Both meditation and exercise are beneficial for your body, mind and spirit. A combination of these practices is important for living your healthiest life possible. By considering what you are hoping to achieve with these practices, you can decide what will be the best order for you.
When deciding which practice should be performed first, consider the effects of both. Meditation is a relaxing practice while exercise, especially cardio or aerobic exercise, has an opposite energizing effect. If you are going to be practicing these methods one after the other, think about which state of being you would like to be in when you are finished and consider concluding with that exercise. If you are exercising right before bed, you might want to conclude with meditation to help you unwind; an early morning routine begun with meditation and ended with physical exercise is good to get your day going.
The benefits of meditating before exercising include putting yourself in a clear head space, setting an intention and protecting yourself from injury. A 2003 article in “Psychology Today” explains that meditation actually moves your brain waves to a different area of your brain away from the fight-or-flight area of the cortex to the left frontal cortex, which creates a calmer state of mind. From a mental state of relaxation, you can focus on what you hope to accomplish from your exercise before you begin, so you set yourself up for a beneficial and safe practice.
Exercising first warms up your body and prepares you physically and energetically for sitting in meditation and allows you to blow off any built-up stress before trying to still your mind. MayoClinic.com points out that physical exercise improves your mood through the release of hormones that give you an overall good, relaxed feeling. Once your body has been warmed up and relaxed, you can then more easily find a relaxed, comfortable position to sit in to quiet your mind. You will more likely be able to sit for a longer time without needless shifting.
Experiment with doing either meditation or exercise first. Ultimately, the practice that should be performed first is whatever works best for you as an individual. Another strong contender for a routine would be to perform meditation before and after exercise. Even if you are working with a limited time frame, you can split up your meditation into two short practices. Before your physical exercise, take a few minutes to simply sit, watch the flow of your breath and center yourself. After your physical exercise, again return to a comfortable seated position, recenter yourself and set any intention you may have for the day ahead.
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