You may be surprised by an article suggesting that yoga could improve a golfer’s performance. Many people believe that yoga practitioners must all be young, thin, and flexible. However, with a little bit of time and patience, anyone, including golfers, can reap the benefits of yoga.
The best yoga stretches for golfers focus on hip and shoulder mobility to improve your swing. They also improve your balance and increase flexibility, stability and strength. Specific stretches include Pigeon pose for hip mobility, Bird Dog pose for balance, and Cow Face poses for shoulder mobility.
This article will begin by discussing some of the ways in which yoga can benefit golfers. It will then describe specific poses that will enhance golfers’ performance. Read on to learn just how well these two very different sports complement each other.
How Can Yoga Benefit Golfers?
To the untrained eye, golf may seem like a sport that does not require a lot of athleticism. However, that person would be mistaken. Golf requires many of the same athletic components of widely accepted sports such as basketball or running. Players must have strength, endurance, balance, and focus. This section will go over how yoga can improve each of these important components of a successful athlete.
Hip Mobility and Strength
The hips are the largest joint in your body and, therefore, should be well taken care of. They help you with the most basic everyday movements, such as walking and sitting comfortably. For golf, in particular, you need healthy hips to bend down and pick up your ball, walking to and from the cart, and most importantly, a good swing.
With each swing, especially those initial swings where you want to drive the ball as far as possible. One hip rotates, and the other remains stable depending on whether you swing with your right or left hand. This is exactly why it’s so important to build strength and mobility in your hips. Having looser and more mobile hips will make your hip rotation and swing more efficient and effective.
Yoga naturally improves hip strength and mobility by putting our bodies in positions that they may not have ever been in before. Many of us neglect our bodies by failing to strengthen and stretch the muscles regularly. After practising yoga a few times per week, you will quickly notice an improvement in hip tightness and flexibility.
Shoulder Mobility and Strength
Just like your hips, the shoulder joint, while much smaller, is vital for daily tasks such as hailing a taxi or high fiving your best friend. In golf, the shoulder joint plays a major role in your swing, as well as a smaller role in reaching down to pick up your ball or waving to the players behind you.
It may seem obvious, but most of your golf swing comes from the strength in your shoulders. A good swing also relies heavily on a large range of motion in your shoulders, which can make your swing more accurate.
Range of Motion
Furthermore, a swing is made stronger if you can put more force behind it. Additional force in your swing comes from the extra momentum you get from an improved range of motion (i.e., shoulder mobility). To bring this full circle, the strength in your shoulders allows for a stronger drive, where more mobility allows for more force behind it.
Many poses in yoga target are increasing shoulder strength and mobility. One of the most common poses, especially for transitions, is Downward Facing Dog. The yogi is putting a lot of weight on the upper part of the body, and the shoulders are working hard to support his weight. You should notice an improvement in your shoulder mobility and strength only a few weeks after regular practice.
Improved Balance and Stability
Have you ever felt a little bit wobbly after a big swing? If you have, don’t be embarrassed. It happens all of the time. However, you can crush the competition by practising a few poses targeted at improving your balance and stability.
If you have ever practised yoga before, you probably recall being asked to engage your core to balance at least once or twice. This is because a big component of yoga focuses on balance and stabilising joints during movements. This translates into an improved golf performance.
Many balanced, focused yoga poses, such as Tree Pose or Bird Dog Pose (described below), will better prepare you for a golf game. First, being able to keep your balance during a big swing is a no brainier. It is required to make solid contact with the ball.
Second, while one half of your body is rotating, the other side remains stable—this one place where improved stability is important. You may also find it helpful if you are in a position where you have to hit the ball from an awkward angle, which, let’s face it, is inevitable.
Even if your physical body is in the best possible condition, to play at peak performance, a golfer must be able to remain calm and focus on the moment. Yoga teaches us to focus on our breath, especially as we are experiencing uncomfortable stretches. It also teaches us to focus on how parts of our body function and how each side is a little bit different. These are all things many of us would otherwise pay no attention to.
Bringing your focus back to your current task can help in many aspects of your life, but it can improve your golf game in a particular way. Have you ever been up to put, but you cannot stop thinking about a fight you had earlier in the day? Or maybe you have a big meeting at work coming up. Regardless, these everyday distractions can hinder your performance. You don’t want anything to take your attention away from your club, hitting the ball in the right spot.
Improving strength and mobility in your hips and shoulders will make a big difference for injury prevention. Have you ever heard the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? So you should dedicate doing a few yoga stretches once or twice a week. Focus on the essential joints that can prevent an injury that will take you out of the game for weeks or months.
Injuries are almost inevitable for athletes, even golfers, especially those who manage to play for years. Increased strength, mobility, and balance are the benefits a golfer receives from yoga. It means that the body will be prepared to bounce back if an injury does occur.
An injury in the rotatory cuff (or shoulder joint) is one of the most common in golf due to the joint’s repeated use during the swing. Don’t beat yourself up if this happens to you – it can happen to the best of them.
With regular yoga practice, you can rest assured that your shoulder will be much more resilient. This is because you have taken the time to build that additional strength and mobility. This is one example of how yoga can speed up recovery. There are countless other benefits you should incorporate yoga into your weekly routine.
Best Yoga Stretches for Golf Swing
Now that you have all of this information let’s go over some beginner yoga poses to help you get started.
The pigeon pose is perfect for opening up the hips and increasing mobility. There are also several variations to accommodate different flexibility levels.
To get into the pigeon pose from the downward-facing dog, do the following:
- Bring your right leg towards the forward and place your shin parallel to the front of your mat. If it is painful or inaccessible for your shin to be parallel, it is okay to bring it closer to your inner thigh.
- Place your hands on either side of your bent knee, straighten your back, and reach through the crown of your head. You should feel an intense, but not painful, stretch in your right hip.
