What do the world’s best athletes and transcendental meditation practitioners of seven years or more have in common? They both exhibit higher levels of brain integration. What does this mean, exactly? Well, it underscores the connection between mind and body, suggesting that higher psycho-physiological development directly correlates with higher performance. Add that to the fact that meditation can help the brain handle pain, enhances your focus and can strengthen your immune system and you have the makings of one mentally and physically tough person – or world-class athlete. It’s no surprise, then, that some of the world’s top athletes and sports teams integrate meditation into their daily workout routines. Ahead, we’re sharing some of them.
Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan
It’s no coincidence that two of basketball’s best players ever both used meditation to enhance their game. And this is in large part thanks to their coach Phil Jackson, who famously employed sports psychologist and mindfulness expert George Mumford to help his players (both on the Chicago Bills and Los Angeles Lakers) optimize their performances. Although both players were initially skeptical of mindfulness to enhance their hoops skills, the results speak for themselves: Jackson led his teams to a combined 11 NBA Championships; Bryant is now an outspoken meditation advocate.
The famed Olympic volleyball champion – she has three gold medals under her belt (or suit!) – credits meditation as a key element of her success. In fact, in an interview with Byrdie, she remarked that being mentally fit is far more challenging than the physical aspect. She noted, “‘The physical part almost comes easy. What separates good from great is all up here,” Walsh says, pointing to her temple.’” With a strong mind comes a strong spike, we suppose.
The legendary Yankee shortstop was renowned for his golden glove, clutch hitting, boyish good looks (sorry!) and his insane career longevity, playing with the Bronx Bombers for nearly 20 years. The secret to his successes – and five World Series wins – weren’t just the 9th inning saves by Mariano Rivera. It was engaging in regular one-hour meditation sessions.
The U.S. Women’s soccer forward has been vocal about her reliance upon Vedic meditation to not only transform her game, but also lift her up from depression. Today, she relies on 20-minute sessions before games to improve her performance and get her in the right headset. Go girl.
The Seattle Seahawks
The 2014 Super Bowl winners didn’t just have Richard Sherman (and his colorful dialogue) on their side – they also had the help of performance sports psychologist Mike Gervais. Indeed, Gervais, along with head coach Pete Carroll, instituted a meditation and mindfulness program back in 2011, focusing on improving athletes’ positivity and overall mental health. Given three years later the Seahawks won their first Superbowl title, it’s clearly working.