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Let’s talk about Yoga & Meditation

Yoga Pose
Health / Everything / Body / Mind / Soul / Yoga

Let’s talk about Yoga & Meditation

It’s time to start planning now for 2023! Get those goals ready. You have an increased desire to ride and train more than ever before. You’re using sports science to train as hard as you can and make use of every resource possible: a power meter, coach, analytics, exercise physiology, and more. This is awesome, but there are a lot of other endurance athletes out there that are training like this too.

How can you make sure you aren’t losing out on a competitive edge? The answer is by training the brain! There are many aspects to sports psychology, but I’m going to cover the basics of yoga & meditation when it comes to brain training. It’s most relevant in off-seasons because, just like building a big base over the winter and doing intervals throughout the year, training your brain takes time. You cannot simply flip a switch before a major competition in springtime. It is important to apply yourself, be disciplined, and work hard in order to be at your best. On a bike, you train to go faster and get stronger. Likewise, mental game training can take you to the next level of performance-just as it does on the bike.

Advantages of Yoga

Yoga provides physical and mental benefits. Not only does it help with recovery, but one-legged poses can also increase an athlete’s proprioception for better bike handling, among other things. Just like physical training, mental training is important for many athletes. Yoga can help with that and loads of other great things too:

Practicing Yoga regularly can help you warm up muscles, improve flexibility, and in turn, it will build strength and balance. Hanging out for just a few minutes in the warrior pose also builds strength. Even if it’s only for 20 seconds, it’s worth considering taking a break to do some stretches or gentle yoga poses during the work day to prevent stiff muscles from forming!

Yoga is great for the lower back.

Yoga is good when it comes to easing pain and improving mobility in people with lower back pain. Cat-Cow Pose is a fantastic starting point for this and we have this included in our beginner Yoga course. Let’s face it with work and training our lower backs could do with some mobility and strength work.

Yoga can ease arthritis symptoms.

Yoga is one way to help ease joint pain that stems from various conditions, like arthritis. Studies suggest yoga helps to maintain flexibility and range of motion in joints, which can improve overall health.

Heart health, yep it helps that too.

Yoga practice has been seen to improve many aspects of health, including heart health. Along with the pressure and weight it takes off you, yoga is also believed to have protective effects on the heart.

Yoga helps you sleep better.

I heard about this and was excited to try it! A friend told me about it: research shows that bedtime yoga can really help you get ready for sleep by relaxing your brain & spine, which are the two sleep-associated parts of the body.

Yoga helps to elevate your mood

Yoga is a great way to increase your energy levels, feel more alert & enthusiastic, and stop negative feelings. All you need to do is follow a routine of regular practice! If you jump on your mat, you may notice a wealth of benefits. Yoga boosts energy levels, promotes feelings of peace and well-being, and even alleviates stress.

Yoga helps you manage stress. 

Yoga is more than just a physical workout. It has benefits that extend to both your mental and physical well-being. In fact, it offers both relaxing and therapeutic qualities which can help promote weight loss, better sleep quality and mindful eating habits.

How to Get Started

We have a beginner Yoga course as part of the Achieve and Excel membership plans and all coached athletes have access to this platform as well so that they can add it into their training practice. What I have tried to do with Yoga is to make it into a ritual that you perform each morning and/or evening to establish it as a habit. Instead of forcing yourself to do 1 hour at the start, I believe it’s best to add on time or a pose incrementally to allow you to get used to this practice at your own pace.

Here are a few things that can aid you in getting started with Yoga practice:

KG Physio Yoga Mat – Non-Slip Yoga Mat with Yoga Mat Strap Included

IUGA Yoga Block Set of 2 (9″x6″x3″) with Metal D-Ring Yoga Strap

Meditation Works  

As with yoga, meditation is all about concentrating and focusing. The athlete draws on their skill of focus while they meditate during their yoga practice. Simply bring your attention back to your breathing and tension will start to drop away. Basically, it’s the act of simply sitting down, breathing, and being present in the moment with yourself

When you’re in the zone, time passes more slowly and all of your attention becomes focused on what’s happening. Physics calls this phenomenon inertia, but psychologists call it ‘flow’ – making things really fun is the key to achieving it.

You might also know flow as being “in the zone” and it may sound like a familiar feeling. Maybe you’ve achieved it in a race by thinking only about pushing yourself to the limit. Just think about breathing. We want to help you get the most out of your mountain biking and cycling experience. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, this practice of meditation will help no end for performance and mental well-being on and off the bike.

