 minutes of meditation per day could make a big difference in athletic performance.

Find Your Local Body & Brain Yoga Tai Chi and Start Practicing Meditation for Athletes Today

Body & Brain instructors believe that meditation can enhance your mind-body practice through:

• Observing yourself comfortably with peace of mind
• Releasing your stress, worries, and negativity
• Connecting your mind and body for energy and power
• Stimulating your energy and focus
• Enjoying more insight and optimism; and
• Relaxing and sleeping better

If you’re an athlete who wants to improve your performance, we will help you fine-tune your meditation practice to focus on specific aspects to help you even more.

Contact us today to set up an introductory session and learn why athletes all over the world count on meditation to help them step up their game.