I am rather rowdy for an Asian lady but I am a devout Buddhist. Buddhism saved my life during my life turmoil as a teenager. Also, I think Buddha is a great scientist and a self-experimenter, although he was definitely not the only person in his time and place to experiment with all kinds of odd things to achieve enlightenment.
Since I was around 9, I started practicing Vipassana (mindfulness) meditation at Ampawan temple. The whole experience will be described in a future post. Aside from the prayers and practicing the day-to-day mindfulness, I was taught how to do both walking, standing and sitting meditation. [Keep in mind that Buddhists do Vipassana meditation to achieve enlightenment or get over a suffering more so than to improve their quality of life, but the quality of life was a great side benefits.]
As it relates to fitness the most and perhaps the lessor known form of meditation in the west is the walking meditation.
The benefits of walking meditations as described by the Buddhist canon (in blue) and my personal experience (in brown) as it relates to fitness:
1. High endurance, enabling meditator to walk long distance
My endurance definitely improved from the first day of doing walking meditation. While I started it as a rather obese, inactive child, it made it much easier for me to start an exercise regime and stick with it. I maintained the endurance throughout the years.
Before I started weight training, I regularly engaged in and enjoyed endurance activities. I biked 70 km, ran 10k and swam 3k when I found the time to. This also allowed me to perform long weight training sessions (1 – 2 hours) involving mostly compound movements.
2. High tenacity, enabling meditator to perform with higher effort and for longer
Tenacity is my strength that has led me to accomplish a multitude of successes. I am neither exceptionally sharp nor genetically built to be successful. I work hard. I attack problems and I overcome obstacles, so I see results in my body transformation. It wasn’t always easy and there were stumbling blocks to achieving my goals.
(digression alert) Even in my research, I presented a dataset at a conference where 2 other groups came up to me and told me that they started the same thing and gave up. So, try walking meditation if you want to be successful.
3. Less chances of illnesses and faster healing
My eczema disappeared right around when I started it. It came back 10 years later but improve dramatically when I get more serious with meditation again. I also got less colds back then and now. (Frequent and lingering colds run in my family.)
And I heard a few stories of how cancer disappears in some cancer patients who were told they had only months to live. (But I heard too many of these now that I will believe like 50% of it. I’m glad the cancer patients survived, though.)
4. Better digestion
This is absolutely true for me. Buddhist monks and serious meditators practice intermittent fasting by stop eating from after 12 PM to after their morning prayers (8 AM). When I practiced this, my stomach didn’t always like breakfast that much. Going right back to walking meditation definitely helped, to a greater degree than a typical walks would.
5. Better concentration during the sitting phase of the meditation
Walking meditation improves mind-body awareness better than a sit-down form of meditation. For me, it was easier to concentrate on the movements than on breathing. My minds were less likely to wander. There is also this culture of quality over quality. The teachers say that real benefits: breakthroughs and enlightenments arise from walking as slowly as possible.
Having only reflected on this recently, I thought, perhaps meditation is the difference between I and some exercisers who have issues with motivation, endurance and consistency. Although in fitness, we train for strengths, flexibility and endurance, there are also other aspects that are not completely understood and hence not usually trained. Meditation seems to help with neurological, hormonal, emotional and psychological aspects of motivation and endurance. It clearly has contributed to my life successes and health. I will consider teaching this to my personal training clients to help them improve.
I am not qualified to teach meditations, yet. It’s not one of those things you can get a degree about or certified to teach. The people who practice take it seriously and only meditators who achieved major breakthroughs with it were allowed to teach at Ampawan temple. This VDO is a great resource where a qualified monk demonstrates how it’s done. That’s exactly how I was taught to do it. I will be happy to answer questions about this as much as I can, though.