Yoga for Golfers

 

By: Sherry Lewis

 

August 2009

 

 

Yoga is a universal system of health and well-being for people of all ages. It is not limited to a certain body type and will benefit anyone who is willing to practice. More specifically, yoga is a series of mental and physical practices that originated in the East at least 3,000 years ago. Yoga is widely known in the West as "stretching." "Asanas," or the physical postures that are practiced in yoga, are an important part of yoga but are just one aspect of yoga. The term "yoga" comes from the Sanskrit root word "yuj" meaning "to unite." This refers to union of the body, mind, and spirit. A tool that is used to achieve this union is linking movement of the body with the breath. Important aspects of yoga are visualization, breathing, strength, flexibility, relaxation, and balance. Tiger Woods is an excellent example of how visualization has created positive results. Tiger has been quoted saying that he visualizes each shot prior to address of the ball, and he continues to execute most shots successfully. Through practicing what the true definition of yoga is - uniting the body, mind, and spirit; one will find that they have better results in their golf game and in their life.


Yoga can help golfers on many levels. A golfer consistently swings a golf club in one direction, which can create imbalance in the body. Consistent practice of yoga restores balance. Also, mentally and spiritually, yoga can assist golfers in overcoming fear, letting go of the outcome, and becoming more joyful on the golf course. Improved mental and physical health and conditioning will improve performance, as well as help to cultivate a sense of peace and tranquility. This article will cover some of the basics of yoga, and then give several examples of postures that may be practiced on or off the golf course.


Good posture is the foundation for an optimal golf swing. Good posture originates from the spine. The spine, when standing upright naturally has an "S" shape to it. This natural curvature of the spine must be maintained at address and during the golf swing in order to protect the spine while swinging and to produce the most effective shot. Keeping an elongated spine while maintaining the natural curvatures of the spine is the foundation for each yoga posture that is presented below. Take a moment right now, wherever you are sitting, to sit as comfortably straight up as possible. Take a deep diaphragmatic inhalation, and notice that the rib cage lifts and expands, and the spine naturally lengthens, almost as if you are growing slightly taller. This deep inhalation and extension of the spine can be used in every yoga posture that is practiced.


Breathing, or "pranayama" is one of the most important aspects of yoga. "Prana" refers vital energy, or life force, and "yama" means expansion and extension. "Pranayama" therefore means "the ability to increase the energy in the body." The difference between yoga and stretching is awareness of the breath. Movement in yoga begins and ends with a breath, and any postures that are held for long periods of time are accompanied by long, slow, deep breaths. When under pressure on the golf course, many tend to hold the breath or have shallow breathing. Physiologically, this creates stress in the body as well as mental tension. By breathing deeply, this will relieve tension and lead to playing better golf. Generally, in all the yoga postures offered here, inhalations accompany upward and outward movements of the body, while exhalations accompany downward and inward movements of the body. Practicing deep breathing will decrease the heart rate and strengthen endurance.


There are a few general guidelines to follow while practicing yoga. If you ever experience pain, come out of the posture that is hurting. "No pain, no gain." is a "mantra," or phrase that has no value in yoga. Pain is the body saying "stop." Since every body is different, and since our bodies are in a constant state of change, no posture will ever feel or look the same two days in a row, nor will it look the same compared to anybody else in a posture. It is always okay to modify a posture to make it feel better for your individual body type. Fifteen minutes of yoga practice a day is more effective than an hour or more every few days or once a week. If you have any injuries please obtain permission from your physician to practice the following yoga postures. If practiced properly, these yoga postures are safe for everyone. A good rule of thumb is to not push the body to the point of discomfort. The body should feel strong, stable, and without pain in each posture.  Move slowly, breathe deeply, and align the body carefully while practicing. Accept your current level of fitness without judgment. And most importantly, find a sense of joy and peace while you are practicing.

 

You may practice either sequence below, "Postures on the Ground or Mat" and "Postures for on the Golf Course" in the order that they are written. Or, you may pick and choose which postures you like. Doing a forward bend after a twisting posture, lateral bending posture, or back bending posture, will neutralize the spine and keep it safe. Click on the link to read detailed instructions on how to perform each yoga posture.

 

Postures on the Ground or a Mat

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Postures on the Golf Course

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Sherry Lewis is a certified Hatha Yoga teacher. She is the daughter of J.L. and Dawn Lewis, and has spent many years around golf and currently fulfills the role of Communications Director for J.L. Sports, LLC. She has incorporated golf and yoga in this article to share the benefits of yoga with those golfers and golf fans alike who are seeking this knowledge. For questions or inquiries about private yoga sessions with Sherry, e-mail her at sherrylewis27@gmail.com.

 

 

 

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