Yoga and Golf
Yoga and golf: a marriage made in heaven by Christel Thimont!
I am keen golfer and a qualified yoga instructor.
And recently I realised that I started both activities nearly at the same time, in my early thirties. This was a time in my life when I needed a way to de-stress; I was starting a new life…
It may not appear obvious right away but golf and yoga do go hand in hand. And this link became very obvious when my knowledge and practice of yoga increased greatly.
In order to play well you need to be able to control your shot and there are two aspects to getting good control. The first and most important aspect is fitness: you need flexibility, agility and strength. Yoga gives you all of these. The second is technique, which you can only attain with coaching and golf practice. And let’s not forget the significant role that the mind plays in being successful on the course hence a mind-body practice like yoga is perfect for golfers on that level too.
First of all, on the physical level, yoga helps increase strength and strength is definitely needed when playing golf to simply produce an effective powerful swing. With yoga you do not need to go to the gym, all you need is your own body weight!
Some people might be sceptical about yoga’s ability to improve muscle strength, but research shows that yoga — specifically sequences like sun salutations — can provide significant increases in strength when done on a regular basis.
Yoga also allows you to improve your muscle and cardiovascular endurance. Endurance is essential for helping you maintain a high level of performance for an extended period of time, whether you’re playing in a long tournament or just want to keep your energy up through an entire round of golf especially if you are carrying your clubs too!
There are a couple of ways that yoga improves your endurance. As far as muscular endurance goes, yoga utilises a lot of isometric exercises (holding on position for a period of time). As for cardiovascular endurance, advanced Vinyasa yoga classes tend to move quickly and trust me you will notice your heart beat very quickly.
One of the most important benefits of yoga for golfers is gaining more flexibility and mobility. In order to fully swing a club and rotate your spine from one side to the other, you need a lot of flexibility. Also the more flexible and the speed of the club, the further you will hit the ball. The golf swing includes many more movements needed for an efficient swing (wrists, shoulders, hips, knees etc). Also by improving your mobility and flexibility, you will reduce the risk of injury that so many golfers suffer from, number one being low back pain…
Of course yoga is well known for all its balance poses (one legged and arm-balancing poses) which allows you to improve your stability and balance. This, in turn, helps you maintain your centre of gravity when you swing which can also help exert a greater amount of force without giving in to outside factors like wind and uneven ground.
On the mental level, yoga helps you improve your ability to concentrate and focus. Whether you’ve only played a few rounds of golf in your life or a few thousands, you know how important concentration and focus are to a successful game.
Many people find that the still, silent portions of a yoga class (especially Savasana, the final resting posture) are some of the most difficult. If you can conquer those and find a way to keep your mind quiet, you’ll be able to transfer that same skill onto the course. This, in turn, will deliver a better game or at least help you keep your temper in check when things don’t go your way.
Last but not least, yoga not only helps prevent injuries, it also helps them heal. In the world of golf, we do not talk often enough about the effect our favourite activity has on our bodies especially wrists, elbows and back. During play, golfers encounter a lot of asymmetrical repetitions, which can lead to pain and injury in these areas. For example, I used to have golfers elbow every season but now that I practice yoga daily, I do not suffer from this any longer. My arms muscles are stronger and stretched every day thus preventing any other onset of the dreaded condition
I started teaching a few ladies in my golf club since my return to the UK, and those who attend regularly have definitely found that yoga helps them with their game and they have cut their handicap since.