Katherine Roberts and David Gossett
Many tour players are benefiting from yoga: Brad Faxon, Jonathan Kaye, Gary McCord, Andrew Magee, Stewart Cink, Jesper Parnevik, Chip Beck, David Gossett, Gary Player, Ty Tryon, Aaron Baddeley, Julie Inkster, Betsy King, and Jill McGill. Even Tiger has talked about his Buddhist background and how that impacts his meditation and focus techniques.
A common fallacy about yoga is that you need to bend your body like a pretzel, burn incense and chant to achieve yogas full benefits. These misconceptions are rooted in images of ancient ashrams and traditional yoga practices. Recently a more modern version of yoga has emerged, accommodating Western desires and gaining universal acceptance. Yoga is now the fastest growing form of exercise on the world.
Yoga for Golfers incorporates flexibility, strength, balance, core conditioning and breathing awareness, focus, relaxation and visualization techniques. Each week I will offer yoga based golf conditioning exercises or poses that have a direct, positive benefit for your golf performance. Tension in the body increases the potential for swing flaws. The fastest most effective way to control tension is with breathing.
Any time we experience stress on the golf course - during the first shot, tight lye, double bogies or any shot that creates anxiety - our 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.
When we are 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 and is a mirror of your internal physical and mental condition. Breathing awareness is the most important component during the practice of yoga. An effective tool to de-stress on the golf course is with the practice of slow deep rhythmic breathing.
This exercise will allow you to cultivate more effective breathing. Begin by lying on your back, knees bent, and fingers resting lightly on your ribcage. As you inhale fee the expansion in the ribcage, as you exhale feel the contraction. It is as if the entire mid-section is rising and falling. Try to maintain the inhale for a count of four the exhale for a count of six. Practice this for ten to twenty breaths, trying to breathe deeper with each breath.
Incorporate this new breathing technique into your pre-shot routine. Set your stance, take a deep inhalation, then a cleansing exhalation, and then begin your take away. This technique can offset the first tee jitters and create more rhythm and feel in your golf swing.
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.