How to Get Started

One of the many benefits of Yoga as previously mentioned is the focus on deep breathing – which can help people to meditate. While this might sound easy, it is actually quite hard to achieve meditation by sitting in your bedroom thinking about breathing. You can find guided meditations that you can listen to during your bike rides, which will be much easier to follow along with in the beginning. As part of our Yoga course we have some of these meditations in video format that will be very useful for you. I will have a whole blog post on just one aspect of this as I feel it is so important for so many people.

Since looking into meditation and practicing myself I always mention it to all my clients as an addition to their training. It is something that I reach for when an athlete is struggling with a mental task or they have a problem in their personal life. Anyone or any athlete from Cat 5 to Tour De France rider, it doesn’t matter how great your body is. Your brain and mental toughness can determine who you will be and how you will perform.

Meditation Advantages

Reduces stress.

Stressed out? Try meditation! There are many different styles of meditation around, and they all make a huge difference in stress levels. A few minutes each day can be enough. Meditation has also been shown to reduce symptoms in people with stress-triggered illnesses such as Anxiety Disorder, Fibromyalgia, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Controls anxiety.

It’s been shown that meditation can reduce stress levels, which in turn reduces anxiety. Practicing meditation on a regular basis can help reduce stress and anxiety levels, improves stress reactivity and coping skills, and teaches the brain to be more resilient to stressful or negative situations.

Promotes emotional health.

Some forms of meditation lead to improvements in self-image and a more positive outlook on life. They may also decrease levels of inflammatory cytokines, which can contribute to depression.

Enhances self-awareness.

Some meditation techniques can help you discover more about yourself, which is not only a great way to grow into your best self but can also open doors for other positive changes in your life. A deep understanding of who you are and what you’re capable of will help pave the way for new possibilities.

Lengthens attention span.

Focused attention meditation is a way to work out your attention span, boosting it and its strength. Different kinds of meditation may help you with redirecting and maintaining attention. This is especially important in today’s society of social media and constant scrolling. This comes across in sports performance and especially for endurance sports as you have to concentrate for long periods of time.

Regularly practicing mindfulness and meditation may help maintain brain health – research has shown that there are many benefits to meditating, including a more focused, less cluttered, and clearer mind. And with the lack of these age-related issues, you’ll be able to lead a more healthy lifestyle.

It May help fight addictions.

Developing the mental discipline of meditation may help you break the dependencies which are often caused by a lack of self-control or awareness of what can be considered triggers to addictive behaviours. Meditation brings a huge number of benefits. One of the most important is that it can help you manage triggers for unhealthy impulses. This is good for recovering from addiction and helps you control other habits you might want to change.

Improves sleep.

Nearly half of the population will struggle with insomnia at some point. A variety of meditation techniques can help you relax and control runaway thoughts that can interfere with sleep. This can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and increase sleep quality. I must stress that doing some forms of meditation in the evening will not be beneficial for sleep so it’s important to know what kind is good for relaxing in the evening.

Helps control pain.

People’s perception of pain is tied to their mental state and can be exacerbated in stressful situations. What meditation can do is help you raise that pain threshold in the brain by taking control of those parts of the brain. We have seen the expert monks doing crazy feats of strength and endurance and overcoming what seems like insane pain at times.

Can decrease blood pressure.

Meditation can also help you maintain your physical health. Studies show that meditation lowers blood pressure over time, relieving stress on the body and thus the heart. This can improve cardiac function, providing a range of benefits.

Accessible anywhere.

People practice many different forms of meditation – there are a lot of free or cheap methods that don’t require specialized equipment or space. Practicing a few minutes per day is all it would take to master such a technique. You can start practicing meditation using different styles and explore the many guided exercises available to find the one that suits you best.

The bottom line

Want to stay mentally & emotionally healthy? Don’t forget about the importance of meditation. It can be done anywhere and anytime, with no special equipment required. There are also numerous meditation classes & support groups to attend that can fit any schedule.

There are a number of different styles of yoga & meditation, each with its own specific goal. Improving your quality of life and sports performance may only take just a few minutes per day,

So integrate both meditation and yoga into your training practice today!

Coach McKinney

P.S. I have included some more in-depth yoga and meditation links so you can cut your teeth and learn some more.

https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/

https://www.yogajournal.com/meditation/science-of-meditation/

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