Thursday, May 12, 2016

Top 6 Yoga Poses to Improve your Golf Game

By Janine L. Agoglia

Golf is a sport loved by many, but with it can come many physical ailments. The main reason for this is that playing golf requires repetitive movement that always occurs on the same side. Do you "switch hit" when you play? I don't know anyone that does.

Yoga is a great complement to any sport, including golf, because it uses every muscle and moves the body through every range of motion. There are a number of poses that can help you with your golf swing, both with range of motion as well as with power. Yoga can create strength while releasing the tension that impedes your swing, thereby increasing your ability to hit the tiny ball into the tiny hole. Yoga also helps improve focus and concentration, both of which are essential, not just for golf, but for life.

Before trying these poses for the first time, please read this blog post on how to keep yourself safe, listen to what your body is telling you, and know your limits. Yoga is not about going the farthest or pushing yourself the hardest, you want to feel good so that you enhance the quality of your mental and physical health, thereby improving your ability to play the game you love.

Top 6 Poses to Improve your Golf Game

1. Reclining Spinal Twist-- Improves range of motion and strength for your swing
Start by lying down on your back with your knees pulled into your
chest. Open your arms out to the sides, like the letter "T" and let your knees drop to your left. If you feel too much pull on your back, place a rolled up towel, pillow or yoga block either under both knees so there is less twist, or between your knees which can help keep your hips properly aligned. Hold in the twist for 5 deep, slow breaths then repeat to the other side. Once you have done both sides, it can feel good to rock the knees from side to side, inhaling to bring your knees back over your chest, then exhaling into the twist, going back and forth an equal number of times. Try to use your abdominal muscles to move the legs from side to side as a gentle way to strengthen your core

2. Locust--Strengthens your back and releases tension in the chest and shoulders
Lie face down with your arms at your sides, palms facing the ceiling, forehead on the floor. Bring

your hands behind you and interlace your fingers at your lower back. Try to make one fist with two hands (you can bend your elbows to bring your palms together and then work toward straightening your arms). Squeeze your shoulder blades together and reach your knuckles toward your feet. As you inhale, lift your chest (head comes along for the ride) and legs off the floor. Be sure not to reach the chin forward, try to keep the back of your throat reaching forward. Hold for 3-5 breaths then release, turning your head to one side, unlacing the fingers and letting the shoulders round toward the floor. After resting for 3-5 breaths, bring your forehead back to the floor and interlace your fingers at your lower back with the other fingers on top (if your right thumb is on top, shift all of the finger over by one so that the left finger is on top, still pressing the palms together). Lift up again, holding 3-5 breaths, then release, this time turning your head to the other side.

3. Low Lunge--Improves hip flexor mobility
Kneel on the floor (feel free to place some sort of padding under your knee, like a mat or a blanket) and step your right foot forward. Make sure your right knee is directly over your right ankle so that your shin is perpendicular to the floor; that might mean adjusting the foot slightly. Your hands can stay on the floor or blocks next to your right foot, or they can come to your right knee or they can reach up over your head. Make sure only to go as far into this pose as feels good and safe. Your hips should be sinking forward toward the floor, your tailbone dropping downward also toward the floor. The stretch should be felt in the front of the left hip. If you don't feel a stretch, gently press your hips forward a little more. Hold 5-8 breaths, then repeat to the other side.

4. Downward Dog--Strengthens the shoulders, core and legs while stretching the hamstrings, shoulders and back
For a more detailed description of Downward Dog, click here; for the basics, read on. Start on your hands and knees, spreading the fingers while pressing the whole palm into the floor. Tuck your toes under and lift your hips so that you are in an upside down "V" shape. Your heels may or may not be able to touch the floor and that is fine. Try to spread your shoulders apart, widening the upper back as much as possible. If your lower back is rounding so that your tailbone is aiming for the floor, bend your knees slightly (or a lot) and try to aim your tailbone for the ceiling behind you; this should flatten your spine. Keep the spine flat and work toward straightening your legs. If your hamstrings are tight, it may not be possible to keep the back flat and get the legs straight, so work with your knees bent, moving toward straight as your hamstrings lengthen and release.

