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.
Most of us already need to create openness and flexibility through the shoulders, upper back, and neck. Our culture of sitting and staring down at devices creates a lot of tension and pull through these areas. For golfers, a strong and open chest and shoulder area, promotes better posture and benefits the swing. It contributes to true hip to shoulder separation, not caused by curling or hunching the shoulders into the twist, but encouraging actual rotation of the spine. It also encourages the arms to reach freely allowing for strong, integrated extension.
Try these poses to open up the shoulder and chest, to mitigate tension, and create an asset to your game. As you work, find a relaxed pace of breath, focusing on full inhales and exhales.
Club Pull Down – Stand tall with the feet at hip distance or slightly wider. The knees can be slightly bent to encourage a stable stance and strong back. Using a long iron or hybrid club, hold the club overhead with the hands wider than the shoulders. Position the head, so it is stacked over the shoulders. As you begin to move, the head remains still, resist the action of jutting the head forward. Inhale as you extend long through the spine and reach through the arms. Exhale as you bend the elbows and pull the club behind the head. Stop when you feel a gentle stretch through the shoulders and chest. Keep the back open as you move, do not collapse the shoulder blades to the center of the body. Repeat this pattern for 3 to 5 rounds of breath, then stay with the elbows bent for 3 to 5 breaths more.
Club Bind and Stretch – Stand with the feet at hip distance or slightly wider. Using a long iron or hybrid club, hold the club head in the hand. Reach the arm over head, then point the grip end down, behind the back as you bend the elbow. With the opposite hand, reach behind the back for the club. Walk the hand up the club until you feel a gentle stretch on the shoulder, add a slight pulling on the club with the bottom hand to increase intensity. Press the back of the head into the lifted forearm. Continue to stand tall as you breathe, keeping the belly gently toned. Take 3 to 5 rounds of breaths.
For the second part, keep hold of the club head and grip end, begin to reach the top hand straight overhead. This will transfer the stretch to the other shoulder. Stop when you feel a gentle stretch. Keep the head pressing back towards the club. Take 3 to 5 breaths, then repeat the poses with the opposite hand on top.
Club Lift – Stand with the feet at hip distance or slightly wider. Take a club behind the back hold the club with the thumbs pointing. How wide or close the hands are will depend on how open the shoulders are today. Keep the arms long, back broad, belly toned, and head stacked over the center of the body. Gently lift the hands away from the tail, stopping when you find a good place to work. Take 3 to 5 breaths. Release the club back towards the tail, flip the grip of the hand, so the thumbs point towards one another. Gently lift again, stopping when you find a good stretch. Take 3 to 5 breaths.
Yin Shoulder – Begin on your side. Reach the top arm up and take the back of the hand to the back. Placing the hand towards the low back will make the pose more accessible, reaching the fingertips towards the shoulder blades will make the pose more intense. Plug the shoulder blade onto the back. With the hand in place, roll onto the back, trapping the hand. Work to soften the shoulder head toward the floor, keeping the chest open and broad. If you need to adjust the intensity, roll to the side again and replace the hand. One option for the legs is to place the feet on the floor and the knees pointing up. Another option is to extend the legs long and let them completely relax. Stay in this pose for 3 to 5 minutes on each side.
It takes time to build up tension in the shoulders, so be patient and take the needed time to create openness and flexibility. 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: