Running Meditation

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When asked when I started meditating, I always refer to when I began running about 12 years ago. With each run, I felt recharged, balanced, and ready to face whatever came my way. At the time, I had no idea what meditation was, but I knew running felt really good for many reasons. I considered it my therapy.  

I got addicted quite quickly, and with this addiction came many injuries. I pushed myself beyond limits, and did not think I could have a sane life without running. Injury after injury, I eventually accepted that I had to let it go, and perhaps there was something else waiting for me. 

The Catalyst for Self-Exploration

 Looking back today, running was the catalyst to my sacred journey of self-exploration. What do meditation and running have in common?

  1. One is physical
  2. The other is sedentary
  3. Both require patience, determination, consistency, and practice 

The Benefits of Running and Meditation

The other thing that running and meditation have in common is that they both offer a host of physical and psychological benefits. Here are a few more positives that running and meditation have in common:

  1. Both produce the feel-good chemicals or endorphins
  2. A tranquil mind usually follows each run or meditation because we are nourished from within
  3. Irritation, fear, and stress are often purified after a run or meditation
  4. Self- confidence to overcome limitations and break down barriers are often gained from both activities
  5. Present moment awareness is promoted, which allows us to be more conscious of what nourishes us and let go of what does not serve us
  6. Both practices can teach us to let go of thoughts so we avoid drama
  7. Scientific studies have researched and proven the physical and psychological benefits of both practices

With running, we call it being in the zone; with meditation it is the gap. In both, it’s that place where we are flowing through our experience. Our mind is calm, our body is relaxed, and our breath is effortless. We connect to the space between our thoughts, the space where every thought arises. It is a space of pure potential that we bring back with us after our run and meditation.

Our meditation practice is an extension of who we are. My favorite routine is to put some music on, run to the park, connect with nature, meditate, and run back home. There is a sense of confidence coupled with clarity and peace that allows me to face life with faith, optimism, and passion.

Psychology Today notes that running is one of the oldest forms of exercise, and in addition to the many physical health benefits of running, it can also help clear and center the mind in a pretty profound way. So if you’re a runner, and you’re also looking to deepen your meditation practice — or maybe you’d prefer to adapt your current practice to a movement-based one — check out these meditations you can do during a run.

1. Repeat Mantras & Affirmations

Mind Body Green reports that the health benefits of running combined with meditation are profound; both practices can boost your mood and help bust up daily stress, and by repeating a mantra or affirmation as you run, you can amplify your mental clarity even more. Runner’s World reports that runner’s mantras are an excellent way to up endurance during challenging treks and marathons, and by focusing your mind in an intentional way as you run, you are engaging in a powerful total body meditation practice. You can check out some ideas for mantras and affirmations here.

2. Acknowledge Discomfort, & Breathe Into It

Meditation practice pivots on being present with what is in each moment — no matter how uncomfortable a given moment may be. By breathing into any physical or emotional discomfort we might be feeling, we can help ourselves move through challenging experiences in a mindful way. According to Headspace, running provides an ideal opportunity to be with what is; if fatigue or discomfort hit during your run, just notice that they’re there, focus your attention on the sensations you’re feeling, and breathe with focused intent. If you need to adjust or take action — like the discomfort means you need to stop or rethink your pace — definitely do that. But by noticing what is, and breathing into that experience, you can either move past the discomfort or make appropriate adjustments as needed.

3. Count Your Footfalls

Counting your footfalls as you go is one of the simplest and most effective ways to meditate while running. Yoga teacher Sarajean Rudman told Runner’s World that it’s helpful to “Head out with a number in mind … For example, count every step up to eight, and then count back down.” Rudman also suggested that “As thoughts start to creep in, notice them and return to your counting.” Rudman recommended using your footfall counts as a way to center and clear your mental stream — when your thoughts wander, notice that, and then return your attention to your counting. “Keep coming back to right now,” Rudman said.

4. Note Everything You See & Name It

Rudman further told Runner’s World that another simple way to create a meditative state while running is to note your surroundings and name what you see — and you can also use sound for this exercise. “As you run,” Rudman said, “begin listing either everything you see or everything you hear as a way to calm what yogis call ‘monkey mind’ and enter into the moment you are actually experiencing.”

5. Anchor Your Attention On Your Breath

Meditation teacher Light Watkins told Mind Body Green that one of the simplest ways to meditate while running is to focus your attention on your breath. “One way to overcome an unfocused mind while running is to tune into the breath as an anchor,” Watkins said. “For instance, breathe in for two paces, and out for two.” Watkins further noted that by keeping your attention on your breath as you run, you can, over time and with practice, achieve a flow state. According to Zen Habits, a flow state occurs when our brain is quiet, and we are fully and completely immersed in what we are doing — and running provides an ideal platform for increasing this capacity over time. And whenever your thoughts start to wander, as they probably will, simply notice that in a relaxed way, and bring your attention back to your breath.

Whether you’re prepping for a marathon, or simply want to experiment with different forms of meditation, running is a powerful way to up your mindfulness training while taking care of your body, too. And with a little practice and consistent effort over time, you’ll find your meditative experiences deepening with every run you take.

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