Ham It Up

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In golf, we know the repetitive nature of the golf swing often causes low back pain. It has been stated that 80% of Americans, golfers or not, will experience back pain at one time in their lives. 80%! In my opinion, sedentary lifestyles, obesity and lack of regular physical exercise are major contributors to this astonishing statistic.
 
Physically, many factors contribute to low back pain. Certainly the repetitive nature of the golf swing is a factor but many low back issues are a direct relationship to tight hamstrings. As a yoga teacher and fitness professional for twenty years, the most common, consistent physical issue I see in most people centers around their hamstrings. Clients will share with me their embarrassment and frustration, I cant even touch my toes ' help! The truth is most people cannot touch their toes for numerous reasons ' the back is tight, the belly gets in the way and they do not practice flexibility programs on a regular basis.
 

The following four exercises will help you work the hamstrings, actively and passively.
 
Note: Before you begin these or any other exercises obtain the written permission from your physician. Remember to move very slowly, gently and you should never experience any pain. Never bounce your body in a yoga pose. Move into the pose; hold it for five to ten breaths. Breathing is done through the nose only and breaths should be deep and relaxing. Flexing the quadriceps sends a direct message to the hamstring to relax. Take the time to visualize the muscles effected becoming more relaxed, loose and more flexible.
 
Lying Down hamstring stretch with strap:

Yoga for Golfers - Lying down hamstring stretch

 
Place the strap around the right foot. It is essential that the right leg be as straight as an arrow. Flex the right foot, toes moving towards the face, heels pressing towards the ceiling. Feel the stretch in the hamstrings and calves. Level One is done with the left leg bent and is indicated for students with low back pain. Level Two is done wit the left leg straight. Hold for ten to twenty breaths and switch sides.
 

Seated hamstring stretch against the wall or with a partner:

Yoga for Golfers - Seated hamstring stretch

 
Begin with back against the wall, legs out straight. Sit up as tall as possible, shoulders back with the head resting against the wall. Flex the quadriceps and the feet to increase the intensity of the pose. Hold for ten breaths and you may repeat these three times to increase the intensity.
 
Forward fold with strap:

Yoga for Golfers - Forward fold with strap

 
Place a strap around the feet and fold forward while gently pulling on the strap. Relax the head and hold for ten breaths.
 

Legs up the wall or against the back of a chair:

Yoga for Golfers - Legs up against back of a chair

 
This is a wonderful restorative pose to offset the effects of a long round of golf.
 
Bring buttock as close to the wall as possible. The hips should be on the floor without any tension in the low back. Move shoulders away from the ears and roll shoulders under back. Palms face up. Close eyes and relax for five minutes.
 
Practice these poses three days a week. Regardless of your current flexibility in the hamstrings you will see a dramatic improvement very quickly.
 

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 info@yogaforgolfers.com.