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Does exercise help meditation

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Does exercise help meditation
Answer
4/20/15 10:57 PM
Exercise stimulates neurotrophic growth factors, makes brain cells grow.

http://www.brainhq.com/brain-resources/everyday-brain-fitness/physical-exercise

a) Does this help the brain adapt to the demands of meditation ?
b) Could not getting enough exercise hinder progress ?
c) Could too much sitting also hinder progress ?

RE: Does exercise help meditation
Answer
4/21/15 9:59 AM as a reply to Stick Man.
Depends on intensity of workout. I found it difficult to meditate right after hard training in gym. It's hard to meditate while your brain is in euphoria coused by endorphins.

RE: Does exercise help meditation
Answer
4/21/15 12:20 PM as a reply to Marek Mark.
Is it a euphoria similar to a concentration meditation one ?

RE: Does exercise help meditation
Answer
4/21/15 12:59 PM as a reply to Stick Man.
No. It's more like being drunk. Mind becomes less sharp and more contented. It's like natural anaesthesia which helps you overcome exhaustion.

RE: Does exercise help meditation
Answer
4/21/15 1:09 PM as a reply to Marek Mark.
I remember hearing* that regular exercise can be more beneficial to the health of the mind, specifically in healing from depression, than many prescribed medications. It's probably a combination of this sort of endorphin release, coupled with things like sense of purpose and the actual immediacy and pleasure of movement that helps the healing. I can't see how this would be different in helping meditation.

* Source: Daniel J. Siegel, MD in conversation with Jack Kornfield, Mindfulness and the Brain

RE: Does exercise help meditation
Answer
4/21/15 2:20 PM as a reply to Stick Man.
Walking meditation can be considered as exercise(meditation in general can be considered as exercising the mind/brain). So one of the reasons they switch between walking and sitting meditation on mahasi retreats is that there has to be a balance between energy and concentration.
So:
a) Does this help the brain adapt to the demands of meditation ?
Yes as long as the faculties are in balance. So if it helps to be alert then yes. If on the other hand when you do to much or intense exercise then you will be tired and less sharp during meditation.
b) Could not getting enough exercise hinder progress ?
Yes when there is no walking meditation(no exercise) then there is less energy and it is more difficult to balance the faculties energy and concentration
c) Could too much sitting also hinder progress ?
Yes when there is only sitting then there will probably arise drowsiness and so the faculties are not balanced.

RE: Does exercise help meditation
Answer
4/21/15 3:33 PM as a reply to John Power.
Hmm I don't really think this adresses the science of it, although I appreciate your speaking from experience of how retreats work in their own terms. Probably a question for a boffin like Willoughby Britton. That's a hard name to spell. At least it is if you live near Willerby in Britain.

RE: Does exercise help meditation
Answer
4/22/15 9:23 AM as a reply to Small Steps.
Well, evolutionarily we are supposed to have fantastic stamina for purposes of hunting (it's why we sweat whereas most animals pant, supposedly), and are built for long distance running.
I do wonder if the development of agricultural society, and the emergence of meditation as a practice are linked - that some of those early euphoric jhanas are simply a way to compensate the loss of regular intense exertion.
Certainly sports people report all sorts of altered states during intense activity.

So, is there any evidence that people with more rigourous lifestyles do better at meditation ?

For that matter has anyone ever made a comparison study on whether people with a simpler lifestyle, and less distraction, make quicker meditation progress than urban westerners ?

What happens when westerners go on a retreat somewhere rural or less sophisticated, do they find people are pretty much the same, or do the locals have an advantage ?

RE: Does exercise help meditation
Answer
4/22/15 12:45 PM as a reply to Stick Man.
Hard exercise gets me into a meditative state (though nearly any focused activity also does that to me). I think this is more of a product of having a daily meditation practice than anything else. I tend to note during kung fu class, which helps for doing the exercise correctly and is pretty decent vipassana. I view this as a variation on walking meditation. Also, when walking back home from class, I tend to just naturally get absorbed, without having to do any noting.

There are some mostly static postural exercises in most striking martial arts, like horse stance or standing post that are also qigong meditations. Doing standing post practice (or really any comfortable static posture for any length of time) gets me into a fairly absorbed meditative state despite the strain on my leg muscles and gives me pleasant vibratory flow sensations (what I think of as some of the qi sensations) to focus on. Some people do various breath meditations while doing these specialized exercises, though I avoid breath meditation.

