Golf may not be considered an aggressive sport by many, but it’s definitely a dangerous one. When ranked in terms of sports-related injuries, golf toppled over even aggressive physical games such as combative sports, hockey, and rugby.
Rugby, for example, is known as one of the most physical of sports, but according to a recent study conducted by GolfSupport.com, 61% of rugby players suffered injuries during the game, while 66% of golfers were injured while playing golf.
This doesn’t mean, however, that it’s time to lay down your golf club. Golf lovers can still carry on with their favorite sport and still be able to prevent injuries and even improve their game along the way.
To do so, you need to prepare your body. You’ll need more than just strength or flexibility. You also need to learn how to breathe and concentrate better. After all, golf is equal parts mind and equal parts body. That’s why a great way to improve your golf game is by starting a yoga practice.
Yoga used to be something that only “hippies” practiced. Now, professional sportspeople have realized the vast benefits in their performance by incorporating yoga into their training. Such is the case for athletes like Andy Murray, Maria Sharapova, Tom Brady, as well as pro golfers like Jordan Spieth, Josh Kendall, and David Duval. All have attributed their flexibility and mental clarity to yoga.
Here’s a rundown of how practicing yoga will help you improve your swing, focus, and longevity—all critical aspects in the world of golf.
Yoga Can Help You with Your Swing
Since the swing is the most crucial move in golf, it will make or break your game. It’s the swing that will give direction, accuracy, and length to your shots. To have the perfect swing, you need to be able to move together many parts of your body (e.g., your legs, arms, hands, and torso), while keeping the focus on the ball and the balance on your feet.
So, let’s start by analyzing the posture you need to have the consistency and perfect setting for a great swing. First, you need your feet to be a little wider than hip-width apart (your hip bones should be vertically in line with the inside of your feet) for stability.
You also need your pelvis pointing down toward the ball, the knees slightly flexed, and the thoracic spine to be straight. Additionally, you want your shoulder blades and arms to be engaged.
In order to have the correct posture and be able to coordinate your body parts to perform the perfect swing, you need to develop proprioception. Proprioception is the awareness of what your body is doing in a given space. It’s a skill that you can expect to develop in yoga class because being aware of your body and moving it in somewhat strange positions requires your complete control and perception of it.
Yoga is excellent for improving your mobility. If you are not entirely sure of what mobility means, it simply is the result of having good flexibility paired with adequate strength. It’s what gives you stability, range, and accuracy in your movements. Which, as you can expect, are what will significantly help your golf game.
It will allow you to fully move your hips, legs, and arms in their full range of motion without having to overcompensate in any way, and more importantly, in a controlled and stable manner.
A Yoga Pose to Work on Your Swing
Revolved Crescent Lunge (Parivrtta Anjaneyasana in Sanskrit)
It’s a great pose to work on the flexibility of your hip flexors, which will allow you to tilt your hip correctly for your swing. It is also twisting your spine. This twist will help you gain the flexibility and strength of your hip, core, and back muscles, allowing you to have a more harmonious swing.
And last but not least, it works on your leg strength, especially with your knees bent.
Yoga Can Help You with Your Focus
Golf is primarily a mental game, and yoga helps enhance the mental discipline and clarity that the game requires, especially when you are reaching higher levels. Sadly, most golfers who might have the physical fitness to play can’t control their minds. They get frustrated, stressed, and even become too hard on themselves, which throws off their game.
By practicing yoga, you will learn how to breathe correctly, which significantly impacts stress and concentration. When you can breathe slowly and voluntarily, you send your brain the signal that you are in a safe space, with no dangers around. Doing this switches your body into a parasympathetic response, also known as rest and digest—contrary to the fight or flight response.
This state is ideal when performing tasks that require your total mental capacity, like playing golf. Additionally, breathing fully helps your core become stronger, which will help you with your pelvis tilting and maintain the stability of your swing and stance.
Another key aspect you will gain from practicing yoga is self-compassion. This means understanding that the thoughts in your head do not define you. It is also the ability to quiet your mind and change your thoughts. This is a great skill when dealing with a challenging course, as well as difficult inner or outer conditions.
As the great Arnold Palmer once said:
“The whole secret to mastering the game of golf—and this applies to the beginner, as well as the pro—is to cultivate a mental approach to the game that will enable you to shrug off the bad days, keep patient, and know in your heart that sooner or later, you will be back on top.”
Yoga Can Help You with Your Endurance in the Sport
As with most sports, golf requires repetitive movements. With time, golf causes many unwanted injuries: low back, elbow, and shoulder injuries being the most common. Studies have shown that 7 out of 10 amateurs and 9 out of 10 professionals will suffer golf-related injuries during their lifetime.
Yoga helps golfers increase their endurance in the sport by improving mobility (flexibility and strength) and the overall health of their joints and connective tissues, while also helping to balance biomechanical asymmetries.
If you now realize all the advantages that yoga can give you, I encourage you to find the nearest yoga studio or an online class to start reaping the benefits as soon as possible. A great example is this class from Yoga with Adriene: