Can yoga help me play better golf?
Yoga can help you improve your golf game. In addition to the mental benefits, yoga will help you become stronger and more flexible in a short space of time. By having greater mobility and balance within your swing, performing yoga will help you play better golf. That’s why I started and never looked back.
How Yoga saved my golf swing
At the time of writing this article, I’ve just turned 51 years old. Like many of you, I’m guilty of leading a sedentary lifestyle. I spend most of the day sitting behind the desk writing, performing graphic design tasks or designing buildings. Golf is one of my main methods of exercise.
Last year I started working on improving my swing and things were going great. Then one day in the downswing, whilst trying to beat my PB drive, I suddenly got a sharp pain in my shoulder. I’d done damage to my Supraspinatus muscle tendon.
It was painful every time I lifted my arm up and over my head. And at night I couldn’t lay on that side as it was like a hot needle being pushed into my shoulder.
I knew that at my age I needed to improve my strength and flexibility if I was going to get back in shape, but most importantly, prevent further injury.
Over the following weeks I slowly got into yoga. Privately at first as I was like a beached whale, floundering on the living room floor. My morning routine became 20 minutes long and consisted of just 8 beginner poses. These mainly concentrated on the back, hips and hamstrings.
8 great beginner yoga poses for golfers
Pictures courtesy of Yoga Journal
- Forward Bend
- Wakes up and stretches your hamstrings
- Wide legged forward bend
- Increases flexibility
- Downward Facing Dog
- Deservedly one of yoga’s most widely recognized yoga poses, offers the ultimate all-over, rejuvenating stretch. It also builds strength in the shoulders.
- Low Lunge
- The low lunge stretches the thighs and groins and opens the chest.
- Crescent Lunge
- This variation of High Lunge, sometimes called Crescent Pose, is a great preparation for the full warrior 1 pose below.
- Warrior 1 pose
- Great for strengthening the core and hamstrings whilst opening the hips.
- Chair Pose clearly works the muscles of the arms and legs, but it also stimulates the diaphragm and heart.
- Child’s Pose
- Great for taking a break between more challenging poses. The Child’s pose stretches the shoulders and back
Can Yoga improve my golf? – Answered
Yes. After just a week I could see and feel a difference in my shoulders. But better still, my back and hips were more flexible too. This encouraged me to keep going, although still in secret away from the wife and kids. There’s nothing more brutal than the scolding of a teenager…
Now my daily routine has developed into a regular array of yoga poses. My shoulders, back, hips, knees and ankles are all more flexible and stable compared to when I started.
I work from home so I am lucky enough that once my morning routine is complete, I spend another 30 minutes doing a workout on the multi-gym in my garage.
I am now stronger and more flexible than I have been in years. And I can swing the club easier too. All because of taking up yoga. Oh, and I have since my PB drive several times since so yes, using yoga has improved my golf.
What are the benefits of yoga for golfers?
Golf is not only physically demanding, but it is also mentally exhausting. Many golfers will put their dip in performance during a round of golf, to being physically tired, yet maintaining focus can be just as hard work.
Having a strong mental game is just as important in golf as being able to strike the ball well. That’s why all professional golfers have a mental coach in some form or another.
This mental strength, like any muscle, takes work and practice to achieve. Yet the benefits of doing so are plain to see during any professional tournament.
Yoga can help you focus and play better golf too. The breathing exercises that go hand in hand with the yoga poses help you to control your diaphragm. By controlling your breathing you can improve your concentration and therefore remain focused.
That way the days you simply give up an a hole, will be few and far between.
Yoga poses require a high level of muscular strength. Many of the poses use your bodyweight to build strength, and by doing so, it’s like weight lifting. But rather than use weights, yoga uses gravity. Each pose will work several muscle groups at a time. And all of them work your core muscles to some extent.
This subtle strength building that yoga offers builds as you get better in your technique. The stronger you become, then the more you can learn advanced poses. It is incredible how strong you can become should you wish to develop to the more advanced level of yoga.
Because the golf club is swung around the body, it is important to have a good balance in your swing. As yoga builds your core strength, you can use this strength to improve your balance.
Better balance within your golf swing, coupled with increased strength, will help you leverage the ground effect in your golf swing. You will gain yards with each club whilst feeling in complete control of your swing.