5. Pigeon/Reclining Pigeon--Opens the hips, releases the glutes
For a more detailed description of both Pigeon and Reclining Pigeon, click here; for the basics, read on. For Pigeon, come onto your hands and knees and bring your right knee forward toward your right wrist. Slide your right shin slightly forward as you sink your hips toward the floor; it is not important for your hips to touch the floor, it is more important for both hips to face forward. Place a rolled towel, blanket or block under your right hip for extra support if you need. Extend your left leg behind your left hip. Fold forward over your right knee, letting your head rest on the floor, a rolled towel or a block; this support for the head allows the neck to relax completely. Stay for 5-8 breaths then repeat to the other side.
If this bothers your knees or other joints, Reclining Pigeon is a better option for you. Lie on your back with your left knee bent, foot flat on the floor. Cross your right ankle over your left knee (making an upside down #4 with your legs) and bring your left knee toward your left shoulder. Reach your right arm through the opening made by your right leg and interlace your fingers behind your left thigh. Use arm strength to bring your left knee closer to your left shoulder, while gently pressing your right elbow into your right thigh. Lengthen the tailbone toward the floor. Stay for 5-8 breaths then repeat to the other side.

6. Tree pose--Improves balance and mental focus

Stand with your feet 3-4" apart and parallel so that the heel is directly behind the 2nd and 3rd toe
on each foot. Stack your ankles over your heels, your knees over your ankles, your hips over your knees, your shoulders over your hips and your head over your shoulders. In doing this, you want to feel the fronts of your thighs lifting upward, your lower abdominal muscles lifting upward and your buttocks engaged (this is Mountain Pose, for more on Mountain, click here). Keep that alignment and shift to your right so that 80% of your weight is on your right foot, allowing your left heel to lift off the floor. You can stay there, or float your left knee toward your chest. You can stay there or bring your left foot to your inner right leg, as high or low as is comfortable, just make sure not to press into your knee joint. Squeeze your left foot and right leg together equally. Your hands can come to your hips or come together in front of your heart. Keep your eyes open so that you can see something with your eyes; it is possible to balance with your eyes closed but it is significantly more challenging. Having some sort of object in front of you on which to focus your eyes makes balance easier. Stand on one leg for as long as you can, then switch sides. Over time, it will be easier and easier to balance; try to be patient with yourself and give yourself permission to fall over. Yelling at yourself for losing your balance serves no purpose, try to use kind self-talk only. If you can be kind to yourself while balancing on one leg, it will be easier to be more forgiving of yourself when you miss on the green. At least half of playing golf is mental; if you can stay calm and relaxed while playing your results will be better. Tree pose is a great place to practice humor, humility and kindness toward yourself.

Regular yoga practice can improve your control over your body and help you feel good physically and mentally.

Related posts:

Improving your Golf Game with Acupuncture

How to Know Your Limits in a Yoga Class

Downward Dog: Tips to Help You Love this Pose

Kapotasana or Pigeon Pose: How to Safely Open the Hips

Reducing Anxiety by Becoming a Mountain

Janine L. Agoglia has been teaching Vinyasa yoga since 1998. Her yoga journey started in 1995 with Iyengar Yoga and she discovered Vinyasa yoga in 1997. The combination of breath with proper body alignment is what fuels Janine's practice and the classes that she teaches. She believes that yoga should be safe as well as challenging, creative and fun. She always emphasizes proper alignment within the flow, as well as focus, breath and humor to help students find the balance between strength and ease. Deepening one’s physical awareness helps one strengthen his/her spiritual awareness and mind-body connection. Janine loves being able to help people deepen their own practices, finding yoga in everyday life, on and off the mat. Her DVD, “Vinyasa Yoga for Regular People” is available for purchase at the front desk at Lumina Mind Body Studios in Wayland, MA.

In addition to being the Co-Director of Yoga and teaching yoga classes at Lumina Mind Body Studios, Janine is also a Licensed Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbalist who practices at Integrative Therapeutics in Natick, MA.

To contact Janine, please email or visit her