Yoga is an excellent form of exercise that complements many activities and helps establish balance and harmony when life gets chaotic. It’s also a perfect activity to help us become better golfers.
During my last yoga lesson, I discovered that one of my instructors grew up with the game. Like me, she believes that yoga is one of the best ways to prepare mentally and physically for golf. With her help, we created a yoga routine that complements your pre-round warm up. All of these poses warm and strengthen the body, open the upper back, hamstrings, and your quads.
Here is a quick, ten-minute yoga routine that will help prepare yourself mentally and physically for your next round.
Don’t worry if you’ve never struck a yoga pose in your life, and please don’t think you have to be flexible to do yoga. Just start slowly and adapt the poses to your comfort level. There’s no shame in using a chair or a wall for help with balance or to only hold half the pose. Listen to your body, take it slow, and only do what feels right.
First, find a quiet spot where you won’t be interrupted for a few minutes that has enough room for you to stand and lie down with your arms fully extended. Make sure you’re wearing comfortable, nonrestrictive clothing. A yoga mat is great but not necessary. Just be sure you’re in a comfortable spot where you won’t slip.
You’ll begin laying flat on your back with your arms falling naturally at your sides and your legs outstretched. Use this time to clear your thoughts and disconnect from your day to reconnect with your body. Begin with 60 seconds of deep breathing, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Focus on your breath and how it feels in the body. Set an intention for your round. When you’re ready, take in a breath and move into the next pose on your out breath.
Still lying down, lift your knees to place your feet flat on the floor about shoulder width apart. In this pose, you will tilt your pelvis to warm up your spine and work out all the tightness gathered in your lower back. Gently press your back against the floor and tilt your pelvis up. Hold this pose as you take your next breath and let go on your out breath. You shouldn’t physically rise from the mat. Instead, you should simply shift your pelvis back and forth with your weight gently resting on your upper back. Repeat ten times and on your next out breath, move into the next pose.
Still lying down, get your hamstrings ready for walking the course by extending your legs in the air, knees bent or straight depending on your comfort level. You can do this one leg at a time or simultaneously. Slowly, stretch out your legs with this pose, being sure to keep your back flat and pelvis neutral. Try five lifts on each leg, and on your next out breath, return your feet to the floor.
Figure Four Stretch
With your arms still by your side, cross your right ankle over your left knee, your right knee pointed out to the side. This further prepares your upper legs for all that golf demands. To deepen the stretch, you can loop your hands behind your left knee and gently pull toward your chest. Switch sides after 30 seconds.
With your legs loosened up, sit upright with your legs crossed in Easy Pose. Your knees should be low, as close to the floor that feels comfortable. When you’re comfortable, bow your head so your chin touches your chest, then roll your chin to your left shoulder and circle your head back and around to the right side. Slowly repeat five times in each direction. On the next out breath, move into the next pose.
This pose limbers your back and shoulders. Begin seated, legs still folded in Easy Pose, and hold your arms out in front of you. Hook your right arm under your left, bending both of your arms up at the elbow. With both hands pointed up, wrap your arms around to meet your hands, palms together. If this doesn’t feel right for you, simply place each hand on the opposite shoulder to give yourself a hug. Do this for 30 seconds before switching arms. On the next out breath, move into the next pose.
Bringing your body into a standing position to move into Chair Pose. Inhale and, on your out breath, lift your arms above your head, feet shoulder width apart, or wide enough to maintain your balance. Then, bend your knees as if you’re sitting in an invisible chair. Try to get your thighs as parallel to the floor but not at the risk of your balance. Hold this pose for 30 seconds and on your next out breath, return to standing.
Now to open your hips and stretch your hamstrings, step out to the side into a wide-legged stance. Bend your left knee into a half-squat or as far as you can safely go. Your right leg remains straight and your right foot flexed. Keep your hands on the floor for balance or keep your hands, palms together, at your chest. If you find this stretch uncomfortable, go down as far as feels good and repeat for the other leg. On the next out breath, return to standing and prepare for the next pose of the practice.
Starting from standing, step forward one to two steps with your right leg, making sure to keep your hips forward and square. Turn your left foot out slightly for balance and stretch your arms straight out behind you, hands clasped together. On your next out breath, bow forward at the waist until your right shoulder touches the top of your right knee. Drop as deep into the pose as you comfortably can, being careful not the strain yourself. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat for the left leg. On your next out breath, return to standing.
Standing with your back straight and your head held high, take a moment to reflect on your practice and revisit the intention you set at the beginning of the warm-up. Breathe deeply here and check in with your body and how you feel. And, when you’re ready, you can relax, knowing you’re now renewed and prepared for your round.
Remember that yoga, like golf, can be a lifelong activity and each time we come to the mat, our bodies feel and perform differently. So, be kind to yourself, mindful, and careful with each move . . . in life, in yoga, and in golf.