Golf seems so simple, yet so complex- so easy, yet so difficult. It's so peaceful, yet potentially so upsetting. Many say it's a sport for old men, but it attracts some of the best young male and female athletes on the planet. The yin and yang aspects of golf are what makes it so interesting and also such a great sport to pair up with a regular yoga practice.
Golf is one of the most mental sports I know. When my husband gets together with his golf buddies, they talk for hours and hours about getting this little white ball into a hole. They pick apart every minute aspect of the game- from the course and it's advantages and pitfalls, to their swing and which club to use, to who has what scores, to what type of drinks and cigars they're going to partake in on the course. When I go out to play, I quickly see that the etiquette and rituals of golf are intricate and complicated and it's a whole world within itself. Private lessons are a must, and like skiing, if you don't get privates in the beginning, you may develop atrocious habits that are difficult to break. What you wear is also very important! All these different factors, and more, contribute to the mentality of golf.
Let's look at golf in yogic terms: mind, body and spirit. In yoga we learn that there is the subconscious, the conscious and the superconscious mind. Subconsciously, we store all that we've learned about golf- how to swing, how to hold the body, how to keep your eye on the ball, etc. After private or group lessons, hours on the driving range and on the course, we store more and more information about what should happen in those few seconds as we set up and hit the ball. We draw on our subconscious mind for past experience.
This brings us into the conscious mind. Those moments when we're standing on the tee box and positioning our body, the ball, the tee and the club, our mind tries to think of everything in that wellspring of knowledge to help us swing successfully. In a few precious seconds, we try to use all of our past knowledge and experience to hit the ball at just the right angle and force to get it to the next hole. Depending on how focused we can be has a lot to do with our mind set at that moment. If stress, anxiety and judgement are present, the ball may be sliced, it can end up in a sand trap, or we may not even hit it. This is the moment that the monkey mind really kicks in and clubs are thrown, shocking expletives are yelled, and tantrums abound.
The super conscious mind is the higher thinking mind. The part of the mind that's tapped into our higher intuition and wisdom. This is the part of the mind that just 'knows'. It's the connection to universal consciousness, peace, freedom and joy. This is the part of the mind that has no doubts, judgements or criticisms. It's the mind that knows that everything is how it should be at each moment. Everything is perfect as it is. This is the part of our being that we all want to be connected with when we're golfing- the part that hits the ball with ease, that just knows how to stand, how to swing and how to come out of the swing. You know, those days when your hitting a stellar game below par. You're playing birdie golf. This is the part of the mind that is taking in the beauty of the course and buzzing with the prana and life force of nature all around.
Now for the 'body' aspect of yoga and golf. Even though golf is not a physically rigorous sport, core strength, flexibility, stability and balance are crucial to up your game. In golf, our bodies are used in three planes of motion. We're flexed (bending forward at the hips), we are laterally bending (side to side), and rotating during a golf swing. Therefore our hip and spine flexibility is crucial. Core strength is also extremely important to support and stabilize these 3 movements and to keep our posture strong. Balance is necessary through the rotation of the swing to stay grounded and balanced evenly on our feet. In yoga, balancing the two sides of the body and the brain is one of the basic goals of our practice which again makes it so complementary for golfers because golf is such an asymetrical sport where we are always using one side of the body (an consequently one side of the brain) more than the other. Yoga provides several postures and movements that work on all of these aspects of the physical body in our golf game. I'll be teaching a class online entitled 'yoga for golfers' which will address in a lot more detail the physical demands of golf and the yoga postures that are complementary.
The last aspect I'd like to address by looking at golf through the lens of yoga is spirit. How do you feel when you're playing a great golf game? Does this game speak to you and put you in a place of joy? Do you stay in a peaceful place while you're on the course or do you have a tendency to let your 'mind stuff' kick in and put you in an uncomfortable place of judgement, criticism and anxiety? Can you make your golf game into a true meditation practice where the outcome has no importance and what counts is the practice? Can you use the golf ball and your relationship to it as an exercise in focusing your attention, and have a true appreciation of being in a life affirming natural environment on the course?
I think yoga offers many of the tools that we can use to bring spirit into our golf game. A regular yoga practice during the week is crucial. Before you hit the course, take 15 minutes to a half hour to do some deep preparatory stretching, and take 5 minutes for either an energy giving breath practice such as Kapalabhati, a balancing practice such as Analoma Veloma, or a de-stressing breath such as square breath (or all 3!). Try setting an intention or a 'Sankalpa' before your game such as, “ I will only focus on enjoying my time on the golf course today, letting go of expectation and being present'. When you are on the course take your time before each swing and let go of busy thought. Before you hit the ball, consciously calm your body, calm your breath, take a deep inhale and..........swing! Afterwards...detach and enjoy, no matter where the ball ends up and realize that, it's just a game!
With love and light,