The Hows and Whys of Meditation for Runners
Arpan DeAngelo has been practicing meditation in the tradition of Sri Chinmoy since 1977. He’s also run more than 300 marathons and in 2004 he completed the Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race, logging nearly 60 miles a day for 52 days. On June 26, he led a meditation workshop at the NYRR RUNCENTER featuring the NB Run Hub, offering hands-on instruction in simple, powerful meditation techniques, visualizations, and breathing exercises.
Sri Chinmoy was an Indian spiritual leader who lived in New York City from 1964 until his death in 2007. He founded a meditation center that eventually had 7,000 students and he led the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team. He taught that meditation and running could work together to bring inner peace and happiness.
For DeAngelo, meditation serves to quiet the mind, which allows runners to focus and avoid distraction. “You need to silence the mind and let your emotions take a rest,” he told workshop attendees. He offered some simple strategies for doing that:
A little bit every day. Like running, meditation works best if it’s a regular practice. “Once a week won’t provide much benefit,” DeAngelo said. The good news is that sessions don’t have to be lengthy—try just 10 minutes, first thing in the morning or at the end of the day.
Get centered. Start by sitting up straight (a slouching posture saps energy) with your feet flat on the floor and your hands on your thighs or folded in your lap. Breathe deeply, but slowly and gently. If you feel distracted (and you probably will, at least at first), try closing your eyes halfway. You can also light a candle, play soft music, or chant a word quietly—try “peace” (“shanti” in Sanskrit).
Seek inner peace. As you breathe, feel and envision peace entering your heart and expanding to fill your body. You may continue to have distracting thoughts, but don’t fight them. “Just keep bringing your awareness back to your heart—your center—and let the peace there expand,” said DeAngelo. Your breathing and chanting can facilitate this.
Do it on the run. Regular meditation can help you feel calmer and more relaxed throughout the day, including during runs and races. “We all have peace within us,” said DeAngelo, “but as runners it can get blocked by a lot of things—pain, worries, tension.” Just as during a meditation session, breathe mindfully and focus on your heart (the anahata chakra) to bring a sense of calm and focus. DeAngelo finds this practice essential during ultradistance races. “The only way to run 60 miles a day is to disengage your mind from the outside world,” he said.
Share the love. Seek out other runners who meditate or are interested in trying it. “Through meditation you can access something very special inside yourself,” DeAngelo said. “When you find that peace and happiness within you, you can share it with others.”