- If you do not feel like you are getting a deep stretch in your hip, you can increase the difficulty. Move down onto your forearms or folding your forearms in front of you and resting your head on your wrists.
- Hold this pose for three to five slow, deep breaths, getting deeper into the stretch with each one.
Be sure to switch sides to stretch your left hip as well. It is prevalent for us to have different flexibility levels on each side, so do not be surprised if you are more or less flexible on the left side.
The Bird Dog pose is meant to hone in on balance, stability, and core strength. To do this:
- Begin in Table Top position, on all fours with your knees and hands flat on the floor about shoulder-width apart.
- Spread your fingers apart for maximum contact with the mat.
- Lift your left hand straight out towards the front of your mat, parallel with the floor. At the same time, bring the opposite leg (the right one in this case) towards the back of your mat so that your leg is parallel with the floor.
You can make this a static pose by holding it in place through several breaths and engaging your glute and core muscles. You can also make it a more dynamic strengthening exercise. Bring your extended arm and leg towards the centre of your body in sets of ten.
This movement will test your balance and develop strength in your glutes, core, and shoulders. Be sure to switch sides for a balanced stretch.
Crescent Lunge Pose
Like the Bird Dog pose, Crescent Lunge pose is great for developing strength and balance in your lower body – just what you need for golf. Begin by standing tall with your feet together, your hands down at your sides, and the crown of your head reaching towards the ceiling.
Take one large step forward with your right foot, keeping it firmly planted on the mat. Both sets of toes should be facing straight towards the front of your mat. It is important to avoid injury by ensuring that your front knee is straight (not buckling inward) and that your shin is perpendicular to the ground. It would help if you came upon the ball of your left foot.
There are many ways to modify this pose to make it more challenging or a bit easier. To make it easier, you can bring the back knee down and place the top of your foot on the mat. For a more challenging variation, you can put the palms of your hands together. Then bring them up towards the ceiling, and bend back slightly for an additional stretch.
Cow Face Pose
Cow Face pose is a seated position targeting the hips and shoulders, with a modification for a deeper stretch. Follow these steps below:
- To begin, sit on your mat with both knees bent and your feet flat on the mat.
- Bring your right foot under your left knee towards your left hip, lift your left foot, and place your left knee on top of your right knee.
- At this point, both feet should be close to the opposite outer hip joint. You should feel a strong stretch in your hip and glute of your left hip, or whichever is on top.
- Try to sit evenly on your tailbone, not leaning to one side or the other.
- For the shoulder portion of this stretch, you are going to bring your left arm straight up in the air.
- Next bring it down on the posterior (back) side of your head, aiming for your palm to be between your shoulder blades.
- Place your right hand on the left elbow and gently pull towards the centreline of your body. You should feel a nice stretch in your shoulders.
For a more challenging stretch from this position, you can make two modifications.
- First, keep your left arm behind your head, but release your elbow with your right hand.
- Bring it straight out to your right so that it is parallel with the mat, and then bring it behind your back with your palm facing out.
- Clasp your fingers together for a great shoulder stretch. From this position, you can bend your forehead towards the mat for a more intense hip stretch.
Whatever variation of this pose you end up in, hold it for a few long, deep breaths sinking deeper into the stretch with each one. You should not be in pain; rather, you should feel an intense stretch. Be sure to switch sides for both your legs and arms.
Garland pose is one of the best hip openers you could ask for. It is also a straightforward pose that requires a bit of balance. As with many poses, there are variations to make it more challenging or more accessible.
To get into Garland pose, do the following steps:
- Begin by standing tall on your mat with your feet a little further than hip-distance apart. Your toes should be facing outward at about a forty-five-degree angle.
- Bring your palms together and your hands towards your heart.
- Begin to slowly sink into a squat position as far as you can.
- You should feel a deep compression in both hip joints. Your neck and back should remain straight, with your elbows pushing your knees outward. Keep the crown of your head lifted towards the ceiling.
- If this is painful or inaccessible to you, you can modify it by putting a block under your butt for additional support.
- Stay in this position for several breaths, sinking deeper into the pose with each one.
- To incorporate strength building into Garland pose, keep your knees bent and lift your butt until you are about halfway up. Return to Garland pose and repeat several times. You should begin to feel it in your hips and glute muscles quickly.
Things To Keep in Mind
As you venture out to begin your yoga journey, there are a few important notes to keep in mind. While yoga can improve your overall golf performance and help you recover from injuries quicker, it is not the answer to everything. Particularly if you are currently struggling with any chronic pain related to golf. Then you should seek a doctor or physical therapist’s help. They will be able to diagnose your injury and hopefully get you back to playing golf pain-free.
You should also pair yoga with strength and endurance training if you look for a big improvement in your game. Yoga can improve your range of motion, allowing you to get a bigger swing. Adding strength training will help you build more muscles to hit the ball that much further. If strength training isn’t in your wheelhouse, focusing on strengthening based yoga classes. They can also help increase your strength very effectively.
Lastly, isometric poses are your friend. Isometric yoga refers to holding a pose for a period of time in a flexed position. This is an efficient workout for building strength, endurance, and stability. I included some isometric poses above, including bird dog and crescent lunge. Still, you could also look into others such as Chair Pose, Tree Pose, and any variation of Warrior Pose.
Now that you have read through the article, we hope you see how well yoga can complement golf. Practising yoga regularly can improve the performance of many athletes but especially golfer’s. Despite being a technical game, golfers need to be in peak physical condition as well. Yoga will improve your mobility and balance, increase strength and endurance, and improve mental focus.
The poses described above will make you stronger, increase your joints’ range of motion, and improve your balance and stability. If you regularly practice these poses you should begin to recognise incremental improvements in no time.