We have written before here about the power of visualization for athletes, and that’s certainly a form of meditation. You could think of it in vague terms, as simply forming a goal in your mind’s eye and thinking of it now and then. But true visualization means the ability to block out everything else and focus solely on a goal or purpose until you can see yourself achieving it. It’s actually a fairly complex mental maneuver, and when done successfully it can greatly benefit athletes.
In this piece we’ll look a little more broadly at the idea of meditation – which famous athletes have used it, what it can do in general, and how you can go about it. It’s a powerful tool for the well-rounded athlete, and so something well worth exploring.
Athletes Who Exemplify The Power Of Meditation
Only a small amount of research will actually turn up a number of famous athletes who have succeeded by way of meditation. Many if not most successful sports figures practice yoga these days, which is certainly a form of meditation. But others have credited the idea of clearing their minds and learning to focus more directly.
LeBron James – James remains at the top of his game as a basketball player. He’s openly talked about practicing yoga, appears to be an increasingly calm and spiritual figure, and has been seen apparently meditating in the past. He’s a terrific example simply because of his ability to “block out the noise” so to speak and focus on single tasks.
Novak Djokovic – Djokovic has fallen off a little bit, but at the outset of this year he was coming off of a years-long reign in professional tennis. He and Andy Murray were odds-on favorites with the bookies to win the Australian Open before he ultimately struggled and succumbed to injury later in the season. But he’s still one of the world’s most dominant athletes when healthy, and he’s credited that dominance largely with changes he made to his diet and mindset. Djokovic has been very open about the importance of meditative practices.
Derek Jeter – Jeter is now retired, but he ended his baseball career as one of the best of all time. He’s a Yankees legend alongside names like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Joe DiMaggio, and he won five World Series titles in his time. More remarkable than his on-field success however was always Jeter’s ability to handle the pressures of New York stardom in a seemingly inhuman manner. He floated above controversy and criticism and kept his cool in the craziest of moments. It’s unsurprising that he too relied on meditation, having mentioned it as a regular part of his off-day routine.
Meditation’s Positive Effects
We think of meditation as having a generally calming effect, and that’s certainly accurate. But sometimes the specific benefits get lost in that generalization. Here’s a little bit on what you might expect to gain from it, particularly as an athlete.
Stress Reduction – Meditation is proven to reduce stress, which is important for all of us in today’s world. Particularly for an athlete, however, this can be an invaluable effect. Whether in training, competition, or simply the ongoing effort to improve, athletes experience a great deal of stress. Meditation can do away with it to some extent, freeing the mind and emotions to focus on more important things.
Improved Concentration – A woman practicing meditation who was quoted in a Huffington Post article on this very topic noted that she was more centered and focused in everything she did when she was meditating. This is one of the most common benefits you hear about, and another invaluable one for athletes. The chance to focus more effectively on training or performance can lead to drastically improved results.
Better Self-Awareness – We tend to brush over the idea that meditation can lead to more “centered” emotions or outlooks. What this really means is that we can simply and calmly look inward and in doing so recognize our own tendencies and emotions. For an athlete, this could mean identifying a destructive habit or something similar, and then acting on improving it.
How To Go About It
Meditation is a wonderful practice because you can try it right now! You can stop reading this very moment, sit down, breathe deeply, close your eyes, and work on shutting out the world and relaxing within yourself. It’s more difficult than it sounds, but it requires nothing in the way of equipment, scheduling, transportation, etc. You can simply give it a shot.
That said, you will probably want some help getting started. You can take a class if you so desire, much like you can with yoga. But because meditation is such an intensely personal and individual practice, you might actually be better off trying to teach yourself. Without getting into specific examples, there are numerous online programs and mobile apps that can help you with positions, breathing techniques, and mindsets that make for effective meditation.
For all the reasons above, it’s one of the best habits for a young athlete to take up.