By Mallika Chopra
Wellness is a popular trend these days. From bootcamps, to botox, to gluten-free diets — there is no shortage of methods and techniques promising to change your body and fix your life. But we, as a society, often forget that wellness is not just about physical prowess. How far you can run, how fast you can swim, how heavy a weight you can lift – these kinds of measures sometimes suggest that wellness always comes with a six-pack and perfectly sculpted calves.
No doubt, physical fitness is important – especially the strength, balance, and confidence that becomes so important for quality and longevity of life. But let’s not forget the emotional and mental aspects of wellness.
Olympic athletes like cross-country skier Chandra Crawford, alpine skier Emily Brydon and freestyle skier Shannon Deanne Bahrke have spoken about how yoga, mindfulness, meditation and breathing has helped them deal with the pressure of competitive sports, as well as giving them the mental clarity and space to perform better.
Body and mind are intricately interdependent, and in my experience, fitness and healthy lifestyle habits are made infinitely more successful when coupled with a clear and centered mind.
This is where meditation comes in.
I began meditation at 9 years old. Meditation was a powerful tool my family and I shared to cultivate mindfulness and clarity — because nurturing a balanced, healthy home was something we all cared about. I didn’t know how the practice might benefit my life in the long-run, but all that mattered was how it made me feel in the present moment. In my teenage and adult years, the practice of meditation stayed with me as a lifestyle technique I could use in countless situations. The mental strength gained through meditation, which I have the benefit of nearly a lifetime in practicing, gives me that extra edge to stay centered and persevere through even the hardest of “workouts,” whatever shapes they might take.
Many recent studies illustrate meditation’s benefits. A study from researchers in Brazil showed that meditation increases people’s mental focus. Researchers in India have found that meditation (and yoga!) can improve stamina, cardiorespiratory performance, and even increase the body’s secretion of melatonin, which is important in sleep regulation. Finally, another study by researchers at the University of Oregon demonstrated that mindfulness meditation training can even lead to white matter growth in the brain. While these studies are only preliminary, they do suggest that meditation could provide benefits for athletes in their training. And for the rest of us, meditation is a powerful tool for helping us achieve our fitness intents.
My father, Deepak Chopra, is a great example of someone who has been meditating for many years and has maintained excellent health into his 60′s. Through my own meditation practice, I have gained more awareness of my body, and the ability to listen to what I need to feel healthier, more energetic and more balanced.
My intent is to continue meditating for my own mental, physical, and spiritual health, and to encourage others to incorporate meditation into their every day routines. And, I’d love to hear from you if meditation affects your exercise experience, in particular.
If you would like to learn the basics of meditation and live in New York, I’d like to invite you to join me for a very special evening of mindfulness and meditation in partnership with Sports Club/LA and Reebok Sports Club/NY.
On Thursday, June 20th, I’ll be teaching a short meditation, followed by a reception with refreshments and live entertainment at the Reebok Sports Club/NY, from 6:30pm to 9:30pm. We’ll cover strategies for quieting your mind and incorporating meditation into your life, as well as the vast health benefits of its practice. More information here.
Sports Club/LA has been recognized as an urban lifestyle brand that serves as the ultimate health and wellness destination. Visit a Sports Club/LA location in Boston, Chestnut Hill, Miami, San Francisco, Washington D.C., and New York Upper East Side as well as their sister club, Reebok Sports Club/NY. For more information visit www.SportsClubLA.com.