By Aaron Alexander
Fun fact: Phil Jackson, one of the all-time most winning coaches in the NBA, has been using meditation with his players for years and considers it to be a key tool in his success. He won eleven NBA championships, no big deal. Why and how is meditation effective to cultivating our athletic ability?
It’s time to strap on your Alo stretchy pants, light some sage, and burn all your material possessions; we’re athletes! OK, maybe we can start with twenty minutes of breathing in a comfortable position and see where it goes from there.
Countless studies confirm that a simple daily meditation practice drastically increases our levels of concentration in all aspects of life, including sport. A recent study by scientists at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte found that with only twenty minutes per day of meditation, participants were able to dramatically increase their scores on cognitive skills test. In a particular sustained attention test (I’ve personally gone through these tests as a part of a neurofeedback training and can honestly say, they’re terrible) the meditator group scored ten times as high as the non-meditator group after only four days! The meditating group also did significantly better on timed information-processing tasks. The focus was to see how the group did with deadline stress. Ever experience stress from an impending deadline such as an upcoming race? Well, we found a solution!
You can choose a personal mantra or phrase of your choice to repeat as you are practicing. This acts as “vehicle” toward calming your mind. Deepak Chopra relates it to a taxi, explaining that it’s not the vehicle that matters; it’s the destination. Repeating a meditative sound is a tool to hold your focus until your mind begins clear.
Why is that some people can pick up a new skill significantly more easily than others? Are they just naturally gifted, or could there be more to it? It’s been shown that a thirty-minute session of deep, alternate-nostril breathing remarkably enhances retention of a newly learned motor skill. It’s a bit like the old quote “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” There are complex neuroanatomical explanations for why this is, but the short version is that it appears calm and clear cognition allows the space to process and integrate new information.
Learn more tips and tricks with the world-renowned master teacher of balance and founder of Acro Yoga, Jason Nemer, in this conversation on the Align podcast.
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