We need to reconsider the relationship between meditation and exercise.
The post-workout meditation has been overlooked.
Of course, pre workout meditations are established as a great way to improve your workouts. I’m not here to discredit them; clearly pre-workout meditation works.
However, most people are missing half the fun!
We have been using meditation to improve exercise when we could be using exercise to power meditation.
I’m not talking about yoga here, I’m talking about using meditation after running, lifting, interval training, sports or anything else you’re into.
So many of us waste those first few minutes after our workout checking email or Facebook; why not invest that time into your own brain instead?
There’s a barrier in many people’s minds that meditation and exercise are mutually exclusive. Probably because many meditators say that the ideal condition for meditation is a rested state, NOT a sweaty post workout euphoria.
The underlying logic here is that the body is too exhausted and the brain is too flooded with endorphins to make meditation effective. But they’re wrong.
Let’s review what intense exercise does for the brain and body.
1. Release of neurotransmitters.
During exercise the brain floods itself with “feel good” chemicals like endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
This combination of neurotransmitters creates a chemical cocktail of stress reduction inside your body.
Additionally, these neurotransmitters can help “turn off” your mind. For most people the biggest source of anxiety is we just can’t stop thinking.
We think about bills, failure, heartbreak, tragedy and all sorts of stuff that doesn’t serve us. Continued mental activity creates a stress
feedback loop where worry creates more worry, most of us know how stressful a negative train of thought can be.
Many scientists believe this feedback loop can cause a ton of diseases and disorders.
The neurotransmitter GABA is unique because it is a neuron inhibitor; it actually turns neurons off. For us, that means less thinking and less stress.
Fewer thoughts means you have a calmer mind, and having a calm mind is essential for meditation!
You’re probably already familiar with this, the end result of GABA is the “euphoria” effect you feel after a hard workout.
Some meditators argue that these neurotransmitters are like drugs; and that “using” them is just another way for people to avoid facing their problems. Or that these wonder chemicals interfere with meditation.
It sounds to me like some people just don’t like working out. The twenty to thirty minute window after the gym is a great time to fit meditation into your day.
It’s easy to make the time, and you can use the post workout euphoria for meditative benefit.
2. Increased brain function.
One of the other neurotransmitters the brain releases during exercise is Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor or BDNF. BDNF is cool for two reasons.
BDNF acts as a reset switch for your mind; in addition to GABA, it’s why you feel so clear headed after intense exercise.
This mind clearing effect is great because it can help calm incessant thinking or Monkey Mind, as it’s affectionately known.
Thinking too much is one of the biggest obstacles to entering meditation. That makes the post workout a great time to avoid the mental chatter and relax more quickly. No more waiting for twenty minutes to calm down!
Meditation creates new neural pathways that make you more resilient to stress and improve brain function. Basically, it upgrades your brain by building more brain cells.
Now here is the cool part: BDNF is an essential ingredient for creating those new neural pathways.
Think of it this way: exercise could supercharge your ability to rewire the brain through meditation!
You’re on your way to a bulletproof brain in no time.
3. Increased circulation
Exercise increases circulation to allow more blood to get to body tissues that need it. The increase of oxygen helps your muscles and brain function at a higher level.
This side effect can also make meditative breathing techniques more effective.
Exercise and breathing techniques have a few commonalities, they both decrease blood pressure and increase circulation, and lead to decreased stress.
So, why not double down and increase your benefits? Post workout breathing techniques provide a perfect transition from work out because they oxygenate the blood to promote muscle recovery and prepare the mind for meditation.
Focused breathing will also help bring down your heart rate. With a little preparation you can meditate right after exercising and enhance your cool down.
The end goal here is to integrate meditation into your fitness regimen so you can start reaping the massive benefits of exercising the body and mind simultaneously.
All it takes is using your time more wisely!