The NBA has a new Zen approach to help players deal with stress

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“Free throws are more mental than anything,” says Lakers coach Luke Walton. (Image: Duane Prokop/Getty Images Entertainment/GettyImages)

If you’ve ever found yourself at the free throw line (or, you know, in a close game of “horse”), then you know how hard it can be to focus, get out of your own head and make the shot. Which is why it makes total sense that the National Basketball Association (NBA) — where players cope with intense pressure — has teamed up with guided-meditation app Headspace.

As part of the deal, Headspace will offer free subscriptions to NBA players and employees (a lifetime subscription goes for $400). For its part, the NBA will produce training content exclusively for the app, reports the Wall Street Journal. That means Headspace subscribers will get access to the mediation techniques used to prepare players for competition.

Headspace, which Fast Company named one of the most innovative companies in 2017, was co-founded by Andy Puddicombe, a Tibetan Buddhist monk turned mindfulness expert. Last year Puddicombe told Fast Company: “It’s our job to get people excited about meditation.”

He added, “It’s about putting meditation in places where people wouldn’t expect to find it.” The app is available through Spotify (as part of a premium subscription) as well as in-flight on seven airlines, including Delta, Jet Blue and United. And earlier this year Nike announced that it would offer Headspace’s guided meditation to Nike Plus members.

This latest NBA deal also won’t be the first time Headspace has provided meditation support to the league. According to ESPN, former New York Knicks team president Phil Jackson used the app and brought in Puddicombe to work with the team. Jackson (aka the Zen Master) was known to regularly lead weekly mindfulness sessions with players, reported the New York Times.

More recently, Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton turned to Puddicombe to help with the team’s dismal free-throw performance. During one game, players were 2 for 14 at the free-throw line. That’s a 14.3 percentage, the lowest by any team in NBA history, reported ESPN. Yikes!

Puddicombe has led 15-minute pregame meditation session with players, helping them get into a more relaxed state before hitting the court.

“When we focus on something too much or overthink it, then we tend to create tension, both in our mind and in our game,” Puddicombe told ESPN. “Nowhere is this more obvious than on the free-throw line.”

He continued, “At this level, mental training is everything. My hope is that the younger players coming through will understand this and follow in the footsteps of Jordan, Kobe, Shaq and the like in making meditation an essential part of their training regimen.”

Want to learn more about the mind-body connection, especially when it comes to working out? Here are six ways meditation can give you a fit body.

What Do YOU Think?

Have you tried any kind of meditation? How hard was it to stick to a practice? What techniques worked for you? Tell us in the comments!

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