Meditation is a word that many people use as a catchall phrase for different cognitive relaxation techniques. Some people consider daydreaming a form of meditation. Others believe that being deep in thought is a way to meditate. While these two practices have value, the formal definition of meditation, is more complex. According to Yoga International, “meditation is a precise technique for resting the mind and attaining a state of consciousness that is totally different from the normal walking state. It is the means for fathoming all the levels of ourselves and finally experiencing the center of consciousness within.” Instead of consistently evaluating the external world around us, meditation requires introspective evaluation. This can be difficult to attain because we spend the majority of our lives forming relationships and interacting with others, as opposed to developing a better self-understanding. However, treating meditation as a science, with a prescribed process and consistent principles, makes reaching the end goal of introspection a bit simpler.
There are MANY resources on the Internet that provide different forms of meditation practice. Most of them have a focus on breath, concentration, and relaxation. Below is a basic meditation from breakingmuscle.com that is structured for people who are new to meditation. If needed, it may be helpful for a coach to guide an athlete through this meditation. This could simply entail the coach reading through the 8 steps below, and reinforcing them as needed.
1. Set a timer for 12 minutes and find a comfortable seated position. You may sit cross-legged on the ground if that is comfortable or you may sit in a chair. I recommend staying seated rather than lying down so you stay awake. 2. Close your eyes and allow the top and lower eyelids to meet in the center of the eyes. 3. With the eyes closed, listen to the sounds around you. Listen in all directions. Without pushing any sounds away let the sounds blend like a symphony. Do not become distracted by any one sound, rather listen to the sounds harmoniously together. Stay at this stage for a little while. 4. Feel the temperature on your skin. Feel your clothes on your skin. 5. If there are smells in the room or outside of the room experience those as well. You are exhausting the mind of the outside distractions so you can drop into a peaceful state. 6. Now experience the breath flowing in and out only through the nose. Feel the difference between the inhalation and the exhalation. 7. As you breathe in, mentally state to yourself, “I am breathing in.” As you breathe out, mentally state, “I am breathing out.” Continue this for rest of the meditation. 8. If the mind wanders bring it back to the mantra. “I am breathing in.” “I am breathing out.”
You may be wondering how meditation has anything to do with bowling. It seems impossible (and quite bizarre…) to find a time during a bowling game to meditate. However, meditation is not intended to be done during an event. Instead, it can be practiced whenever the athlete finds most suitable. In fact, recent studies have found that meditation is extremely beneficial to athletes for a variety of different reasons. The Huffington Post article, “10 Reasons Why Every Athlete in the World Should Meditate”, is included below. It includes studies and scholarly articles that provide scientific evidence for the benefits of meditation with sport.
Some tips to make your meditation more sport specific:
Visualize a specific technique you are working on
Incorporate a mental image of yourself performing a skill over and over again. Make sure that you are practicing perfect form in your visualization.
Focus on a goal
Whether it’s bowling a strike, or winning a medal, imagine yourself completing your goal. Use visualization to see yourself standing on the podium, and celebrating after a great throw.
Both visualization exercises are best at the end of your meditation, when you are relaxed and focused.