I’m into plant-based fitness—healthier bodybuilding—and, believe it or not, our tribe isn’t just about eating plants and looking good.
More: on the NY Times: How Meditation Changes the Brain and Body
Many of us utilize non-bodybuilding methodologies that focus on strength, flexibility, functionality, and mind-body fitness which foster complete health.
We adopt mindfulness practices like meditation, which sharpen our mind and increase our ability to focus while performing any physical activity.
It’s no secret that meditation can help build a stronger mind…but it turns out that meditation can help us get physically stronger as well.
I like to lift heavy weights.
When I first learned how to meditate about seven or eight years ago, to my surprise, I noticed a positive shift in the gym. That is to say I observed my ability to tap into my energy in a different way, which resulted in accelerating my progress. This was achieved, at first, by simply being able to notice my internal energy systems.
Over time, I have cultivated my ability to be aware of this internal energy so that I can build it up and release it when needed. I’m sure there are other ways one could utilize this awareness of energy, but since I lift weights, I intuitively found myself using this method prior to executing a super-heavy set.
Before I go further, I would like to share some things I learned about how meditation can help us grow a better brain.
Meditation can tune up, sharpen, and modify the actual structure of our brains. This is called neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to structurally and functionally change on the basis of environmental input. Not only that, meditation can help the brain age slower.
“It did to my mind what going to the gym did to my body—it made it both stronger and more flexible,” said Dr. Hedy Kober, a neuroscientist who studies the effects of mindfulness meditation, which she has practiced for 10 years, in her lab at Yale University.
I started college at the unconventional age of 25 and didn’t finish until I was 33 years-old. When I started to practice meditation daily a few years into my academic career, I noticed a significant jump in brain functionality.
I know this can be viewed as subjective to the healthy skeptic, but my brain simply operated at a higher level—a phenomenon validated in numerous studies. In addition, I would have lightning bolts of insight come to me on a consistent basis while walking on campus…something that wasn’t there before. Now back to the body.
There’s research to suggest that meditation can reduce blood pressure and stress hormone levels. There’s also a boost in cellular health, immune system, and physical strength.
Also, if you’re interested in living longer, there is some promising news:
Research done by the University of California Davis’ Shamatha Project has shown that meditators have significantly higher telomerase activity than non-meditators. Telomerase is the enzyme that helps build telomeres, and greater telomerase activity can possibly translate into stronger and longer telomeres.
Telomeres are the protective caps at the end of our chromosomes. Longer telomeres mean that you’re likely to live longer.
How can we apply meditation to get stronger and faster?
I have developed a couple meditations that you can use in your efforts to get stronger.
Meditation for explosion of energy during a workout:
Step 1: Breathe slow and deep, and sense your internal energy. (15 seconds)
Step 2: Notice and feel this energy flowing through your body. (15 seconds)
Step 3: Imagine activating this energy and revving it up. (15 seconds)
Step 4: When ready, immediately release the built up energy and execute the set/exercise.
Meditation for faster recovery after a workout:
Step 1: Breathe slow and deep, and sense your internal energy. (1 minute)
Step 2: Notice and feel this energy flowing through your body. (1 minute)
Step 3: Imagine activating this energy so it begins to cleanse the body. (1 minute)
Step 4: Visualize this energy within your body radiating more and more. (2 minutes)
Step 5: Now direct the radiating energy to the area that needs healing, the areas of the body you trained today during your workout. (5 minutes)
Remember, it is the healing part of this process that makes us stronger. If we can heal faster and more completely, we will get stronger at a more rapid rate.
Meditation truly has cascading benefits that spill over into numerous areas of my life.
Click here to learn how to meditate.
Author: Chris Willitts
Apprentice Editor: Lois Person/Editor: Travis May
Image: Darryl Sawyer at Pixoto