Many injuries come from either not being warmed up correctly, or simply having tight muscles. Which begs the question, why grab the driver as your first club at the driving range. Something I mention in my practice guide here.
I found that as I got better at each of the poses, my muscles loosened up and I began to get a much better range of motion compared to before.
The biggest areas that I benefited in were my shoulders and my hips. Both large muscle groups that have a huge impact on the swing. In addition I also noticed how improved my posture was. I seemed to be more upright and my shoulders were more relaxed during the day.
Now with better flexibility and an increased range of motion, I have a more powerful golf swing.
Now Yoga has given you improved flexibility and range of motion. You can feel the benefit of increased mobility.
Yoga works all the joints in your body along their tendons and ligaments too. With less restriction in your movements, you will move faster than before with less effort.
Yoga is all about holding each pose for a sustained period of time. This is called an isometric position, where the term isometric refers to the muscular effort involved in holding a stationary position. In other words expelling effort to remain still.
As I grew in my ability to perform yoga, I could hold poses for longer and gradually I increased my stamina.
And as you’re not getting tired so easily, you can play better golf.
Yoga improves your core strength and with this comes the ability to have a strong foundation within your swing. Not only will this lead to more distance with each club, but this added ability to stay stable will help you when hitting balls from awkward lies.
This is an image from the Titleist Performance Institute. They use it to show how the joints are stacked from bottom to top in terms of stability/mobility in the golf swing.
You can easily notice that the pattern is stable, then mobile. Yoga is a blend of strength/endurance (stability) and flexibility (mobility), and immediately provides the golfer with higher levels of both of these. Yoga will finely tune your body, and when the body is finely tuned, better golf is easily achievable.
Many people, especially men, think they have to be flexible before taking up Yoga. They may comment, “I’m too tight. I can’t do yoga.” Well that’s exactly the reason why they should!
Yoga is probably the best way to achieve strength, stamina, core strength, stability, flexibility and mobility.
Can you prove Yoga is good for Golf?
In a recent article in ‘The Courier.co.uk’ it was noted that Researchers at Abertay University ran a study examining golfers who took part in two 15-minute yoga sessions a week over a six-week period.
The main focus of the exercise was to see how their hips rotated in relation to their torsos while they played shots. Commonly known as the X-Factor stretch.
The scientists conducting the study noticed a two to three degree difference in the range of motion among the golfers who had been practising yoga. This translated to a greater club head speed. A greater hand speed was also recorded.
The research was co-authored by Dr Ashley Richardson and Dr Graeme Sorbie of the Dundee-based university’s division of sports and exercise sciences.
Dr Richardson said the findings could change the way players approach their fitness regimes. “A common issue with golfers when it comes to training is the fear that they can’t become stronger as they’ll lose flexibility,” he said. “This in turn could affect their golf swing”.
He goes on to say,“while yoga has a slightly different demographic to golf, it promotes both flexibility and strength. Each session is short, meaning it won’t take much time out of a golfer’s life”.
Dr Sorbie added: “The study was conducted over a six-week period and it’s possible that the improvement would be even greater over a longer period of time.
Although yoga is becoming more popular in football as a way of recovering from injury, it’s not an area which has been hugely researched. Yet it’s possible that it could be applied to other sports, with similar rates of success.
Which Yoga poses are best for improving your golf?
All yoga poses are great for improving your golf. In fact they are great at improving all of your physical and mental lifestyle.
I was very sceptical of trying yoga at first. However ever after just 10 days or so of my morning routine, I couldn’t deny the benefits I was feeling.
Nowadays with YouTube, there is no excuse not to give this type of exercise a try. And, if like me, you feel like a floundering whale on your rug, then why not let it be your guilty pleasure.
Trust me, there’s nothing like surprising your kids when you can bend over and place your palms on the floor more easily than they can. Or indeed, hold a pose longer than them.
What professional golfers do yoga?
With yoga you don’t need anything other than a space big enough to stretch out in. No weights or equipment is needed other than a mat if you want to be posh.
It protects against injury, and strengthens the entire body. So it’s no surprise that today there are so many professional sports persons, not just golfers, that are using yoga as a convenient form of exercise.
I sincerely hope that I have given you some useful information, not only on how Yoga can improve your golf, but how yoga can improve your life. I thouroughly recommend that you give it a try for a month. Trust me, you won’t regret you did.