It is a fact that exercise and physical activity can improve both mental and physical health. But what about its effects on meditation? Can exercise help to enhance one’s ability to meditate? The answer is yes; in fact, it can.
Exercise and meditation are both incredibly beneficial for the body and mind. They have been shown to improve mental clarity, focus, and concentration.
In this article, we will discuss how exercise can improve your ability to meditate, and we will provide some tips on how to get the most out of your meditation practice.
Read on to get well acquainted with the interlinked benefits of exercise and meditation.
Exercise Improves Meditation & Meditation Improves Exercise
Recent studies have shown that regular exercise helps improve your ability to focus and meditate. Exercise can help reduce stress, increase the clarity of thought, and improve concentration. These are all benefits which will help you in your meditation practice.
Regular exercise also increases blood flow to the brain, which can make it easier for you to stay focused during meditation sessions.
The same is true of meditation; regular meditation will help you perform better during exercise. Meditation can help reduce muscle tension and give you more energy throughout the day.
It reduces fatigue associated with physical activities, allowing you to push yourself further during workouts or extend the length of your workout without becoming overly tired or sore.
So by improving your ability to meditate through exercise, you are also strengthening your ability to exercise.
The Relation Between Physicality/Exercise & Meditation
When we exercise, our bodies produce endorphins which can help us feel happier, more relaxed, and even better rested. This can be highly beneficial for meditation as it helps to create a calm and focused state of mind.
Physical activity also helps to improve blood flow throughout the body, leading to improved brain health, including greater concentration and clarity when meditating.
In addition to the physical benefits of exercise, there is also a psychological component that may help you reach a deeper level of focus and mindfulness during your practice.
Training requires both physical effort and mental discipline. As such, regular physical activity can help build confidence and self-discipline, which can be applied to your meditation practice.
Aside from this positive psychological effect, exercise can also help to clear the mind of any residual worries or stress that may be preventing you from completely entering into a meditative state.
How To Use Exercise to Improve Your Ability to Meditate
Now that we have discussed the relationship between physicality/exercise & meditation, let’s take a closer look at how exercise can specifically improve your meditation ability.
The first step is to choose an activity that works for you. This could include anything from yoga and tai chi to running and swimming. It is essential to pick something you enjoy so that it does not become an additional source of stress in your life.
Once you have chosen your preferred activity, start by doing 10-15 minutes a day to help you establish regular practice.
It is also important to note that the quality of your exercise routine matters just as much as the quantity. Make sure to stay mindful and focused throughout your physical activity, which will help make transitioning into meditation easier.
In addition to this, it may be helpful to set aside some time after your workout for reflection and contemplation. Taking five or ten minutes to sit in stillness can really help enhance your ability to meditate afterwards.
Lastly, having a positive attitude towards exercise can also greatly improve its impact on your meditation practice. Think of it as an opportunity for growth and renewal; something that gives you joy instead of dread or anxiety.
Meditation-Specific Forms of Exercise From Spiritual Traditions
Finally, certain forms of exercise were specifically designed within spiritual traditions to help improve meditation ability.
In the Hindu tradition, hatha yoga is a physical practice focusing on breathing and postures to create balance in body, mind and spirit. It has been practised for centuries to promote mental clarity during meditation.
Similarly, in Tibetan Buddhism, Tummo (inner heat) is an advanced form of breathwork that can increase energy levels and gain deeper insight while meditating. There's also Palming, a Taoist practice which involves covering the eyes with your hands to relax and focus on your inner vision.
In Tantric spirituality, there are many physical exercises, known as mudras, that help to activate and balance the energy of your body. These practices can be used during meditation to reach a deeper level of stillness.
In other traditions, there are forms of meditation that involve movement as well. For example, Qigong and Tai Chi are both forms of Chinese martial arts that blend mindful breathing and physical exercises in order to strengthen the body and clear the mind.
Why Does Meditation Improve Exercise Capabilities: Proprioception & Endurance
In addition to improving meditation ability, exercise can also strengthen your body and increase its capabilities. This is mainly because physical activity helps improve proprioception (the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body) as well as endurance.
Proprioception is essential because it helps you become more aware of how your body moves during exercises, allowing you to adjust specific movements to achieve greater efficiency.
For example, when doing yoga or any other form of stretching, being more aware of your body’s limits will help prevent potentially damaging situations.
Endurance is also an important factor during physical activity. Whether it's running or lifting weights. By pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, you can increase your body’s capacity to handle more extended periods of activity.
This will make it easier to stay focused while meditating as well because your body will be more capable of handling extended periods of stillness.
The only reason meditation improves these faculties is because it helps keep your body in a relaxed and stress-free state. By removing any physical or mental tension, you’ll be able to move through exercises more easily.
Breath Is the Most Important Exercise for Meditation
Breath is the unifying commonality between all the physical exercises mentioned above. As far as meditation is concerned, breathwork is by far the most important exercise for improving your practice.
In some traditions, breath is elaborated upon in great detail for spiritual purposes. For example, in the Tantric practice, specific exercises are focusing on taking long breaths through each nostril to align the right and left hemispheres of your brain for more profound meditation.
In other traditions, breath is used simply as a tool for concentration. By counting your inhales and exhales or focusing solely on the feeling of air passing through your nose, you can quickly reach a state of calmness that's ideal for entering into meditation.
By focusing your attention on your breathing, you can bring yourself back to a state of calm and stillness no matter where you are or what activity you’re doing. It works by helping to quiet the mind and relax the body: two essential components for optimal performance during meditation.
Longer breaths with more pauses in between help create an overall sense of ease that allows us to connect more deeply with ourselves. This will help enable meditators to be more aware of their inner state and gain greater insight into themselves.
Breath is life and the cornerstone of all meditative practices. So, if you’re looking to improve your meditation ability, start with developing a strong breathwork practice and use it as your foundation.
Physical Siddhis Attainable Through Meditation
Besides improving physical abilities, some spiritual traditions believe meditation can also lead to supernatural powers, known as siddhis.
In Hinduism, the 8th-century sage Patanjali described various psychic abilities attainable through yoga, such as levitation and teleportation. In Jainism, it is believed that through intense meditation, one can gain the power of clairvoyance and the ability to fly.
And in Buddhism, some monks claim they have achieved superhuman control over their body temperature, amongst other things.
Furthermore, in some ancient Hindu and Buddhist texts, it is said that by mastering various forms of physical exercise, one can gain supernatural powers. For example, the Hathayogapradipika states that through hatha yoga, one can obtain siddhis such as invisibility and levitation.
Keep in mind that Siddhis can often be a detraction from the ultimate spiritual process, as they can provide a false sense of accomplishment and may cause the practitioner to become attached to these new abilities.
Meditate to Exercise: Vice Versa
In conclusion, exercise is beneficial for both physical and spiritual practices because it increases proprioception and endurance and ultimately helps to keep the body relaxed during meditation.
And although some ancient traditions believed that certain forms of exercise could lead to siddhis or supernatural powers, it’s important to note that such an outcome should be avoided for proper spiritual advancement.
Ultimately, exercising in moderation before meditating can help you achieve deeper states of stillness and clarity, allowing you to unlock the full potential of your meditation practice.
With the right balance between physical activity and mental focus, you will be able to gain greater insight into the workings of your mind and body. So, the answer to the question “Will exercise improve my ability to meditate?” is a resounding yes!