Football and yoga, they go together just like beer and pretzels, right? Ask the Seattle Seahawks and they’ll tell you how their meditation and yoga practice will change the future of football. (Yep. You may need to go back and read that sentence over again.)
It may sound odd at first, but for the Seahawks it’s become just as normal in the sport as congratulatory butt slapping and end zone dances. If this ESPN Magazine article is right, Super Bowl yoga was just the beginning! Because more and more are people getting over the ridiculous stigma of yoga being “girly” and these people happen to be stereotypically macho dudes who are known to shout manly, motivational words and obscenities like it’s their job, ie. NFL coaches and players.
Seahawks’ head coach, Pete Carroll, is one of these people and he’s on a mission to bring a gentler and more conscious approach to the game of unnecessary roughness.
“I wanted to find out if we went to the NFL and really took care of guys, really cared about each and every individual, what would happen?” he told ESPN.
So Carroll brought in high-performance sports psychologist Mike Gervais who leads regular meditation sessions with the players, starting with 6 minutes for the newbs and leading longer and individualized sessions for the more seasoned meditators, like quarterback Russell Wilson who visits Gervais on a weekly basis.
“We do imagery work and talk about having that innovative mindset of being special,” Wilson says. “We talk about being in the moment and increasing chaos throughout practice, so when I go into the game, everything is relaxed.”
Offensive tackle Russell Okung waxes poetic on the importance of meditation and damn it if it isn’t the cutest thing:
“Meditation is as important as lifting weights and being out here on the field for practice,” Okung says. “It’s about quieting your mind and getting into certain states where everything outside of you doesn’t matter in that moment. There are so many things telling you that you can’t do something, but you take those thoughts captive, take power over them and change them.”
Oh and get this, the team was so into the experimental and optional yoga program last year that they decided to make it a mandated part of the workouts from now on. The entire roster practices yoga.
On top of all this meditation and yoga, the positivity, compassion and consciousness extend into player relationships and camaraderie.
Intense offensive line drills end with combatants pulling each other up: “Stay positive,” players say to each other. “Put yourself into a mindset of greatness.”
And instead of lambasting players for screwing up, head coach Carroll and assistant head coach Tom Cable, previously known for his hotheadednss, check in with the players, and themselves.
“I always coached how my coaches coached me,” he [Cable] says. Working alongside Carroll, 48-year-old Cable says he finally feels as though he’s working with players the right way. “If I go ballistic on a guy because he dropped his outside hand or missed an underneath stunt, who is wrong? I am,” Cable says. “I’m attacking his self-confidence and he’s learning that if he screws up, he’s going to get yelled at. If you make a mistake here, it’s going to get fixed.”
Being mindful extends even further, from what they eat (the Seahawks’ chef cooks with fruits and vegetables from local organic farms) to how they help rookie players get into the groove and encourage all players to make use of the support staff as if they were a human resources department.
The Seahawks see this as just the beginning to an ultimate revamp of the entire football franchise to be more sensitive to the physical and mental well-being of everyone. Say what now? Novel and wonderful idea. Consider placing everyone in one of these bubble suits while you’re at it.
The image of yoga is often lamented for becoming commercialized and homogenized, only for the young, female and fit. But, when we hear things like this, a team essentially changing the face of football, we can only imagine it is will change the face of yoga in process.
Maybe more importantly, our touchdown yoga dance dreams may soon come true!
Now if only all the folks who watched football would join in. Then our dreams would really come true.