Breathing Awareness

By Katherine RobertsSeptember 16, 2005, 4:00 pm
In Yoga and Your Golf Swing
 
The Sanskrit word for yoga breathing exercises is pranayama. Prana refers to the energy in the body or life force, the fuel or oxygen that keeps us alive. Yama refers to expansion, extension, meaning the ability to expand the breath and increase the energy in the body. It is critical in golf to be aware of how the body and mind react to the stresses of the game. With awareness comes change!
 
Any time we experience stress on the golf course - during the first shot, tight lye, or any shot that creates anxiety, the heart rate accelerates and breathing becomes erratic. Physically, breathing sustains the metabolic processes of the body; mentally, breathing keeps the mind calm and focused. When the body is relaxed, the lungs, diaphragm and the muscles of the ribcage, and chest move in an unrestricted way. This is often referred to as deep diaphragmatic breathing. Additionally, this type of breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system relaxing the body and mind. When under pressure, the physiological effect of holding the breath is a fight or flight response, resulting in rapid uncontrolled breathing and a loss of blood flow to the extremities, including the brain. The body becomes tense, the mind races, and the ability to execute the golf swing becomes more challenging. (As if we need more challenge!)
 
Your breathing pattern is a direct reflection of the level of stress on the body and mind at any given point. It is the mirror of your internal physical and mental condition. Peter Kostis, commentator for CBS Sports remarked on the stress level of Annika Sorenstam as she played on the PGA Tour (the first woman to play in 53 years). Regarding calming the swirling of emotions under these stressful situations Peter said, Annika has been able to control the heart beat and control the emotions. There is only one way to calm the heartbeat and that is with the breathing.
 
The most important aspect of yoga is the breath. Without focus on breathing, yoga is just another form of stretching. Here we address breathing awareness, how to obtain deep diaphragmatic and thoracic-diaphragmatic breathing are utilized in yoga and on the golf course. Breathing awareness provides insight into the tempo and rhythm of your golf swing. According to Ernest Jones, When you stroke with timing and rhythm, the ball sails straight down the fairway, and for distance. It is effortless power, not powerful effort.
 
We think of breathing is an automatic response and part of the automatic nervous system -- it just happens. But at the same time, it is the only automatic response mechanism we can control. In the same way we manage movement as in the golf swing or yoga postures, the breath is managed ' its function originates in the two lowest segments of the brain stem. Also a function of the Somatic nervous system, breathing can be controlled. This is what makes diaphragmatic movement so unique. Breathing relieves tension and tension is the number one cause of bad shots on the golf course.
 
Breathing consists of three basic components- inhalation, exhalation and retention. Although retention can be an important part of expanding breathing and stimulating the nervous system for our purposes we will focus on the inhales and exhales. In our Dynamic or flow yoga sequencing, the inhalations raise the body and the exhalations lower the body. Breathing influences movement in the abdomen and chest but also has an effect of posture. To begin to understand the process, lye on your stomach, face pointed towards the floor. Relax. Begin to inhale through the nose and you will fee the body rise or lift. Exhale through the nose and you will fee the body lower or fall. Before beginning a warm-up sequence of yoga poses intended to increase your breathing capacity, practice these simple deep diaphragmatic breathing techniques. Begin by lying on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Gently place your finger tips on your lower ribs. Close your eyes and begin to inhale and exhale as deeply as possible. Feel the movement in your fingers, reflecting the movement of the diaphragm. Begin by inhaling and exhaling for a count of four. If possible, increase the count to six. (There should not be any point where you need to hold your breath.)
 
Level One: Ten Breaths
 
Level Two: Twenty breaths
 
Level Three: Three minutes
 
Stretching the diaphragm, thoracic spine, and intercostals will open this part of the body, allowing the ribcage to expand and contact fully with each breath.
 
Standing chest opener:

Yoga for Golfers

Place feet wider than hip width apart and clasp the hands behind the back. Inhale as you draw your navel towards the spine, slightly tucking the tailbone and pelvis. Exhale and roll the shoulders back, moving the hands towards the floor. Hold for two breaths relax and repeat three to five times.
 
Extended side angle pose:

Yoga for Golfers Yoga for Golfers

Place the feet approximately five feet apart and revolve the right leg inward. The right foot is placed at a 45 degree angle. Bend the left knee to a 90 degree angle and keep the left knee moving towards the left small toe. Place the left elbow on the left knee, extending the right arm towards the ceiling. Lift out of the left shoulder, maintaining space between the left shoulder and the left ear. Focus on the rotation of the torso towards the ceiling and the extension in the ribcage and intercostals.
 
Yoga for Golfers

For more intensity extend the right arm over the right ear. Hold for three breaths, relax and repeat five times. Switch sides.
 
Side stretch / half plank pose:

Yoga for Golfers

Place the left hip on the floor and press the left hand into the floor. As you begin to extend the left arm, focus on maintaining contact with the floor and the left hip. Feel the stretch from the left hip up to the left armpit. Hold for five breaths, relax and repeat three times. Switch sides. In this pose the more you allow gravity to sink the hips down towards the floor the more you will feel the stretch.
 
Supine twist:

Yoga for Golfers

On your back extend the arms perpendicular to the body. Bend the knees and allow the legs to fall to the left. Keep the right shoulder on the floor. Hold for three minutes and switch sides. If your knees to not rest on the floor, place yoga blocks under the knees for more stability.
 
Golfers may incorporate into their pre-shot routine this new breathing awareness - calming the mind, facilitating greater focus, and developing more tempo in your swing. To get a sense of feeling the tempo and rhythm in your swing simply swing the club as if it were timed with a metronome. Coordinate your breathing with your swing tempo. Get a sense of ease and freedom in your swing.
 
For higher handicap golfers, start by setting your golf stance completely and then begin a long, slow deep cleansing breath. Then begin your take away. Higher handicap golfers should start by setting their golf stance completely, and then begin a long, slow deep cleansing breath before executing the take away.
Golf Magazine's top 100 instructors, Paul Trittler suggests the following pre-shot routine for lower handicap golfers. As you stand behind the ball, visualizing the ball flight, incorporate long slow deep breathing. As you sole the club, aim the face, set your back foot and begin a deep inhalation. Then set your front foot, let your eyes go to the target and begin to exhale. Once you have finished feeling your balance and completed your exhale, let your eyes go to the ball and swing.
 
This weeks article on breathing is an excerpt from my book, Yoga for Golfers ' A Unique Mind-body Approach to Golf Fitness. For more details, visit www.KRTotalFitness.com.

I look forward to seeing you at the Fitness Performance Golf School in Scottsdale, AZ. on October 28th and 29th.
 
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    Katherine Roberts - Total FitnessEditor's Note: Katherine Roberts, founder of Yoga for Golfers, has 20 years of experience in fitness training, yoga studies, professional coaching and motivation. Katherine welcomes your email questions and comments, contact her at Katherine@KRTotalFitness.com or visit www.KRTotalFitness.com.
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    Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

    By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

    The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

    They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

    Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

    Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

    Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

    ''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

    The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

    In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

    Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

    Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

    By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

    Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

    Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

    Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

    Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

    It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

    The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

    Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

    Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

    ''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

    They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

    ''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

    Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

    ''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

    Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

    Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

    Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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    Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

    Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

    Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

    Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

    Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

    The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.