Meditation isn't just for monks seeking enlightenment -- scientific research shows that athletes can also benefit from the practice. The improved concentration, relaxation and endurance that result from meditation help athletes of all ages excel. Visualization techniques employed during meditation can also lead to success on the track, court or field. Whatever your sport, introducing meditation into your life, or even just meditating hours before a game, can make a difference when it comes to winning or losing.
Stress during a game can interfere with athletes' judgment and cause poor performance. Meditating before a game helps to reduce stress levels and enable an athlete to feel relaxed, calm and focused. The combination of relaxation and alertness is key to succeeding at many sports.
Some endurance athletes, such as Cycling Hall of Famer John Howard, use meditation along with visualization techniques to improve staying power. Meditation enhances both performance and the ability to enjoy the exercise, even during long distances such as cycling marathons. Tuning into your breathing can turn a potentially grueling endurance race into miles of relaxing breathing meditation, transforming a potential ordeal into an opportunity for enjoyment.
According to George Mumford, a meditation teacher who has worked with the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers, meditation increases an athlete's chances of being in the zone, or playing at the highest level possible. Meditation does this by heightening your mindfulness, or awareness, which permits you to immerse yourself to a greater degree in your surroundings and see what must be done at any given time.
The distractions of raucous fans or knowing a significant other is in the stands can affect an athlete's performance. Meditation improves concentration, which helps you filter out unwanted noise or thoughts and focus on the game. This ability to concentrate throughout any distraction can greatly improve an athlete's performance. Concentration mutes the effect of catcalls from the stands during a tense penalty shot or efforts by an opposing team to derail the attention of competitors.