I Should Go Do Yoga...For Golfers
Oh hey there golfers! Welcome to the daunting world of yoga. Don't worry, it's not that bad, and believe me these postures are going to really help improve your game.
Strength and flexibility are key requirements in golf and yoga helps you improve both those things, so combining the two can be really beneficial. I've compiled a few of the best yoga postures (which everyone can access) to help improve core and leg strength, hip and shoulder flexibility and spinal mobility.
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OK, let's get started. With each of these postures I recommend holding them for at least 5-7 long even breaths (through the nose) or longer if you feel comfortable. Use this sequence before, after or in-between games on a regular basis to see the best results.
To start with we're going to warm up the spine with a little flexion. Start on your hands and knees with your hands underneath your shoulders, knees underneath your hips. Press down through the fingertips to protect the wrists, and engage the arm muscles by pushing away from the floor. Tops of the feet should be flat (or as flat as possible) onto the ground, and feet in line with the knees and hands, like two train tracks.
Inhale through the nose, drop the navel down and open the chest, look forward.
Exhale and press away from the floor with your hands, rounding the back, sucking the navel in and tucking the chin into the chest. Keep moving with the inhale and exhale, for as long as you like, until the spine feels nice and warmed up.
Now let's move on to the core. From your table-top position (flat back now) lift the left hand and stretch it out in front of you, in line with the shoulder. Next lift the right foot and send that out straight behind you, in line with the hip. Dial the toes down towards the floor to align the hip and hold here. Engage the core and keep breathing. Do the same on the other side.
Once you've nailed this one you can exhale and curl the knee and elbow in towards the navel, rounding the back, then exhale extend again. Alternatively, try the below posture with the knees lifted, from a plank position.
Parivritta Anjaneyasana (Revolved lunge)
From your table-top position now we're going to step the right foot forward (keep the left knee on the ground for now). Breathe into this hip and quad stretch for a couple of breaths, before bringing the hands together in front of the chest in a prayer position. Now we're going to twist; bring the left elbow to the outside of the right knee, twisting from the middle spine and opening the chest right up to face the right hand side. Use the connection between the elbow and the knee as a lever, to press back and twist further. After 5-7 breaths, do the same on the other side.
Once you've got that one down, try lifting the left knee. Engage the core and the inner thighs. This stretches the hips, helps improve concentration and balance AND helps with shoulder and spinal mobility.
If you find yourself struggling to breathe, ease off the twist, or come down onto the knee again. The goal really is to ease the body into these postures, so don't push yourself or you'll end up injuring yourself which = no golf. No beuno.
Parivritta Utkatasana (Revolved chair)
Righto let's fire up those thighs and legs now. Strong legs = good solid base to swing from. Stand up straight with your big toes and knees together, but a slight gap between the ankles and heels. Engage your inner thighs as if you're trying to zip your legs up from knees to pelvis. Inhale and lift the hands over the head, bringing the palms together in a prayer position. On the exhale, bend the knees and send the hips back and down as if you're sitting on a chair. Squeeze those inner thighs in. Next we'll lower the hands down in front of the chest and take a twist like we did before. Right elbow comes to the outside of the left knee.
OK so here's the thing: make sure you keep those knees in ONE LINE! Don't let one slip in front of the other. Secondly, the lower you sink those hips, the easier it will be, believe me. Keep your weight in your heels to help with this.
Breathe in and out through the nose, and then gently unravel and fold the body forwards, bending the knees and resting the belly on the thighs for a few breaths. Then rise all the way up and do the other side.
To go further, try opening out your hands, stretching one up to the ceiling and the other down to the floor. However, make sure your elbow still sticks to the outside of the knee to get that nice twist in.
Salamba Bhujangasana and Bhujangasana (Sphinx and cobra)
OK so we've worked the hips, core, shoulders and twisted that spine out. Our final poses for spinal flexibility are a couple of back-bends.
First is sphinx pose. Come to lying on the ground on your front, feet together or hip-distance apart, depending on what feels comfortable. Bring your elbows under your shoulders and rest your forearms on the floor. Inhale and lift the chest, pressing it up and forwards. Look forwards (don't strain your neck to look upwards).
Hold for 5-7 breaths and repeat as many times as feels good.
To go further, let's try cobra (right photo below). This time bring your hands under your shoulders (in line with your nipples when you're lying on your front). Hug the elbows in to the body, inhale and press down through the hands and the tops of the feet to lift your chest. Chest lifts up and forwards and the thighs stay on the ground. Keep your elbows bent if you need to (bonus arm strengthener!!) or, if you have the back flexibility, straighten the arms.
WARNING: don't straighten your arms if it means you hunch your shoulders up by your ears, or hurts your lower back. Again, pain/tension = no beuno.
Balasana (Child's pose)
Wahoo! You've heard about this one...after any back bends we must neutralise the spine. So from cobra, very gently press down with the hands and send the weight back onto your heels. Rest your forehead on the ground or on a block or blanket if it doesn't reach the floor. Breathe into your lower back. Stretch the arms out in front for a bonus shoulder stretch.
Breathe in and out through the nose for as long as you like here, before continuing on with your day, knowing you're taking steps to improve your game (and your overall health and wellbeing!).
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