The medical community has finally gotten Americans to realize that physical activity prevents heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, and other diseases. The medical community would do well to teach Americans that meditation following physical activity doubles the benefits of exercise. The trouble is that lots of Americans think meditation is a leftover 1960s hippie mental aberration.
That generation is now grandparents; what do they know about the world today? Meditation has no place in today’s world of Zoom meetings, video presentations, and lunch delivered by DoorDash. Actually, that would be incorrect.
Meditation and mindfulness are practices taught to seniors wishing to age with grace as well as keep their bodies fit. It’s taught in exercise classes and in senior gym classes all over the country. It’s taught in senior homes.
It’s taught in swimming pool jazzercise classes. So meditation didn’t go the way of the dinosaurs; it’s still hip and cool. The benefits of meditation following exercise are many and varied.
Let’s look into it to see what and why.
How The Mind Benefits From Meditation After Exercise
Point number one, and the most important, is that you take from two to five deep breaths and still your mind for the duration of those breaths. You don’t have to sit in the lotus position or stand in the Tree position. You can still your mind doing the dishes, doing the laundry, buying groceries, or picking the kids up from school.
It really is as simple as “Just Do It” (thanks, Nike.) With that said, people forget in their single-minded drive toward health and wellness to remember that the brain is a muscle, too, and needs exercise. For me, mindfulness helps along with doing New York Times crossword puzzles without a thesaurus.
Here are other ways meditation after exercise helps.
Out With The Stress Hormones
With stress comes the hormone cortisol. What most people don’t recognize is that working out creates stress on the muscles and the body in general. When the brain sees elevated levels of cortisol, it knows something is wrong.
It, therefore, sends inflammation, storage of abdominal fat, and mental fogginess to repair the situation. Now, you know that there’s nothing wrong with a workout. So how do get rid of the brain’s mistake? Meditate.
Quieting and stilling the mind is the focus of meditation. A quiet, calm mind doesn’t notice anything wrong with a little cortisol (breath in.) No abdominal fat (breath out.) No mental fog (breath in.) Just quiet and calm (breath out.)
The Body’s Recovery
Working the hell out of the muscles leaves them begging for mercy. That mercy is called recovery. It’s a quiet time in which the muscles are stretched to avoid cramps or spasms and they have time to relax again.
Recovery is a vital time for the muscles for their proper development.
People recover in different ways. My chiropractor told me that soaking in a warm bubble bath was effective in calming the muscles. Some people jump into a swimming pool, others into a spa, and many get a massage.
Some meditate. When the mind is calm, it isn’t stressed by the workout. Your body won’t feel pain from the exercise.
Your mind will be focused on recovery, thereby bringing the body to a painless, body-ache-free place.
Not many people understand how the body processes exercise. When we sleep at night, the body heals itself and resets itself for the next day’s work. Calorie loss, fat loss, and muscle gain are all processed during sleep.
Meditation after exercise focuses the brain and body on recovery and restful sleep.
How The Body Benefits From Meditation After Exercise
Plenty of workout gurus both online and on the ground teach their clients the moves of a workout. Many don’t, however, teach them how to breathe properly during the workout. This is counter-productive in the extreme. Here’s why.
It’s About Blood And Oxygen
When you inhale, the air goes into your lungs. It then passes to the heart, which pumps out blood with this oxygen in it. The muscles, organs, skin, brain, and every little part of the body get this oxygenated blood.
Now think about when you’re working out. You’re sweating. You’re panting. This panting is getting a little of the oxygenated blood to the muscles you’re working out.
It’s the food the muscles need to continue working or resting. Now think again about working out. If you’re taking measured breaths, holding them during a workout move, and then releasing them in a timed cadence, then the muscles are getting the max oxygenated blood.
If you’re just panting, then it’s a more hit-or-miss thing. Meditation focuses on the mind and body. Focus on breathing properly before, during, and after a workout.
The body benefits from this focus by being able to work out longer and harder.
Breathing deeply gets oxygen into the brain. This has the effect of generating more energy for the body to use. Endurance and strength therefore increase.
Stamina increases. After all, more energy is one of the points of working out, along with health and wellness. Meditation just helps you get it.
Increases Pain Tolerance
Meditation is known for its pain relief properties. Why not use that in exercise? Focusing on pain-free exercise sets you up for the next day’s workout.
Keep in mind that working out increases serotonin, dopamine, and other feel-good hormones. Meditation is known to release the same while shoving cortisol or the stress hormone into a closet. Add this to focusing on a pain-free workout, and you’ll have the pain tolerance for the wickedest workouts.
How To Meditate Following Exercise
The point of meditation is to be comfortable while you’re doing it. Your surroundings should be quiet so that no distractions intrude. You can sit, stand, or lie down, whatever is most comfortable for you.
Your eyes can be open or shut, as long as no distractions disturb you. Set a timer for five to ten minutes. Now that you’re comfortable, breathe in slowly to a count of two.
Hold that breath for a count of two. Now exhale to a count of four. If a thought occurs, gently and respectfully push it away and focus on your breathing.
As you breathe in, draw in soothing white light. As you exhale, dismiss the stress of your workout. You’re focusing on healing, so draw in white light with each breath. Exhale anything that isn’t that healing white light.
When your timer goes off, slowly open your eyes. Now enjoy those endorphins kicking in.
How To Know Your Meditation Is Working
As you’re watching your body become streamlined from working out, your clothes become baggy, or watching your muscles bulk up, you should also notice your mind progressing. You should notice:
- being less stressed
- you look forward to meditation
- you get restful sleep
- you have enough energy for two people
- you suddenly don’t need lit candles or a quiet space. You can meditate anywhere, anytime. Once stressful places no longer intrude upon your peace and serenity
- your mind is not chaotic. When you meditate, your mind is open to kindness, and compassion, and not judgmental. Chaotic thoughts no longer have a place in this kind and un-judgmental mindfulness
- you feel positive. Meditation gently and respectfully pushes negative thoughts away. Your mind will be more positive, happy, and motivated. In other words, I got this
- you stop tracking your progress. When the mind is peaceful, it has no need to keep track of how well you’re doing.