Golf & Yoga – A Match Made in Heaven
‘Golfers who stay in the present just keep playing the shot
at hand until they run out of holes. Then they add it up.’ Dr Bob Rotella
Dreaded Late Collapse
Us amateur golfers have all been there. 16
holes played in the monthly medal, 35 points on the scorecard and the winning
line in sight. Standing on the 17th tee many of us will be writing
our winning speech, wondering what prize we will get and thinking about how
good it will feel when we see another shot come off our handicap. Then it all
goes pear shaped. A double bogey on 17 is followed by a drive out of bounds on
18 and we walk into the locker room shell shocked. Where did it all go wrong?
Golfers of all levels will relate to this
situation and that feeling of utter frustration driving back home on early
Sunday afternoon. Each shot on those fateful last two holes replaying in our
minds. ‘How could my swing have fallen apart after being so consistent for 16
holes?!’ Many of us will think wish that we could return to the scene of the
crime and we would handle it so much better. But in reality, would we?
Professional golfers are born champions and
have been winning tournaments since they were kids and even they can wilt in
the heat of the pressure. Us average amateurs experience this maybe a few times
a year and so when the winning line approaches, many of us are ill equipped to
deal with it.
Power of the Mind
Most of us are aware that our thoughts
affect our golf game. When we see a lake to the right of the green and obsess
about not going in the lake, where do we normally go? Or when we have a two-foot
putt and are thinking about where to hit our next drive, what normally happens?
These are all lessons that most golfers have learned the hard way.
So when we are stood on the 17th
tee with a chance of winning, how many of us remain as calm as we were on the 4th?
Very few is my educated guess. And here in lies our problem. As our mind
wanders to winning, we become excited. Our heart rate rises, our breathing
speeds up and we can begin to perspire more heavily. Suddenly the goal posts
have moved. Our chances of a clean contact are reduced as our swing speeds up,
our timing is lost and our muscles from head to toe tighten.
Cue 1 point from the final two holes and an
evening spent kicking the cat!
Lessons From Yoga
In explaining what yoga can bring to this
situation, the physical benefits would be an obvious starting point. Many
golfers who have suffered injury or want to become fitter have discovered yoga
can greatly help our physical approach to the game. Improved flexibility,
stamina and fitness will help your golf game and these are all obvious benefits
of regular yoga practice. Nothing new here you say.
The lessons of yoga are much deeper than
Most golfers have never considered whether
or not we breathe properly. We just breathe and to the best of our knowledge it
has been working so why would we ever think about that! The reality is that
very few of us breathe as deeply as we should, and this will become apparent
when your yoga instructor asks you to breathe deeply from your diaphragm. Go
through this process of deep breathing for a minute or two and see how it
feels. A deep sense of calm and relaxation anyone? OK so just hold that thought
Apart from breathing, how many of us are
ever actually present without a single thought of the future or past. ‘I must
remember to send that email’ ‘I wish I hadn’t agreed to this 5k’, ‘That fella
has some nerve for what he said to me last week’ etc. etc. etc.
This lack of presence is so common we don’t
even acknowledge it but observe what happens at the end of your first yoga
class. You are lying in silence on your back on the yoga mat and your
instructor asks you to remove all thoughts and feel the moment. Crikey, there
is that deep sense of calm and relaxation again!
OK so we have visited the yoga class,
carried out some weird poses and felt pretty calm at the end of the class. But
what on earth has this got to do with our golf game?
Lets return to that 17th tee on
the monthly medal. We have tapped in for par on 16 and have a gap of 1 minute
until we tee off.
Now there is no need to roll out a yoga mat
and lie on our back on the tee. This will most likely result in your playing
partners falling into the nearest bunker they are laughing so hard. But how
about we decide to close our eyes, focus on deep breathing, and remove all
thoughts from our mind for just that minute or even 15 second before our turn
to tee off. Those who have been practicing yoga regularly will find this
exercise to be second nature. Who would like to be calm, relaxed and present in
There it is. Your heart rate remains
stable, your palms are not sweaty, and your breathing is steady. Above all you
are present, and the significance of the shot is lost. Hey presto you do what
you have been doing all day and stripe your drive down the middle. Repeat the
process for another hole and a half and you are home and dry.
the Macho Image
As a male golfer writing this post, I
apologise to all the ladies out there screaming, ‘we have known how great yoga
is for years!’. I am also conscious of coming across sexist as I know that
there are many men out there who have practiced yoga and felt the benefits. The
reality is however, if you visit any yoga class in Ireland or across the world,
us men will be outnumbered.
So lets lose the macho rubbish. If my
handicap can drop by a couple of shots I am willing to open my mind and you
should be too. Controlling your thinking and being present will help your
scoring ability, becoming more flexible and fitter will help your swing and
guess what, if you start going to yoga regularly, you might just improve your
Look up your local yoga studio. Instead of
a new driver invest in your body and mind this winter and you can not only
benefit your golf game but also your every day life. Set the trend and it won’t
be long before your playing partners are desperate to find out where this
ice-cold operator coming down the stretch suddenly appeared from!
If you are interested in a fun golfing weekend that incorporates the many benefits of yoga for your game then why not check out the very first Golf & Yoga Weekend at Arnolds Hotel Dunfanaghy on Friday 13th and Saturday 14th April 2018 - you can read all about it here or call the hotel direct for further information and single and group rates.