Whether you’re a weekend warrior or deep into competition, incorporating yoga can improve and strengthen your golf game. It can also help keep you on the course for many years to come! A regular yoga practice can benefit the serious and casual golfer alike.
This week’s focus for golfers is twisting. How far you can twist the torso, creating separation between the shoulder and hip, dictates the amount of power in your swing. Since this action is repeated many times during a round of golf, it’s best to create a twist that is as healthy for the back as possible. Focusing the rotation of the torso about the long axis of the spine will not only facilitate a greater range of motion, but also a movement that is better for the body. If you have concerns about the health of your back, be sure to consult your healthcare provider about your movement patterns in golf and yoga.
Try these poses to encourage a healthy twist and greater range of motion. As you work, find a relaxed pace of breath, focusing on full inhales and exhales.
Standing Side Stretch – Stand with the feet at hip distance or slightly wider. Stand tall as you gently tone the belly. Using a long iron, hold it over head, with hands placed wider that the shoulders. Keep the arms and wrists long. Inhale to lengthen the spine and exhale as you side stretch. Keep the arms and head centered over the shoulders. Focus on creating length through both sides of the body as you side stretch.
For additional challenge, side stretch, then turn the torso slightly towards the sky, adding a twist. Repeat this movement for 3-5 rounds of breath.
Standing Twist – With the feet at hip distance, place one foot on a chair or bench. The benches in the locker room or on the practice range are usually just right for this stretch. Distance yourself, so the bottom foot is stacked under the hip. Stand up tall and twist the torso in the direction of the bent knee. Take one hand to the back pocket and the other to the front thigh. Maintain the stance of the legs, do not allow the lifted knee to collapse or bow towards the midline of the body. Press into both hands to create a deeper twist. Take the gaze over the back shoulder to deepen the twist, but only if it feels good on the neck. If you can maintain the intensity of the twist, extend the back arm in line with the shoulder with the thumb pointing up, for a gentle stretch across the chest. Stay in the twist for 5 or more breaths, then repeat on the other side.
90* Core Work Twist – Recline, draw the knees and feet together and lift them to 90*. Be sure to stack the knees over the hips, so you feel the core engage. The hands can be placed under the hips, they can hold the sides of the mat, or they can be extended out wide. Keep the knees at 90* and as you exhale, slowly drop them to one side. Only twist to a point where you can maintain control. On the inhale, bring the knees back to center, then drop them to the other side. There is a tendency to inch the knees closer to the chest, keep the knees stacked over the hips.
For additional challenge straighten one or both the legs, but only do so if you can maintain integrity in the movement. Twist 5-10 times on each side or until you experience fatigue.
Twisted Lunge – Come into an upright lunge with the foot and knee at hip distance. Take the arms out wide as you lengthen the spine from the hips to the crown of the head. Twist toward the forward leg, placing the opposite hand to the ground. If the ground is difficult to reach, place a block under the bottom hand for support. The top hand can press into the back pocket or extend in line with the shoulders.
For more challenge, hook the elbow to the thigh. Stay in this pose for 5-10 breaths, then repeat on the other side.
When twisting, you may notice that your range of motion is greater in one direction than the other. If that’s the case, practice the side with less range first, switch sides, then go back to the first side. Over time, this extra attention to the weak side will create balance and symmetry.
Best wishes for a healthy and happy golf season, this year and for many years ahead!
Interested in other yoga poses to compliment your game? Be sure to check out the other posts in this series for golfers: