Spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy combined physical fitness and sport with spirituality in a way that has resonated with athletes since the 1970s.

“Running helps us considerably,” he pointed out. “Running is continuous motion. Because of our running, we feel that there is a goal – not only an outer goal but also an inner goal.”

But Sri Chinmoy saw another purpose for sport – whether running, weightlifting or swimming.

“If we neglect the physical and let the body become weak, then the mind also becomes weak.”

Sri Chinmoy also taught how meditation could be a help to all aspiring runners – but his philosophy applied equally to any other sporting activity.

“Before running…meditation is good to make the mind calm and quiet, so that wrong forces do not enter. When you meditate, your mind acquires some poise. Then, while you are running, if you can bring forward poise, it will help you overcome the mental frustration that often comes while running long distances.”

Sri Chinmoy was a sprinter in his youth and later became a long-distance runner, and many of his students were long-distance runners who embraced marathons and ultra-marathons, but his teachings brought enlightenment to even the fastest runners, who only ran 100 meters at a time!

Sri Chinmoy met and became sprinter Carl Lewis’ spiritual teacher in 1983. In 1984, after Lewis won a gold medal for the 100-meter dash at the 1984 Olympics, he turned and bowed to Sri Chinmoy who was in attendance.

Lewis shared how meditation helped him, in the book Sport and Meditation:

“The person would say, “Come to your mark, and I would get down to my mark and then I would clear my mind…just go quiet and try to listen for the farthest sound away from me. I had generally the fastest time of any of the athletes because I would clear my mind and listen for the gun. Just having my peace, where it all stops, and you’re just aware of where you need to be. I think there’s a source of strength in that silence because the 100 meters is the ultimate dichotomy – it’s total relaxation and explosion.”

Bodybuilder Bill Pearl, who won five Mr. Universe titles, was also a student of Sri Chinmoy. Pearl would compare many of Sri Chinmoy’s weight-lifting demonstrations (as part of his “Lifting up the World with a Oneness Heart), “He is not merely lifting a dumbbell. He is trying to lift the attitude of the world. He is showing us that mind can surpass matter, that when we reach for the highest through meditation, we can succeed in anything.”

Sri Chinmoy’s inspiration to athletes around the world continues to this day. The Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team sponsors several long-distance races, each of which brings in athletes who wish to transcend themselves on their journey toward the finish line.