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Why Yoga Works for Golfers

Yoga is the original body/mind approach to health and fitness, practiced for over 2,000 years. On the physical level, yoga increases flexibility, strength and balance, and improves overall range of motion.
On the mental and emotional level, it reduces stress, heightens concentration and creates a sense of inner stillness. The mind and body feel energized and relaxed.

Yoga has been practiced in the U.S. for over 100 years, and it is estimated that over 12 million people practice it regularly in the U.S. alone.

Sports professionals, weekend athletes, people recovering from heart disease, physical injuries or chronic pain, find the benefits of practicing yoga invaluable. Golfers, in particular, experience greater balance and control whether swinging or putting as a result of this alignment of body and mind.

A typical yoga session consists of:
Conscious Breathing Techniques – Breath is our most vital source of energy. Remember, we can go for days without food or water, but only a few moments without breath. Since most of us only breathe one third of our actual lung capacity, the body is starved for oxygen. The result is everything from fuzzy thinking, to fatigue, to utter exhaustion.

Conscious breathing techniques increase lung capacity, improve concentration and focus, lower blood pressure and heart rate and provide much needed energy. When we are concentrating deeply or in a stressful situation, we tend to unconsciously hold our breath. It is part of the fight or flight response. Taking a few deep, abdominal breaths relaxes the muscles and clears the mind.

Warm-ups – Warm-ups prepare the body for the formal yoga postures by increasing our body awareness, and stimulating blood flow to the muscles and joints. We combine each warm-up and stretch with breath. When we come to a point of resistance in the body, we simply breathe and relax. Stretching becomes pleasurable, rather than painful. Something we look forward to rather than something we avoid.

Yoga Postures – Yoga postures, or asanas, are specific ways of moving the body. It is important to understand that the physical movement itself is not yoga. The yoga posture is the vehicle for us to discover where the body is holding tension and to bring the body back into alignment.

We accomplish this by moving the body in unfamiliar ways, with conscious awareness and breath. This creates “dynamic tension,” just the right amount of tension to get the job done. It is the physical position combined with the mental attitude and breath that makes yoga different from other forms of “exercise.”

A violin produces the purest tones when the strings have just the right amount of tension. When the body is properly aligned, with the mind focused and steady, and the breath deep and flowing, we are in optimum balance and health. Our body and mind are working together harmoniously. We become centered, grounded, flexible and relaxed.

Relaxation and Visualization – The benefits of relaxation, following “dynamic tension,” are profound. We enter a state of inner stillness and contentment. The energy that was unconsciously locked in the muscles and joints is released into and absorbed by the body. The body and mind feel lighter.

Visualizing focuses the mind to see the outcome we desire. For example, instead of worrying about hitting the next shot into the bunker, we focus our thoughts and energy, visualizing exactly where we want the ball to land. While this may not work every time, it reduces distractions and anxiety. The use of visualization to enhance sports performance is well documented.

Practicing yoga can be especially beneficial to men who often disregard or ignore the signs of stress. Stress leads to significant health problems, as recently reported in the June 14, 1999 feature article in Newsweek. It increases our heart rate and blood pressure, effects our breathing patterns and metabolism and is a major factor in developing heart disease.

Yoga teaches us skills that we can apply in our daily lives. What good is being flexible if we are miserable? When the body is limber and relaxed, and the mind is focused and calm, we experience peak performance whether it is on the field of play, at work or with our families.

Practicing yoga requires no special equipment and can be done at home and throughout the day. Some insurance companies have even begun covering the cost of yoga classes, citing verifiable medical benefits and the reduction of healthcare costs.

Yoga will become your secret weapon for maintaining focus, improving balance and increasing flexibility. The benefits to your game will surprise and delight you.


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