There’s no arguing the benefits of yoga for the golf game — not just the swing, which becomes more powerful from the inherent strength and balance training, but the stamina and concentration required over the course of 18 holes. A little bit of “Om”ing can do wonders for the scorecard.
But it’s a good assumption that readers of GottaGoGolf would rather spend their precious time playing golf than practicing golf yoga. So we went to Katherine Roberts, who has worked with Hank Haney on fitness fixes for swing flaws and has her own Yoga For Golfers franchise headquartered at YogaForGolfers.com. We asked Katherine to give us some shortcuts to better golf through yoga.
“First of all,” she said, “preparing the body before your round is more important than standing on the practice tee and driving your 3-wood. You need to prepare your body for the explosive movement that’s required in the golf swing.”
To that end, if you’ve got 15 minutes before your round, spend it on the ground, doing articulated bridge poses (familiar to exercisers as pelvic lifts, slowly up and slowly down, repeated) and window washers (loosening the hips and torso by taking the knees to one side of the body and then the other).
And, breathe. “Breathe and focus, breathe and focus,” she said. “I would rather have you lie in corpse position for an hour of inhaling and exhaling than see you do one position holding your breath.”
With that, take a deep breath and learn these five golf yoga positions that especially benefit women. Roberts said she selected them with this in mind: “Women in general have a tendency to be hypermobile, almost too flexible. It’s why they tend to overswing, and sway from side to side, because they are so flexible. Women can gain a lot from creating strength, and power.”
1. BRIDGE POSE
On your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor about hip’s distance apart and as close to you as is comfortable. You’re going to inhale and slowly roll your hips up, using legs and glutes to press upward.
When you get there, you can wiggle your shoulders around to come up a little farther and hang out for a few breathes, or clasp your hands beneath your back on the mat. Exhale your way down. (Here’s the video.) “This helps to strengthen the lower body — quads and glutes especially,” Roberts said. Her next four golf yoga picks flow naturally from one into the other.
2. WARRIOR 1
This standing pose looks like a lunge, with the front knee directly over the front foot, the toes of the back foot turned out at about a 45-degree angle, and hips squared to the front. Inhaling the arms out to the side and up, look up at the hands while sliding the shoulder blades down the back.
“I like these because it creates strength in the feet, it stretches the hip flexors on the back leg and also the glutes and quads on the front side,” Roberts said. “I also like that it strengthens your core because you are always drawing the navel in. I also teach it with a little bit of a back bend.”
3. WARRIOR 2
From Warrior 1, open the back foot out to a 90-degree angle so that the arch is on a line with the front foot and turn your torso to face the side wall. Lift the arms straight out so they are not on the same line with your lower body. Look over the front fingertips and stay here for a while. Inhale to come up.
“This helps strengthen the lower body and there’s a rotation of the spine that I like,” Roberts said. “The golf swing is a rotation of the upper body over the solid foundation of the lower body. I also have an acronym I use for all of the standing poses: NTR. Navel in, tuck the hips slightly, ribcage long.”
4. EXTENDED SIDE ANGLE
To get to the position, stand with your feet wide apart and extend the arms, palms down. Turn the right foot out to 90 degrees and turn the left foot slightly in, aligning the heels. Roll your left hip slightly forward toward the right hip and bend the right knee into what looks like a lunge. Now rest the right elbow on the right knee and reach the left arm overhead, keeping it behind the left ear with the palm facing down. Look up and breathe.
“Here, you are stretching and creating an arc,” Roberts said. “This pose can teach you to breathe 20 percent more deeply and to stretch your arm 20 percent higher overhead. The first step of putting the elbow on the knee helps to strengthen the shoulder girdle, an area that does not get enough attention.”
5. WARRIOR 3
Yes, this is hard, and beginners usually start by a wall or with a chair for security. Step one foot forward and shift your weight onto the front leg as you reach the back leg behind you and up, foot flexed. Meanwhile, lean forward, keeping the hips pointing toward the ground. In her rather advanced version, Roberts holds a golf club and reaches forward; intermediates stretch their arms behind them and beginners grab on to whatever they can find to stay upright.
“I really like this as a balancing pose,” Roberts said. “In the golf swing, one needs to learn to activate the glutes independently, because in the downswing the rear glute is 100 percent active and the left is not. Warrior 3 teaches that and is tremendous for lower body strength, core strength, and balance.”
For more information — and free recommendations for your own body by filling out a short form — visit YogaForGolfers.com.
This article first appeared in the March 2011 edition of GottaGoGolf Magazine.