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How Kundalini yoga can benefit triathletes

Kundalini yoga instructor Janelle Morrison explains how deep breathing practice and learning to be present and still can help in stressful training and racing situations.

What is Kundalini yoga and how can triathletes improve their athletic performances by incorporating it into their training and daily life? We asked Kundalini instructor, mind, body and spirit coach and former pro triathlete Janelle Morrison this question.

“Kundalini Yoga is a deep practice where you are connecting your human finite experience to the infinite,” Morrison explains. “It involves postures, breath, visualizing, sound, chanting and meditation. Just like every yoga class, its intention is to connect spirit, mind and body. Kundalini Yoga takes this intention to a deeper level.”

Morrison discovered Kundalini yoga after her career as a pro triathlete. She came to appreciate the deep level of calmness and stillness she could achieve from learning how to breathe properly and focusing on being present. Kundalini helps to still the nervous system, and Morrison feels that for high-strung, high-achieving triathletes always on the go, this is hugely beneficial.

Kundalini classes are structured into three parts — Kriya (postures and movement), deep relaxation and meditation/Pranayama (breath work). While triathletes will appreciate the physical aspect of the practice, Morisson feels they’ll particularly benefit from the meditation and breath work aspect. This is what helps them to slow down, be present, and learn to breathe deeply.

“How many challenges can be overcome in a race/training situation by being present, deliberate and grounded in the experience?” Morrison asks. “Think about times when you’re on auto-pilot and totally not present. It’s not a very productive or performance-enhancing space to come from.”

You can try Kundalini practices at home and in training. Morrison recommends alternate nostril breathing performed from the belly, as deeply as possible:

  • Practice right nostril breathing to gain clarity and energy. Morrison explains, “Do this to wake yourself up before a workout or after getting out of bed in the morning.”
  • Practice left nostril breathing for calming and relaxation — “great to do before bed to bring forward a good night’s sleep”
  • Practice alternate nostril breathing for balance and grounding the mind

Morrison says these practices can help in stressful race situations, such as changing a flat mid-race or overcoming panic on the swim.

She recommends making time for this everyday, to build a habit.

“Habits take time to develop. A 40-day meditation is incredibly useful — this is where you practice meditation (even just 3 minutes a day) for 40 days,” she recommends. “If you miss a day you start over. Not only is this a practice of commitment, it teaches as you move through life’s highs and lows of 40 days.”