When I first started meditation it was something I did to be calm and at peace with stressors in my life. I would carve out ten minutes and that was it, meditation was over. At some point there was a cross over and I started being able to use meditation in my life. I now see how I can use this practice of mindfulness everywhere even with exercise!
Unfortunately, most of my teenage years were focused on the external and superficial rewards of working out. I would motivate myself with hatred of my body and the way I looked. With practice of yoga and meditation I realized that my old ways of motivating myself were harmful. I wanted my workouts to serve a larger purpose then just killing myself at the gym to feel better about myself.
I started seeing strength training as a moving meditation. This new perspective nourished my personal growth and not just my triceps. This included a system of mindfulness, rhythmic breathing, visualization and focussed intention. I loved exercise and did not want it to be an area of my life where I was on autopilot. I changed my thinking from, "I just want to get this over with" or "How many calories will this workout burn?" to How will this workout serve me?" "Can I gain better body awareness today and feel every rep?"
Mindful Strength Training is a new way of looking at our workouts and our intention behind them. Strength training is the ultimate method for building muscular strength and losing body fat. As much as I love yoga it takes a back seat when it comes muscular strength, bone density, and fat loss.
It is important to practice meditation separate from strength training because of the abundant physiological and healing benefits. Daily practice conditions the mind much like strength training conditions the body. It primes us to be able to put maximum output during our workouts without causing harm to our bodies.
The repetitions of your lifts can be meditative just like concentrating on your breath when you are sitting upright. You don't have to close your eyes and chant, you just have to be mindful as you move! You have to be mindful to a point but what if you really felt every movement rather than just speed through it to get it done? Or comparing yourself to someone else at the gym? Where is your mind?
1. Breathe - Concentrate on your breath, feel the air coming in and gently release it back out. Breathe with the diaphragm. The air you breath in through your nose should go all the way down to your belly. Your breathing muscles consist of the diaphragm and muscles in the abdomen, chest, neck and shoulders. Make sure your breathing is nice and deep.
Many weightlifters use the valsalva maneuver (performed by attempting to forcibly exhale while keeping the mouth and nose closed).
2. Use a mantra - Inhale Yes; Exhale I can, or a new favorite mantra of mine from Baron Baptiste is "Doubt your doubts"
3. Concentrate on the movement - while you move, really feel the movement. Ask yourself questions like, "What muscles are working, what does it feel like, what reps start to feel challenging, or when you come up against a limit ask, "Is this limit mental or physical?"
The more mindful you get with your movement, the better you will be able to push past limitations but also being honest with yourself when you need to take a step back. Now I challenge you to get mindful with your strength training! It is a practice like with anything in life. Stay strong and present!
Let me know what you think.