As autumn approaches and your golf season wraps up it’s a perfect opportunity to cross-train. Training in more than one discipline will improve fitness and performance, especially in the game of golf. Practicing yoga and playing golf have many principles in common; they both require fluid movement and flexibility, rotation, focus and concentration, core-strength, and proper breathing. Read on to learn how practicing yoga can improve your game next spring.
Fluid Movement + Flexibility
The golf swing requires your body and mind to work as a team. This movement demands twisting, rotating, and swinging in one smooth fluid sweep. A perfect swing requires tightening and lengthening of your muscles at the same time, just in the same way as a yoga posture requires tightening and lengthening simultaneously to achieve balance, strength, and flexibility. I call this lengthening and strengthening. By training your body to stretch a muscle while engaging it you’ll have that much more control and range of motion in your swing.
The range of motion needed to drive the ball is similar to yoga-twisting postures that require multiple muscles to activate simultaneously. By incorporating poses that work several different muscle groups, and encouraging the trunk of your body to move in this way, you’ll see an increase in your rotational range of motion. More range of motion equals a stronger swing. You’ll also be conditioning your muscle memory so that when it’s time to swing in the spring your body will remember the twist intuitively.
Focus + Concentration
When you’re in the present moment and your eyes are focused on the ball your swing will be a success. Yoga teaches us about pratyahara, or sense withdrawal, dharana, or concentration through meditation, and the drishti, or focused gaze. When practicing these principles in yoga, all other distractions are cleared out and the focus is only on the gaze or focal point. Practicing over time trains the brain to develop focus and concentration on command so that when you’re ready to swing you can drop into that meditative state, focus on your drishti point (the ball), and drive it clear to the hole.
Transverse Abdominal Strength
By strengthening your transverse abdominals you’ll take your golf swing to the next level. These deep muscles are like a corset around your mid-line and are the closest muscles to your organs in the abdomen. In yoga the technique uddiyana bandha is practiced to strengthen these deep muscles and it means ‘upward fly of the abdominals’. This upward and inward pull is essential in challenging yoga postures as it supports your lower back and draws the pelvis into correct posture. Through yoga you’ll have trained these deep muscles to contract and transfer that extra power into your drive.
Executing a successful golf swing requires an inner calm and relaxed body. The breath is a vehicle to access and have control over the unconscious nervous system. When your breathing is steady and controlled the nervous system is calm and function is heightened. Breathing exercises are practiced in yoga to improve respiration and to control our inner state. With practice you can use your breath to keep yourself calm and focused during your game. When the breath is held during your swing it will result in a weak, rigid, unfocused drive. If you take a deep inhale as you pull back and a strong exhale during your swing you’ll be stronger, smoother, and more explosive in your movements.