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Sunday, March 23, 2014
Athletes Using Meditation To Improve Performance
For 15 minutes a day, Tim Frazier, Penn State's senior point guard, finds a quiet place, switches on a podcast, and meditates. Along with his teammates, Frazier, the team's all-time leader in assists, has found that practicing mindfulness meditation - focusing on the breath with his eyes closed and becoming aware of his thoughts without judging them - has amped up his performance on the court.
"The game moves so fast, it's hard to focus on the here and now," said Frazier, who is pretty fleet of foot himself. "Meditation slows me down [mentally], keeps me more relaxed and more focused."
Mindfulness meditation has been shown to help manage anxiety, depression and pain, according to 47 studies analyzed in JAMA Internal Medicine. It also helps to reduce anxiety and stress in cancer patients, studies show.
But now elite athletes from Penn State's Frazier to the NFL champion Seattle Seahawks are using meditation and yoga to enhance performance and avoid destructive habits like dwelling on mistakes.
"Sometimes during the game, you focus on whether past plays were good or bad," Frazier said, "but meditation brings you back to the play at hand."
The meditation podcasts for his Penn State team are recorded by Cara Bradley, director of Verge Yoga Center and Verge Athlete in Wayne, to supplement her regular visits to Happy Valley. Bradley, a certified strength coach who also works as a mental strength coach, has taught meditation to the Villanova football team over 10 seasons, including the 2009 FCS National Championship team.
She said she can always tell if teams are unified mentally. The Seahawks used a sports psychologist to teach the team meditation, and they "were unstoppable" in the Super Bowl, she said. "They were so collective in their energy." (MORE)