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Seattle Seahawks Changing Future of Football with Yoga and Meditation

in YD News, Yoga in Sports
Russell Wilson Credit: Photograph by Peter Yang

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson

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.




18 comments… add one
  • Jann McGinnis

    this truly inspires. thank you for the post…..

  • Carling

    Seattle is on the right track! The Seattle Sounders (the MLS soccer team here… er, uh, I mean, the other football team here) is also starting an Annual Yoga Night at the stadium, offering a free class to the players and all of the fans on the field before one of the games in October I think.

    It’s wonderful to see these different groups embracing the physical, and mental, benefits of the practice.

  • Hugh

    Love it!

  • Being physically fit is more than just lifting weights, it’s about being in tune with every aspect of your body. I think this is great and hopefully we’ll see the results in their performance.

  • It’s great to see that people are accepting that yoga is not just for girls. Go Seahawks!

    • I totally agree. Most guys think it’s easy and too girly. Many people don’t realize it’s a lot harder than it looks.

    • patrick

      seriously? yoga has been around for thousands of years. like yoga appeared for girls in 2005. go to india and say “great to see people are accepting yoga is not just for girls”. they would laugh you all the way back to your plane.

  • It is very inspiring to see the Seahawks seeking enlightenment and physical (and mental) well-being for their players. Makes you wonder if their success last season can be attributed to yogic practice…

  • I was one of those macho body builder type guys who thought yoga was junk and for girls. I now do it everyday and even teach it. One of the most important things that I do for me throughout the day

  • It’s great when a high profile sports team embraces yoga as a regular practice. We’ve had a similar result with a soccer team here in the UK. They were a little skeptical at the start, but they’ve now welcomed it with open arms and are experiencing the benefits too.

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  • lalayoga

    Then wtf happened to Richard Sherman?…. He obviously missed a few sessions…

    • Tony

      Leave Richard Sherman alone. You people are so quick to judge. You yourself are probably in need of some yoga.

  • If only every yoga practice were as well considered and executed as the Seahawks program seems to be. It ain’t. Here in sparsely populated Nevada County CA we have about 50 distinctly different yoga classes. Each with very different methods that produce very different results, some very healthful, some the opposite. This situation is the truth about yoga everywhere. Therefore it is very rare that a meaningful, general statement can be made about the possible benefits of Yoga. The large amounts or money, prestige, and talent circulating in the NFL culture have in this case shown us the best of yoga, not the typical. The useful message here is about the skill of Mike Gervais in creating a positive outcome for the Seahawks. While we are looking at the Seahawks through a yoga lens, let us also look at all the other things the Seahawks have done, and not done, to win the Superbowl: http://www.seahawks.com/videos-photos/videos/Seahawks-Daily—FMS/e78d4eea-33c4-48f2-a507-ceca68b71a9b
    The Indianapolis Colts also use the FMS as an integral part of their strength & conditioning.

    • Jenn

      How strange to be living in Seattle and reading a lovely post about our awesome Seahawks and yoga and to hear someone talking about my hometown of Nevada City/Grass Valley! What a weirdly wonderfully connected world this is.

  • Dan

    It would be great if they released a video of this

  • jbd

    Fascinating, considering how Seattle stands out in the NFL as being particularly vicious and physically aggressive as a team. The bullied Denver all over the field on sunday – they were physically and mentally beaten down by halftime.

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