The Seattle Seahawks enjoyed their optional yoga program so much last year the staff decided this year it would be a mandatory part of training for all players.
Yoga and meditation are just a part of Coach Pete Carroll’s focus on the players’ mental health and overall happiness, reported ESPN the Magazine in a recent article. "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.
Carroll’s philosophy is to care for individual players, by offering yoga and meditation sessions, and emphasizing positive thinking, language, and actions. There’s even a whole staff designed to look after the players’ well being—including a life-skills consultant/addiction counselor. It's a different approach for the NFL, where coaches usually motivate their players by being tough on them.
The meditation aspect of the program is still optional, though 20 or so players have been showing up every week, including star quarterback Russell Wilson. "We do imagery work and talk about having that innovative mindset of being special," Wilson said. "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 agrees that meditation is an important part of training. "Meditation is as important as lifting weights and being out here on the field for practice," Okung said. "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."
It’s true that for now the team’s focus on taking care of players’ whole person—mind and body—is unusual, but if it proves successful, the Seahawks hope the rest of the NFL will adopt it, too.
It sounds like a winning strategy to us.