It’s taken a while for golfers to realise they are athletes, but the penny has finally dropped (well, mostly) and lifestyles are evolving accordingly.
The best players in the world - particularly the younger crop - are now gym bunnies with famous personal trainers, live on a strict diet and seek advice from sports psychologists to give them the edge.
And it's not just the megastars on Tour reaping the rewards of looking after themselves - society as a whole is understanding the benefits, and that includes your average hacker.
While hitting the gym and healthy eating are well-known to aid performance, yoga has perhaps been overlooked by most in the golf world. Not so in other sports - Ryan Giggs, LeBron James, the All Blacks and Gareth Bale all endulge in it - then again, golf has always been a bit behind the curve. But it appears yoga could be the new game improver, and is gaining some dedicated followers.
It makes sense. The practice, which originated in ancient India, improves strength and flexibility, and also has a positive impact on psychological well-being.
It seems the perfect tonic to help improve your game - but we’re no yoga aficionados, so we spoke to Hotpod Yoga co-founder Nick Higgins to find out more.
What physical benefits can yoga provide golfers?
Yoga works physically by combing, stretching and strengthening major and minor muscle groups to help the body work best biomechanically. This helps to build strength, stabilise the relevant joints, stretch out the body parts, and help general wear and tear.
Golfs repetitive action will put the body under strain, and perhaps not allow enough time for recovery. Yoga can help relieve, recover and ultimately make resilient to injury, whilst developing balance, strength, increased range of motion through the necessary joint focus and bring suppleness through the body.
And what about the mental side of things?
Yoga also plays a huge role in bringing a sense of ease and calm psychologically. This happens through the increased release of GABA - a relaxant neurotransmitter and regulator of the human nervous system. This sense of calm helps ease the chimp mind when playing allowing the mind to focus, as well off-field, helping anxiety and sleep patterns which therefore increase recovery time too.
Although just physical movements, the other focus is on maintaining nice smooth steady breathing.
Physical exertion turns on the 'Sympathetic' nervous system - which is our bodies accelerator, but by using smooth steady nasal breathing (when we are being exerted), it hacks into our biochemistry and turns on the 'Parasympathetic nervous system'. Throughout a session, there is constant back and forth between each system, which is known as 'flossing'. This, along with 'GABA' creates this "Goldilocks" state of calm, through the mind and body.
When we put our bodies in unfamiliar, taxing postures, the brain immediately creates a narrative about how uncomfortable, frustrated and fatigued it is feeling. When these thoughts arise, by drawing the mental focus to something else, eases the then arising emotions. In this instance, taking the mental focus to your breathing, helping to refocus the mind to the task in hand. Building this mental resilience in a yoga class is then transferred when playing, keeping the mind focused when playing the shot.
What type of yoga is best for golfers?
It really depends on the individual. However, it’s good to start with something rounded such as 'Vinyasa flow'.
This works the full body in a fluid motion, stretching and strengthening the whole body equally. From there, depending on what the player needs, the focus can be to tweaked to suit the specific body and therefore mental state.
What is Hotpod Yoga, and what do you say to new starters?
We use heat and humidity to help the body ease into the postures. This heat also enhances the feeling of calm and ease in the body. All of our teachings are done in a logical and clear way so everything is understood, making you leave the class feeling relieved entirely rejuvenated.
At Hotpod Yoga we focus on those who have never done yoga before, so if you are anywhere near one of our studios perhaps try coming to one of our classes.
As mentioned, our focus is to bring yoga to those who don't do/have never tried yoga and really make it accessible on all fronts. Our classes are in our specially designed pods to encourage a calm environment.
We’ve seen Lee Westwood has been visiting, do you have any other athletes coming by?
Yep - we also work with many athletes such as, Harlequins (rugby), Cardiff Blues (rugby), Swansea Ospreys (rugby), GB rowers and GB cyclists
Each athlete is slightly different, however, all comment on the huge benefits they have seen physically in injury prevention, recovery, subtleness and development of mental resilience.
Hotpod Yoga have over 30 locations worldwide - find your nearest studio and book a class by visiting their site.
Originally published 2017-10-25 15:30:39 +0100