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.' Breathing awareness provides insight into the tempo and rhythm of your golf swing.
In the language of yoga, Sanskrit, breathing exercises are called 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 utilize energy and how we react to the stresses of the game. With awareness we can facilitate change!
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 we have discussed during this ten week program, the most important aspect of yoga is the breath. Without focus on breathing, yoga is just another form of stretching. At this point in the ten week challenge you should have developed a sense of your breathing pattern and learned the ability to regulate your breath.
The process of incorporating breathing into your golf game may take some practice. My recommendation is that you take these suggested guidelines, practice them and develop your own discipline of breathing as part of your own pre-shot routine.
Because we so often 'forget' to breathe I suggest you develop a 'breathing swing thought' or something that will trigger deep, focused breathing. I have read, but not confirmed, that Tiger blinks three times to trigger his mind to focus.
This week during my Yoga for Golfers Golf School in Hawaii, I asked my students to create their own trigger for breathing. Their ideas ranged from writing a 'B' on their glove, slightly loosening their grip right before the take away, or gently lifting their toes in their shoes, etcto remind themselves to breathe.
Here are some specific tips on breathing techniques for the golf course:
- Inhale and exhale through the nose only - this calms the nervous system.
- When hitting your woods or irons, take a long cleansing breath just before you begin your take away, i.e. a long slow inhale through the nose followed by a equally long gradual exhale through the nose.
- For lower handicap golfers, begin your deep breathing as you line up the shot and continue as you sole the club and begin your address posture. Now take one more deep breath and then begin your take away.
- For all golfers, when putting, consider practicing the same breathing in your pre-shot routine and then add a breath that is based on the length of the putt. For example, if you are facing a ten foot putt, your inhalation will not be as long as when you are standing over a forty-five foot putt. Begin your inhalation on the take away, exhale as you start to hit the putt and complete the exhalation through the entire putting stroke.
Remember to experiment with these breathing tips and let me know your experience. I am happy to answer your questions. I look forward to seeing you at my upcoming Yoga for Golfers Golf Schools where we can work on your breathing, your body and mind in person.
Editor'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 firstname.lastname@example.org.