Meditation Benefits for Bodybuilders

Early in life as children, we are conditioned to cease being “human beings” to become “human doings,” so we can be productive members of a capitalistic society (another discussion for another website).

A primary feature of meditation is to re-condition ourselves to a state of be-ing again—being fully enveloped and permeated by the present moment.

What does that have to do with vegetarian bodybuilding?

Well before the UW-Madison study was conducted, other mindfulness-based trainings have shown positive effects on inflammatory disorders, which can be common among athletes and bodybuilders.

In fact, the American Heart Association has made public statements linking meditation to the prevention and intervention of inflammatory conditions, heart disease, and stroke.

chris-willitts-meditating-vegetarian-bodybuilderThis recent study also showed that meditation correlated with faster physical recovery after stressful situations. Bodybuilders and athletes performing in any sport can benefit from quicker recovery times after moderate to extreme exertion.

As sports meditation coach George Mumford explained, “When we are in the moment and absorbed with the activity, we play our best.

That happens once in a while, but it happens more often if we learn how to be more mindful.”

Additional reasons you should make time to mediate on a regular basis:

  • Better focus while training in the gym, which leads to higher intensity
  • Ability to cope with physical pain
  • Helps stabilize emotional and hormonal imbalances
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Deeper sleep leads to faster, more complete recovery

Mindfulness Meditation Creates Positive Molecular Changes and Leads to Faster Physical Recovery

A recent study by researchers in Wisconsin, France, and Spain proved that mindfulness meditation creates positive molecular changes in the human body. The results of the study, which was published in the “Psychoneuroendocrinology” medical journal, investigated the effects of intense mindfulness practice with a group of experienced meditators and a group of untrained control subjects.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that shows rapid alterations in gene expression within subjects associated with mindfulness meditation practice,” commented study author Richard J. Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds and the William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

After eight hours of mindfulness practice, the experienced meditators exhibited a range of molecular and genetic differences, including positively altered levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes.

Interestingly, this correlated with faster physical recovery from stressful situations.

Even though the subjects who were inexperienced in meditation engaged in quiet and peaceful activities for those eight hours, they experienced no genetic changes whatsoever.

Therefore, Davidson and his fellow researchers concluded that mindfulness practice can lead to positive epigenetic alterations of the genome. “Our genes are quite dynamic in their expression and these results suggest that the calmness of our mind can actually have a potential influence on their expression,” Davidson said.

Not Just for Skinny New Agers

Mindfulness meditation isn’t one of those hippie fads where you sit cross-legged in an incense-filled room, chanting mantras in a foreign language. In actuality, mindfulness meditation is the practice of focusing your mind on the present, while being fully aware of your thoughts and without judging yourself.

Being mindful means making a conscious effort to pay attention to your inner self and notice where you are right now, rather than fixating on the past or worrying about the future.

When practiced over time, this practice transcends thinking and activates our consciousness to “see above the clouds.” Knowing that you’re eating is not the same as mindfully eating.

Being aware that you’re working out is not the same as mindful strength training. Once you can incorporate mindfulness into your bodybuilding and/or fitness routine, you will see more purpose in your actions and more passion in your goals.

Applying Meditation to Your Own Life

First, let me say that here in the West, we have developed a culture around meditation and yoga practices that suggests that they are effeminate (unmanly). The reality is meditation and yoga was originally created by men, for men in ancient India (where vegetarians thrive) around 1500 BCE.

According to the team’s Dr. Bruce Lipton, your genes’ activity can change on a daily basis, and you can actually alter their activity by simply changing your perception.

As Dr. Lipton explained, “Your mind will adjust the body’s biology and behavior to fit with your beliefs. If you’ve been told you’ll die in six months and your mind believes it, you most likely will die in six months. That’s called the nocebo effect, the result of a negative thought, which is the opposite of the placebo effect, where healing is mediated by a positive thought.”

Tips for Starting a Meditation Practice:

  • Guided meditation is a great way to get started because it verbally walks you through what to do.
  • Try not to be hard on yourself when your mind starts to race with thoughts or wander off.
  • Don’t judge or expect an experience. Just be…and allow (even if it’s your mind racing).
  • Focus on your breath, it has a calming effect.
  • Try listening to relaxing music or nature sounds to quiet your mind.
  • Don’t ignore or suppress thoughts as they arise; simply be aware of them and let them pass like clouds through your mind.