This is the first in a mini-series on Yoga for Golf. I think Golfers stand to gain a lot through the regular practice of Yoga. Enjoy!
Yoga for Golf : Par Level
What does a 5,000 year old science have to offer the modern-day golfer? You will be amazed to know that many Pro-Golfers around the world have Yoga teachers who travel with them on Tour. In fact, Golfers and other sports people are turning to yoga to better understand themselves, the dynamics of their bodies and to unleash the latent powers of the mind, in order to accomplish their goals.
Visualization on the Golf Ball
Golf, as you know is an intensely Mental game. To become a good golfer it is absolutely essential that you understand and develop the mental aspect of your game. All golfers like to talk about being ‘in the zone’. This is a heightened state of Awareness, where conscious thoughts are suspended as you are completely involved in your game, and your instinct is guiding you. All sportsmen, artists and other successful people know and develop ways of getting into ‘their zone’. The most important thing is for you to be totally relaxed, only then can this happen to you. Yoga uses Pranayam (aware breathing), Dhyaan (meditation), and Visualizations to help people focus and achieve their goals, including making that all-important putt!
Flexibility is Power
Spinal Stretching with the Golf Club
But before we come to the mental side, Yoga can teach us a lot about our bodies and how to optimise our playing potential. Remember “Flexibility equals Power”. The best golfers have a fluid swing that sends the ball travelling more yards than you can imagine. A key aspect of an ideal swing is having a flexible core area and back. The backswing and follow-through (so critical to the distance and direction of your shot), is a direct function of a flexible body. The other important part of the body where all golfers would like to have more flexibility is the hamstrings, which Yoga will really help stretch. A Yogi’s body is strong, but at the same time the muscles are always in a relaxed state. This is the ideal body type for a Golfer to create a powerful yet languid, free-flowing drive. Also practicing Yoga will help your joints to achieve the desired “stretch-levels” which will minimise your chances of sustaining injuries.
‘Naukasana’ or Boat-pose for Strong Abs
Apart from flexibility, Yoga will help you to strengthen the deep core muscles of your trunk, sides, hips, glutes and thighs. These deep muscles are often un-reachable through conventional weight training that focuses on the superficial muscles of the body. Yogasanas (physical yoga postures) can strengthen your body very quickly, without the risk of damaging your body. Having a strong core, coupled with flexibility, will ensure that you add 20-30 yards to your drives.
‘Vrikshasana’ or Tree-pose to develop Balance
Golf is an asymmetrical sport – you only swing in one direction, which causes an imbalance in the body. Yogic stretches and asanas work to strengthen the weak side, while increase flexibility on the strong side. The first rule in yoga is whatever we do on one side of the body should be done on the other side too. Hence yoga naturally brings your body into balance. Balance is critical when you stand over the ball, ready to swing.
Since Golf provides the player long stretches of time while walking between shots, it is very easy to lose focus and drift away! What this means is that you reach your next shot either unprepared because you have been thinking of Office, Family, etc or you arrive stressed because you have been over-analyzing your shots. Practising a simple Pranayama (Yogic Aware Breathing) technique will help you stay relaxed, focussed and allow you to ‘golf’ using your instincts. While walking between shots, Breathe in and out deeply through the abdomen 11 times. This practice, called Sahaj Pranayam, will help you to relax, and very importantly prevent all the negative thoughts from entering your mind.
It is a popular notion that playing Golf will relax you at the end of a long day at work. On the other hand by relaxing yourself, you can actually play a better, more fulfilling round of Golf! That way you will really feel relaxed by the time you get to the 19th hole!
Total Yoga is a balanced style of Yoga that focuses on Fitness training and Mindfulness practice equally.