The Golf Buddha – Yoga For Golfers
Using yoga for golf to improve your swing speed sounds like it shouldn’t work. After all the swing is a powerful, sudden movement, requiring your body to use it’s fast-twitch muscle fibers, very unlike the slow, controlled movements we associate with yoga for golf. However, this understanding misses a number of key points about both the swing and the potential benefits of a regular yoga for golfers practice. Let’s go a little deeper.
Mechanics and Limitations of the Swing
The swing is a type 1 thoraco-lumbar movement. In layman’s terms, you are twisting one way while bending towards the opposite side. This movement is used to transfer power from the lower body, through the shoulders, arms and club and into the ball. Some basic physics here; force (the power of the swing) is determined by mass (the amount of bodyweight applied) multiplied by the acceleration (the speed with which you make contact). So in order to increase the power of the swing, we need to increase either the bodyweight applied to the ball, or the swing speed.
Still not sure where yoga for golfers comes in? Think of it this way; if you are stiff anywhere between your ankles and your wrists (pretty much your whole body!) you will either move less quickly, or achieve less movement altogether. With a movement like the swing, moving less at a specific joint means less of the bodyweight from there downwards being applied to the ball. As a result, limitations in flexibility will limit both speed and mass, the two deciding factors of the power of the swing. This means that anything which improves your ability to move freely can improve your ability to drive with power.
Through yoga for golfers, we can open up the hips and back, without losing core strength. In fact, depending on the type of yoga for golf method used and the postures, this can also be increased. By improving functional range of motion, the restrictions on swing speed and the involvement of the whole body in the swing can be effectively reduced.
Yoga For Golfers: Focus & Concentration
Yoga in the age of Instagram often seems like it’s just about funky postures, but yoga for golfers is much more than that. Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. By practicing yoga for golf, you train your mind to let go of distractions and to focus on the present moment. This surely is of key importance in golf.
The power of the swing depends on its consistency. The closer each swing is to the one before, the more you work on the same neural pathways and the more smooth and powerful the actual movement becomes. However, there is a potential problem: The Yips. This is a term coined from professional baseball and describes a hitter who is suddenly unable to call on his years of muscle memory and instead starts hitting inconsistently. This is something that has cropped up many times in the sport of professional golf, not to mention the recreational game. You yourself have probably seen an otherwise fantastic player suddenly ‘lose it’ for a day or a month and play like a shadow of their former self.
The encouragement from yoga for golfers to focus on the ‘now’ rather than the last or the next stroke can be vital here. The Yips are caused by the fear that you have lost your touch, meaning you try to ‘fix’ things. The truth is you need to just go back to your swing mechanics. This is not just the healthy, straightforward sports psychology approach, this is also the yoga for golfers way.
Yoga For Golfers: A Practice For The Swing
This is a short sequence to help develop swing speed and power. The individual poses have been chosen to emphasize particular muscle groups or kinetic chains useful in developing the swing. Furthermore, the sequencing is designed firstly to open the body up in a fluid and progressive way, and secondly to work deeper into force transfer patterns specific to the golf swing. If the advanced options are too much, you can repeat easier sections, skip a pose or two, do whatever you need!
Surya Namaskara A (Sun Salutation A)
High Lunge – After your last Sun Salutation Downward Dog, step your RIGHT foot through between your hands and then raise both hands overhead while lifting your torso upright. Pull the shoulders down into the body and forcibly straighten the back leg, digging the ball of your foot into the floor and keeping both legs active. Pull in the belly quite hard.
Rotated lunge – Without moving the legs, bring your palms together in prayer position (namaskar) in front of your chest then, maintaining the alignment of your arms and shoulders as much as possible, take your LEFT elbow across to your RIGHT knee. Press the elbow and knee into each other and try to rotate your torso to the right.
Vinyasa – Drop your hands to the floor and lower into chaturanga (the bottom of a push-up), lowering knees to the floor if necessary. Do Upward Dog into Downward Dog, then switch sides, bringing the LEFT foot through to high lunge.
