As I travel around the world conducting Yoga for Golfers workshops many people say they are drawn to yoga because of the obvious physical benefits in addition to the quest for a quiet mind. Most golfers realize that the mind often gets in the way of what the body is attempting to execute.
In the book, Zen Golf ' Mastering the Mental Game (Doubleday 2002) by Dr. Joseph Parent, Awareness is panoramic, mindfulness is one-pointed. We practice mindfulness as the foundation for cultivating awareness. It is simply being without having to do anything about how we are being.
As golfers we spend much of our attention on the doing ' adjusting the mechanics of the swing in the quest for the perfect swing. We become so focused on the body we ignore the importance of mindfulness. Last week we explored the effects of the inner dialogue. This week we will use the physical practice of balancing yoga poses to increase our ability to move our minds inward, become more mindful, and focus on one task ' the shot of the moment.
In yoga, balancing poses are mainly about quieting the mind and cultivated one-pointed concentration. We withdraw from the external forces which bring our attention outward and instead we move our thoughts inward. On the golf course, when we approach the tee box after having a triple bogey or we are thinking about the next shot over water, we are not practicing one-pointed concentration. In a world of multi-tasking you can see how this is easily done off the golf course but this type of thinking is not conducive to good golf.
When you practice the following balancing poses take the time to feel grounded. Stand with the feet hip width apart for ten deep breaths before you begin the pose. Focus the eyes four feet in front of your yoga mat. Do not lift your gaze as you move between poses. The more you can stay focused during the poses the more you will stay focused on the course.
Draw the navel towards the spine and place the hands by the hips or in line with the shoulders. Step the left foot forward and begin to lift the right leg. As the body moves towards the floor the leg lifts. Do not arch the back. Eventually the body will look like the capital letter T. Hold for five to ten breaths and switch sides.
Bring the left foot on the outside of the right knee and the hands to the waist. Bend the right knee as you hinge your body towards the floor. Maintain a flat back and do not hunch over the leg. Extend the arms and hold for ten breaths. Switch sides.
Practice these poses four days a week and you will see a dramatic improvement your balance as well as in your concentration.