Within your life how often do you find time to relax and reflect? In today’s society we often lead lives where we are working at 100mph and we take very little time to focus on ourselves. Over the last 30 years in applied sport psychology there has been an increased interest in what techniques will help athletes to optimise their mental performance (Baltzell & Akhtar, 2012)
In Latin the word meditation (meditari) means to contemplate or reflect (Hussain & Bhutan, 2010). When we think of the word meditation we automatically think of the words relaxation, tranquility, quietness and deep breathing. Meditation has shown to have a number of benefits to performers including positive neurological, physiological, psychological, health and sport outcomes (Edwards, 2012). Linked closely to meditation is mindfulness. Mindfulness is defined as “an open-hearted, moment-to-moment non-judgmental awareness” (Kabat-Zinn, 2005, p. 24). Mindfulness focuses on high levels of awareness. Often it can be hard to stay in the present moment and people usually tend to think and act automatically. Mindfulness helps people to focus on internal and external information that is occurring which can help people to experience a changed relationship to habitual responses (Baltzell & Akhtar, 2012).
Breath Based Meditation
Breathing is a very powerful tool which is used by a number of elite athletes. One example is Cristiano Ronaldo. Before Ronaldo takes a free kick you will always see him taking one deep breath. This deep breath is helping Ronaldo to focus and be in the zone. It allows Ronaldo to relax before taking the free kick. You might be thinking how can one deep breath help his performance? Breathing is a technique that athletes could practice for weeks or even months. In performance athletes won’t have 15 or 20 minutes to use breathing techniques and therefore they need to employ quick breathing techniques to help them relax in specific scenarios. Breath based mediation focuses on people engaging in a period of controlled breathing whilst directing awareness to bodily sensations (movement of the diaphragm, air flow in and out of lungs) (Buncombe et al., p. 16). Within sport, breathing has been used to help control arousal and anxiety. Evidence has shown that a decreased breath ratio of five to seven breaths per minute is associated with enhanced autonomic nervous system balance and heart brain concordance (Yasuma & Hayano, 2004).
Ratio Breathing (RB)
Ratio breathing is focused around regulating breathing. For example people would breath in for 3 heart beats and then breath out which would last 7 heart beats. This would mean that people would be having around 6 breaths a minute. For this type of breathing to work effectively a person must focus and attend to the rhythm of their heart beat and breathing (Baltzell & Akhtar, 2012). Research has shown that ratio breathing can lead to higher states of consciousness (Breslin & Lewis, 2008).
Next time you take a moment to train your body or go to the gym, why don’t you start to think about taking a moment to relax, meditate and breath.