Triangle (Trikonasana) – After your lunges on the next side and your vinyasa, bring the RIGHT foot forwards again. Come to stand, keeping the feet where they are, but turning the LEFT foot out to ninety degrees and pressing the heel and outside edge of the foot into the floor. Pull up through the thigh muscles to forcibly straighten the legs without locking the knees. Raise both arms to shoulder height, with the torso facing the same direction as your LEFT foot. Then without changing this angle, reach straight forwards with your RIGHT hand until you run out of space. Lower the RIGHT hand to the RIGHT shin and lift the LEFT hand upwards. The arms should be in a straight line from shoulder to floor, with the torso almost parallel to the floor.
Reverse Triangle – Without moving the feet, bring the torso back up to vertical then keep going, taking the LEFT hand to the back of the LEFT thigh or calf and lifting the RIGHT hand overhead. Aim for a continuous line between the front ankle and RIGHT hand. You should feel the stretch here in the RIGHT side of the body. Keep the back lifting out of the hips to avoid compressing the lower back.
Rotated Triangle (parivrita trikonasana) – Come back to vertical and bring both hands to the hips. Turn the LEFT foot in to about forty-five degrees and turn the hips forwards, moving the back foot a little towards the front foot if necessary to get the hips square. Raise the LEFT hand overhead then fold at the hips and reach forward as far as possible. Then take the LEFT hand to the outside of the RIGHT foot and twist. The RIGHT hand can stay on the hip, move to the lower back, or be raised upwards. The lower back should stay parallel to the floor as much as possible. If this is too difficult, the LEFT hand can go to the RIGHT shin or inside the RIGHT foot.
Intense Side Stretch (parsvotanasana) – Come up and bring both hands to the hips again without moving the hips. The hands can stay on the back or come into prayer position behind the back (facing upwards or downwards). Alternatively, you can grab your elbows behind the back. Make sure the hips are still facing forwards and then fold the body at the hips, keeping the back as flat as possible. If you are super-flexible your face will touch your shin, but don’t force this, focus on keeping the back long rather than rounded.
Standing split – Don’t be intimidated by the name. Shift your weight into your RIGHT foot, lift your LEFT foot off the floor. Keep your hips square and bring the body over the RIGHT leg as much as possible with hands on the floor. Lift the LEFT leg as much as is comfortable without twisting the hips.
Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana) – Place your RIGHT hand directly under your RIGHT shoulder. Bring your LEFT leg parallel to the floor as you open your hips to the side. You should end up with your body fully turned sideways. Reach upwards with your LEFT hand or place it on your hip. Keep as much weight as you need in your RIGHT hand.
Vinyasa, and then repeat 5-10 on the left side.
Seated twist (ardha matseyandrasana) – Sit with your legs stretched out in front of you. Bend the RIGHT knee and place the RIGHT foot outside the LEFT knee, with the foot flat on the floor. Keep the LEFT leg as it is, or bend the knee and ‘wrap’ the leg around so that the LEFT foot is next to the RIGHT buttock, crossing in front of you. Lift the spine up long, then rotate to your RIGHT side. You can hold the RIGHT knee in your left armpit or place the LEFT elbow on the outside of the RIGHT knee to twist deeper. Repeat on the LEFT side.
Paschimottanasana – Stretch both legs out straight. Reach up, then keeping the spine long, reach for the feet and grab the big toes or the outside of the feet. Bend your knees if necessary but keep the back straight.
Purvottanasana – Come up, then slide the hands eight inches to a foot behind your hips, fingers pointing forwards. Keeping the legs straight, try to lift the body in a straight line, pushing the soles of the feet towards the floor. Let the head fall back if it is comfortable. If this is too much, move the feet a little closer and bend the knees, forming a ‘tabletop’ with the torso parallel to the floor and the knees bent to ninety degrees.
Savasana – Lie down and rest. Take at least five to ten minutes here. This is important, do not skip it.
This may seem a little complicated, but they will teach your body to wind and unwind without restriction and free your body up to achieve the powerful swing it is capable of, without damage to the soft tissue around your spine.
Combine this with improved focus and the mental benefits of engaging in an outside practice so closely related mentally and mechanically to your drive, and you will see a significant improvement in drive range and speed. All in all we believe yoga for golfers is a great way to improve your swing speed.
- Physiological correlates of golf performance: Welld GD et al. – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19387406
© The Golf Buddha – A Yoga For Golf Website. Yoga For Golfers: Improving Your Swing Speed, All Rights Reserved.