Meditation and stretching are two great tools that can improve our well-being, both mentally and physically. But which should you do first: the stretching or the meditating? Well, it just depends.
Whether you should meditate or stretch first depends on your primary goal. If your main target is stretching as part of an exercise routine, then you may want to meditate first to put yourself in the best mind frame to reach your fitness goals. If your objective is to be able to meditate for longer periods of time more comfortably, then stretching first may help you achieve your greatest focus.
There is no right or wrong way to embark on your health journey. But to get the most out of your routine, read on to see when it would be best to meditate first, stretch first, or even combine the two.
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When You Should Meditate First
If your focus is the actual stretching or physical exercise, then meditating first can be a great way to gain focus, reduce pain, and combat stress and anxiety. Meditating after a workout can also provide great physical benefits.
Meditation is a body and mind practice with a long history of use. It helps
- Increase calm and physical relaxation
- Improve psychological balance
- Cope with illness
- And enhance overall health and well-being
See also: 5 Easy Ways to Help You Meditate If Your Nose Is Blocked
Meditating First As A Way To Gain Focus
If you are focusing on stretching as a means of improving your physical health or using stretching to transition into a more intense exercise routine, then you can meditate first to center your mind and help you gain focus, improving your performance.
If stretching itself is your focus, perhaps as a way to improve your flexibility, meditating first can also be helpful as it can help you relax and stretch your muscles.
Meditating First As A Way To Reduce Pain
Meditation before more strenuous exercise can also be beneficial, as research shows that meditation can help control pain.
While exercise should not be excruciatingly painful, for those who are beginners, exercise can be uncomfortable or even painful at times. And for extreme athletes who are doing more advanced workouts, pain may be a definite part of their routine.
Meditation may help reduce the perception of pain in the brain allowing them to push themselves to complete difficult routines.
Meditating First As A Way To Combat Stress and Anxiety
For many, the idea of exercise and working out may come with painful associations. For some, low self-esteem may lead to anxiety at gyms; for others, past failed attempts at getting healthy and a life-long struggle with weight may cause stress at the idea of exercising.
For those who may not have a great relationship with exercise, the stress-reducing and anxiety-reducing benefits of meditation may be helpful to put the person in a better frame of mind to attempt working out.
See also: 6 Things To Avoid Doing Before Yoga Practice
Meditating After A Workout
For those who have more of a physical goal and meditate first to do their best throughout the workout, meditating again at the end of the routine can also be beneficial. This may help you to reduce stiffness and recover more quickly from your workout.
When You Should Stretch First
If you are more concerned with the act of meditating, then you can stretch first to increase the effectiveness of your meditation sessions.
Stretching First As A Way To Prepare Physically
While we may picture a serene yogi sitting in the lotus position when hearing the word meditation, this is not the only way to meditate. In fact, there is no one right way to engage in meditation. You may choose to sit on the floor, on a cushion, on a chair, or even lie down.
No matter what position you decide to take, the goal is to stay in this one position for an extended period of time. A well-stretched body will be more able to adjust comfortably to the pose that you chose so that uncomfortableness will not be something to detract from your meditation.
Stretching also improves your posture and alignment, allowing you to not only be more comfortable in your meditation pose but also to improve your breathing.
While a beginner may start with just a few minutes of meditation at a time, by stretching first and getting your body physically prepared, you will hopefully be able to extend your session soon.
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Stretching First As A Way to Prepare Mentally
Stretching can also prepare you to meditate mentally. It can help you to focus on your body, sharpening your concentration and awareness of yourself.
If you do mindful stretching, you can use your stretching routine as a time to try to forget about daily distractions and instead focus on your mind and body.
Effective Stretches To Do Before Meditating
Before meditating, consider developing a full-body stretching routine to get your mind and body ready. You may want to include neck rolls and shoulder lifts as we usually hold lots of tension in our neck and shoulders, which can cause us to become uncomfortable if we maintain a static position. You should also focus on strengthening your core muscles to lower the risk of injuring yourself.
If you do prefer to meditate while sitting on the floor cross-legged, there are some specific stretches you can do to make this pose more comfortable:
- Butterfly stretch: Sitting on the floor, press the soles of your feet together and straighten your spine, tucking your chin into your chest.
- Hip circles: Standing with your feet wider than your hips and hands on your waist, bend your knees slightly and circle your hips and needs in a figure eight shape.
- Yoga squat: Sit into a deep squat with your back straight and your feet flat on the ground, reach upward, and then bring your palms together, pressing your elbow into your inner thighs.
- Knee sit: Sitting with your knees bent and your legs folded under you, rest your buttocks on the heels of your feet.
See also: 27 Powerful Yoga Poses for Immune System
Stretching And Meditating In Tandem
For some, stretching and meditating at the same time may be the best way forward. Research shows that meditation can lengthen your attention span. In one study, those who listened to a meditation tape while completing an activity had improved attention and accuracy. Ideally, a person may be able to focus better on their stretching routine with the aid of meditation.
Another way to combine the effects of meditation and stretching is through mindful exercise or practicing mindfulness as you work on your fitness. One article lists five major components of mindful exercise:
- Intention– focus on your motivation for stretching.
- Breathing– pay attention to how you breathe, focusing on keeping your breathing steady.
- Timing– try to find a natural rhythm to your stretching for a graceful style
- Form– ensure that your form is perfect to get the most benefit out of your stretches
- Recovery– give attention to how your body and mind feel in between exercises and at the end of your workout
By becoming aware of your body as you stretch and exercise, you can increase the efficiency of your movements, gaining the most benefit from your routine.
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Whether you stretch first to improve your meditation session, meditate first to find greater focus in your physical workouts, or do both simultaneously through mindful stretching, you will surely reap the benefits of giving attention to your mental and physical well-being.