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Meditation for Athletes

Meditation for Athletes


The important thing is I have come around and now understand a regular meditation practice has very tangible physical and mental benefits. Specifically for athletes who are used to being cranked up for competition, it is necessary to stimulate the para-sympathetic nervous system to ground them or eventually they are going to find their tank is empty. Meditation also helps gain control over the breath which can be vitally important when hand-eye control is required like making a free throw, catching a pass or throwing a strike.

Finally, I can't really explain why, but meditation helps athletes find and maintain occupancy in "the zone." You know "the zone," that phenomena when the goal or basket seems to be a mile wide, or your opponents seem to be moving in slow motion. All athletes seek time in the zone and meditation can help get them there.

At this point, you are convinced I am right, and can't wait to get started. Right... I know that look, I've cracked tougher nuts than you. Just try this short "focus exercise" for five days in a row. If you hate it, give up, go ahead you big quitter. (Dropping some old school coaching on you there). Really, just try it I sincerely believe you will find it beneficial.


  • First, sit in a comfortable, semi-quiet place. A car is a great place to start. Close your eyes and just settle in. Don't try to control anything, just sit there letting your thoughts bounce around. Feel free to think this is stupid if you want, I know I did when I first started.
  • After about a minute, start to take control of your breath. Inhale, counting 1-2-3 pause, then exhale 1-2-3. Try to visualize the actual numbers 1-2-3 in your mind's eye as you breath. Do 10 rounds of this 3/3 breath pattern.
  • After the 3/3 breath pattern you are going to start lengthening you exhales. Continue counting, this time inhaling 1-2-3-4 pause, then exhale 1-2-3-4-5-6 pause, and repeat this 4/6 pattern for 10 rounds.


  • After the 4/6 breath, come back to an even 5/5 breath. Inhale 1-2-3-4-5 pause, exhale 1-2-3-4-5 pause. Repeat this 5/5 pattern for 10 rounds. Don't be surprised if you find this a little exhausting, it can be at first.


  • After you complete the 5/5 breath pattern, just let your breath go back to normal, sit there quietly, eyes closed for about a minute, longer if you want, and then softly open the eyes. See that wasn't so hard, or weird.

Now, just like one set of sit-ups won't give you ripped abs, one meditation, sorry focus exercise, won't bring you enlightenment, but keep it up for 5 days in a row (maybe twice a day if you can hack it) and see what it does for your performance. I bet you will notice something you can't quite put you finger on, you'll feel sharper, clearer, more in control. In short, better.

Here is a cheat sheet for that focus exercise:

  • 1 minute eyes closed, sitting still.
  • 10 rounds 3/3 breath pattern.
  • 10 rounds 4/6 breath pattern.
  • 10 rounds 5/5 breath pattern.
  • 1 minute eyes closed, sitting still.


By Tara Kestner

Previously published on Next Level Yoga's Blog

Tara Kestner is a registered yoga instructor who specializes in working with athletes of all levels. She designs programs based on specific sport requirements and challenges. Utilizing the principle that strength plus flexibility equals power, her classes give athletes the tools they need to enhance their performance. Tara is the owner of Next Level Yoga, Ltd., in Toledo, Ohio.


Start down the road to enlightenment with the following YogaDownload "focus exercise" Classes: 

Yoga Nidra - Celest Pereira 

Arrive in the Present Moment - Jackie Casal Mahrou 


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