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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    Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

    If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

    Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

    Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


    Updated Official World Golf Ranking


    There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

    There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

    Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

    John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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    Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

    By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

    Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

    Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

    Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

    “I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

    But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

    “I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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    Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

    Hoylake in 2006.

    That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

    So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?


    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

    With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

    “The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”

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    How will players game-plan for Carnoustie?

    By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:31 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Thomas took a familiar slash with his driver on the 18th tee on Monday at Carnoustie and watched anxiously as his golf ball bounced and bounded down the fairway.

    Unlike the two previous editions of The Open, at what is widely considered the rota’s most demanding test, a particularly warm and dry summer has left Carnoustie a parched shade of yellow and players like Thomas searching for answers.

    Under the best circumstances, Carnoustie is every bit the unforgiving participant. But this week promises to be something altogether different, with players already dumbfounded by how far the ball is chasing down fairways and over greens.

    Brown is beautiful here at Royal Dark & Dusty.

    But then it’s also proving to be something of a unique test.

    Where most practice rounds at The Open are spent trying to figure out what lines are best off tees, this is more a study of lesser evils.

    Tee shots, like at the par-4 17th hole, ask multiple questions with few answers. On his first attempt, Thomas hit 2-iron off the tee at No. 17. It cleared the Barry Burn and bounded down the middle of the fairway. Perfect, right? Not this year at Carnoustie, as Thomas’ tee shot kept rolling until it reached the same burn, which twists and turns through both the 17th and 18th fairways, at a farther intersection.


    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “A hole like 17 in this wind, the trick is getting a club that will carry [the burn],” said Thomas, who played 18 holes on Monday with Tiger Woods. “If that hole gets downwind you can have a hard time carrying the burn and keeping it short of the other burn. It’s pretty bizarre.”

    The sixth hole can offer a similar dilemma, with players needing to carry their tee shots 275 yards to avoid a pair of pot bunkers down the right side of the fairway. Yet just 26 yards past those pitfalls looms a second set of bunkers. Even for the game’s best, trying to weave a fairway wood or long-iron into a 26-yard window can be challenging.

    “Six is a really hard hole, it really just depends on how you want to play it. If you want to take everything on and have a chance of hitting an iron into a par 5, or just kind of lay back and play it as a three-shot hole,” Thomas shrugged.

    It’s difficult to quantify precisely how short the 7,400-yard layout is playing. It’s not so far players are flying the ball in the air, particularly with relatively little wind in the forecast the rest of the week, so much as it is a question of how a particular shot will run out after it’s made contact with the firm turf.

    As the field began to get their first taste of the bouncy fun, one of the earliest indications something was askew came on Sunday when Padraig Harrington, who won The Open the last time it was played at Carnoustie in 2007, announced to the social world that he’d hit into the burn on the 18th hole.

    “This time it was the one at the green, 457 yards away,” the Irishman tweeted. “The fairways are a tad fast.”

    Most players have already resigned themselves to a steady diet of mid-irons off tees this week in an attempt to at least partially control the amount of run-out each shot will have.

    Jordan Spieth, the defending champion, hadn’t played a practice round prior to his media session, but could tell what’s in store just from his abbreviated range session on Monday. “Extremely baked out,” he said.

    The conditions have already led Spieth and his caddie, Micheal Greller, to conjure up a tentative game plan.

    “You might wear out your 5- and 4-irons off the tee instead of hitting 3- or 2-irons like you’re used to,” Greller told him.

    But even that might not be the answer, as Tommy Fleetwood discovered on Sunday during a practice round. Fleetwood has a unique connection with Carnoustie having shot the course record (63) during last year’s Dunhill Links Championship.

    The Englishman doesn’t expect his record to be in danger this week.

    In fact, he explained the dramatically different conditions were evident on the third hole on Sunday.

    “There’s holes that have been nothing tee shots, like the third. If you play that in the middle of September or October [when the Dunhill is played] and it’s green and soft, you could just hit a mid-iron down the fairway and knock it on with a wedge,” Fleetwood said. “Yesterday it was playing so firm, the fairways really undulate and you have bunkers on either side, it’s actually all of a sudden a tough tee shot.”

    The alternative to the iron game plan off the tee would be to simply hit driver, an option at least one long-hitter is considering this week if his practice round was any indication.

    On Sunday, Jon Rahm played aggressively off each tee, taking the ubiquitous fairway bunkers out of play but at the same time tempting fate with each fairway ringed by fescue rough, which is relatively tame given the dry conditions. But even that option has consequences.

    “It’s kind of strange where there’s not really a number that you know you’re going to be short,” said Fleetwood, who played his Sunday practice round with Rahm. “[Rahm] hit a drive on 15 that was like 400 yards. You just can’t account for that kind of stuff.”

    Whatever tactic players choose, this Open Championship promises to be a much different test than what players have become accustomed to at Carnoustie.