Yoga and Golf
Last week I ran into a friend who asked me what I’d been up to recently. When I told him I was halfway through a Yoga certification course, his face lit up.
“Great! You can help me with my golf game!” he exclaimed.
Huh? And here I’d assumed that putting on the green was just a pleasant excuse for the rich and powerful (or those aspiring to be rich and powerful) to mingle, build alliances and cut hush-hush deals.
But my friend assures me that many amateur golfers (like him) are actually rather serious about improving their game. And he and his pals in the finance industry have heard that Yoga can help.
So what does a golfer need? Here’s what he said:
a) Lots of core strength, to give power to the swing
b) A really stable stance (feet apart, akin to what is known as “horse stance” in kungfu)
c) Flexibility, to lend greater depth and range to the swing, and also to prevent injury (but he wasn’t specific about what sort of injuries)
After promising him a few lessons, I trawled the Internet for some research. There’s quite a bit of material online as it turns out, with entire websites devoting articles, videos and lesson plans etc. to improving golfing through Yoga.
According to the oft-quoted Katherine Roberts, founder of Yoga for Golf and a fitness expert on the Golf channel: “Swing power is generated from the lower body to the hips, the trunk, the shoulders, the arms, and out to the club… The hips initiate the downswing, so having mobility in the hips and strong glutes is really critical for generating power.”
So basically, a good routine for golfers should aim to:
– Open up the hips and build flexibility in hips and hamstrings (the latter especially critical in maintaining a controlled knee flexion on uneven ground)
– Strengthen lumbar area to prevent lower back injury and improve swing posture
– Build core strength (for more power)
– Open up chest and shoulders (again, improve swing posture)
Relevant Asanas could include: Virabhadrasana I and II, Trikonasana, Downward Dog, Cobra and Bridge (to strengthen back), hip openers like Badha Konasana, forward bends for the hamstrings and lots of twists of course, such as Marichyasana, Garudasana and Pavritta Trikonasana and Pavritta Parsvakonasana.
It’s interesting to see the evolution of Yoga and how wider and wider circles are now discovering its relevance. Beyond the core group of practising Yogis, beyond the gym classes that brought Asanas to the masses, Yoga is now being increasingly adopted to support and strengthen performance in other serious sporting activities. It has become mainstream – not in a faddish “in vogue” way, but as an essential part of training in multiple disciplines.
What I found even more fascinating (and truer to the holistic practice of Yoga) was the application of Yoga practices beyond the usual physical conditioning that the wider public typically associates with Yoga. Indeed beyond Asanas, Yoga can offer so much more. Pranayama and Dharana techniques are now being encouraged as part of sports training.
The ability to shut out all irrelevant distractions and focus the mind singularly on that one stroke, swing or kick, makes all the difference between a first-class champion and a merely competent player. That’s where the concentrative techniques of Dharana can help.
And quoting Ms Roberts again: “The number one reason for (golf) swing faults is tension in the body, and that’s a by-product of lack of blood flow and lack of breath… The fastest way for you to relax the body and calm the mind is to through the breath because it’s the easiest, most efficient way to the calm heart.”  Obviously, Pranayama techniques can address this issue.
So there’s evidently business potential here – yoga clinics for golf through private lessons or partnerships with golf clubs, tying up with corporate golf functions and even a different kind of “workshop” to spice up the usual corporate off-sites (and yet keep it relevant for business leaders eager to lower their handicap). Hardly original or radical ideas, but they should provide a start to exploring an opportunity that hasn’t been fully mined.
Now that our 200-hour teaching training course has drawn to a close, it’s time for me to keep my promise to my friend. He’ll be hearing from me soon, and not just about the workout he’d bargained for…