There seem to be plenty of websites out there that tell you how the rhythmic activity of cycling is like meditating but here’s a different approach: meditation prior to cycling using a brain sensing headband.
A mental health website describes the bike as “a dream machine that blends meditation with movement; curiosity with velocity; mindfulness with mudguards. On a bicycle, you can achieve in a few weeks an art that Buddhist monks spend decades learning, and which the great Einstein encapsulated effortlessly: mindful living.”
In our research for this article we even found sites suggesting turning cycling into a meditation practice, beginning by being aware of your breathing while on the bike. The cynic in me thought immediately of when I’m labouring up a hill and puffing well! Then I remembered an election campaign years ago when a party which supported meditation were ridiculed for their practice and their “yogic flying” in particular, with claims that meditating would save the National Health Service millions. Then, just after the election, a Canadian report came out showing that patients who meditated needed far less recuperation time after surgery – potentially saving far more millions that had been claimed.
So I determined to be positive and try out meditating for the first time. If it turns out to be a way to help me get “into the zone” prior to a ride whether a local recreational bike ride or an audax.
What Comes with the Brain Sensing Headband?
There’s a USB lead but I was surprised to see no plug and then read in the accompanying leaflet that it is better to charge the brain sensing headband via USB, though most of us probably have plugs that will accommodate a USB lead. Obviously, the headband is included, as is a silky pouch to keep it in. If you have long hair and so need to keep it out of the way of the sensors that go behind the ears, there are even some branded hairbands.
Downloading the free software from Muse was straightforward, as was the installation and pairing of the Muse brain sensing headset via Bluetooth with my smartphone, though I don’t understand why the software needs to know my location. Setting up an account was also easy – I took the option to link to a Gmail account, rather than Facebook. Once again, a question on my part: why does the software need to know my year of birth? (I would not have been prepared to enter full date of birth.)
The tutorial instructions are reasonably clear, though a couple of times the final word(s) of a particular section were clipped losing part of the last syllable. The brain sensing headset also helps you ensure that you are wearing it optimally so it can pick up and monitor your brain.
I was soon into my first ever meditational experience, trying to focus my mind on my breathing and ignore extraneous sounds. The brain sensing headset aids you by playing weather noises if you are losing focus and birdsong if your various types of brain waves are focussed. First time around, I managed 5 minutes of calm in a 10-minute session.
The screen on the smartphone then shows your “performance” and the period when your brain was active elsewhere through to periods of calm and other pieces of information. There was then a challenge to do a set number of minutes of meditation in the first week – almost Strava like in its approach.
I had first thought that meditating prior to cycling would be like watching the pros warming up before a stage, pedaling away on the rollers, wearing earphones and listening to music, some of them with eyes closed. I now realise that using the Muse software and brain sensing headset was going to be different from that, helping me train my brain to relax and be calm.
Meditating has been demonstrated to improve your cycling (and your life) and it is, therefore, no surprise that many top athletes include meditation in their training ritual. It will be interesting to watch the results of the Muse program using the brain sensing headband over the coming days and see whether Strava picks up on any improvements in my cycling.
You can find out more about the brain sensing headband and interesting interpretation of the different types of brainwaves at the company’s website.
All in all, an interesting experience and an innovate hi-tech way into the age-old practice of meditation.