Exercise can also help when you're too drowsy to meditate. A few push-ups before sitting later than usual tend to help keep me awake during the sit.

RE: Does exercise help meditation
Answer
4/22/15 12:43 PM as a reply to Marek Mark.
Marek Mark:
Depends on intensity of workout. I found it difficult to meditate right after hard training in gym. It's hard to meditate while your brain is in euphoria coused by endorphins.

States of euphoria make up some of the nicer and more productive parts of my vipassana practice. What kind of meditation do you do?

RE: Does exercise help meditation
Answer
4/23/15 4:04 AM as a reply to Stick Man.
I think that exercise generally helps. If you overdo it then perhaps you might be dull, endorphin-high, or tired, but in moderation I think it is a good idea, in addition to its general health benefits.

When on retreat Mahasi-style, I tend to walk at my normal pace of about 3 miles per hours, meaning that, if I do 7 hours of walking practice per day, I am walking about 21 miles per day. I think that helps to balance the energy out and keep your knees in good shape.

RE: Does exercise help meditation
Answer
4/23/15 10:25 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Knees are good, don't wear knees out.
Having a search on the topic, there's a bewildering array of research on the effects of exercies on brain function, neurogenesis, plasticity.

lazy wiki search -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurobiological_effects_of_physical_exercise

I notice that both meditation and exercise have been fingered as beneficial for depression and mood disorders, as much as pills.
From what I've seen it tends to be vigorous aerobic exercise that is most beneficial (dose-response relationship I think is the term), and walking has to be brisk, so how does a monastery type walk compare with a hard run round the grounds ?
Also I wonder how time spent in the dojo alters the experience of people mixing meditation and martial arts which are obviously vigourous. I used to go to karate classes run by a guy who started in 1946 and spent years in zen monasteries, and he seems pretty damned sharp. His knees are strapped though.

Also also, exercise is supposed to preserve brain function in ageing brains - memory etc.
Is it possible to mistake the effects of ageing - fewer thoughts, calmness etc, for progress in meditation ?
I mean, when you get to about 70, how do you know your calm mind and present awareness isn't simply down to vanished testosterone and degenerating memory ?

RE: Does exercise help meditation
Answer
4/23/15 10:54 AM as a reply to Jigme Sengye.
Thats's the sort of thing I'm thinking of Jigme. I think, anecdotally, concentration in exercise or sport works just the same as sitting and watching your breath. I just read In the Zone, by Michael Murphy, and he goes into quite a lot of examples of this. Certainly in something like free diving focus on breath and calm mind are crucial. Mountaineers have to forget everything except what is right in front of them, and seem to regularly report altered states.

He even makes a table comparing siddhis in sport with traditional siddhis, but I don't know if sliding through a defence is the same as a yogic invisibility power :-)

I know that meditation has benefits that cross over into off-cushion life, it being the real point of it, but wouldn't training to maintain focus during physical activity or in a competitive situation mean that you will be better prepared for maintaining a state of mind in a complex and fast moving environment such as many of us live in ?

I suppose many zen activities try and fulfill this purpose. Archery, martial arts, painting.

How about physics :-) ?

RE: Does exercise help meditation
Answer
4/23/15 2:15 PM as a reply to Stick Man.
It probably helps more if you are conscious about developing skills that will help your meditation, rather than expecting automatic benefits.
  • Develop self-discipline and follow through
  • Develop body awareness (especially yoga and weight training)
  • Practice doing the exercise without bodily tension (i.e. practice equanimity)
  • Patience, delayed gratification, steadiness
  • More energy & alertness
Since exercise is so physical & direct, it can help you get out of the world of abstraction and fantasy and into your experience. As someone who is still just trying to develop his concentration, I think it has helped me.

RE: Does exercise help meditation
Answer
4/23/15 2:25 PM as a reply to Paul Kinkade.
Totally. Pushing on a weight to failure pretty much pushes everything else out of the mind. Not that I do it very much :-)

Words from the guru on attaining the heavenly realms
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nZ1v96-veM