Our fitness editor and resident guru on all things Zen, Tina, shares her go-to meditation practice with us
As a coach, I like to focus on the mental as well as the physical. I try to bring mindfulness into my sessions. We do warmups, drills, intervals, but I also try to get us all to slow down in between. To focus on the breath, to bring in a body scan, to be mindful of the surroundings we train in, to be grateful for the session, however we felt doing it.
I know many of the runners I work with rely on running for good mental health: it gives them a break from being a parent, helps bring perspective into our busy and demanding lives, helps them reset, helps them forget.
Without running together, many of us feel lost.
If you can’t manage a run right now then that’s okay. But focussing on your mind could have a similarly beneficial impact on your wellbeing.
Give it a try with this meditation practice. It won’t take long, but it’s valuable time for yourself that you’re likely in need of right now.
Meditation practice for runners
Take a seat: Sit comfortably so your back is straight. Use pillows or cushions to prop up your back if you need to. More flexible people may find it comfortable to sit in the half Lotus position (Hankafuza) or the full Lotus position (kekkafuza). The half Lotus is placing the left foot on to the right thigh and tucking the right leg under your left thigh. The full Lotus is done by placing each foot on to the opposite thigh. Only attempt these if they are pain free. Make sure there is no strain on your neck and that your head is held in a natural position; imagine a straight line running up your spine and through the top of your head. Attach an imaginary helium balloon to the top of your head to continue the alignment of spine and neck.
Relax your head and neck: Relax all the tiny muscles in your neck, jaw and face. Allow your tongue to relax in your mouth, and let go of any tension in the muscles of your forehead, around your eyes, your mouth and your jaw.
Focus on your breathing: Breathe through your nose to create a cooling and warming sensation as you breathe in and out, and to help you create a gentle rhythm. Place all of your focus on your breath. Concentrate on every inhalation and exhalation. Feel the air travelling in through your nose and into your lungs before it leaves your body again. Focus on the sound of your breathing. Strive to put your full awareness on your breathing as you begin to meditate.
(If you struggle to focus on your breath, don’t be disillusioned, as meditation, like all things, takes practice. Start with a two minute practice, and as you find it easier to focus on your breath, and quieten your mind, you can try to meditate for longer.)
Clear your mind: You are also aiming to quieten your mind. So every time a thought pops into your mind, imagine letting it go and it floating away like a cloud on a breeze. Put your focus back on your breath. If another thought bubbles up, repeat this practice of imagining the thought drifting away and return your focus on to your breath.
Rid yourself of distractions: Try to shut your eyes, or if you prefer them to be open, focus on one spot in your room. If your eyes start to wander around the room, close them and refocus on your breath. Every time your mind begins to wander, redirect it to focusing on your breathing. Imagine your lungs are a radio that you are trying to tune in to, and keep focusing on the in and out of your breath. It may help to count your breaths.
Start off gradually, with just a few minutes of meditation, then slowly increase the time as you become more adept at focussing on your breath and quietening your mind. You are not trying to achieve perfection! It doesn’t matter how long you can meditate when you first start, as it will eventually become easier.
A five to ten minute meditation is sufficient, though as with many health and wellbeing practices, the longer you can meditate, the more benefit you will receive. Short, regular meditation is more useful than trying to do a long session and, as a result, giving up as it feels like a burden. Once a day is the goal to strive towards. Remember: your mind will wander – this is normal – but you will become more expert at noticing this and regaining your focus.