Yoga for golfers: The basics of stretching
Let’s learn the basics of stretching for golf. This program is beneficial
for all golfers, especially if you are new to flexibility conditioning.
Included in this article is a clear explanation of flexibility, the
benefits, guidelines for a successful yoga practice (this is an excerpt from
my book Yoga for Golfers (McGraw-Hill 2005) as well as a basic, yet somewhat
challenging, warm-up routine to get you started.
Note: Thank you to the staff at Stretchmate for some of the information in this
What is Flexibility?
“Flexibility exercises should be incorporated into the overall fitness
program sufficient to develop and maintain range of motion.”
American College of Sports Medecine (ACSM)
There are several workable definitions of what flexibility is. The simplest
are “freedom to move” and “the capacity of a joint to move fluidly through
its full range of motion”. According to the National Academy of Sports
Medicine (NASM), flexibility is “the normal extensibility of all soft
tissues that allow the full range of motion (ROM) of a joint”. Flexibility
needs to occur in all three planes of motion. Therefore, for optimal overall
movement, muscles must be actively stretched standing up and moving in these
Stretching muscles is recognized as the easiest and safest way to maintain
and/or increase flexibility.
Benefits of Stretching
1. Reduces the risk of injury
2. Reduces muscular tension
3. Maintains the normal functional length of all muscles
4. Eases joint stress
5. Increases joint range of motion
6. Corrects muscle imbalances
7. Improves movement patterns
8. Improves overall functional ability and freedom of movement
9. Enhances posture
10. Develops better body awareness
11. Decreases soreness
12. Promotes circulation
13. Allows you to feel and perform better
14. Helps improve balance and stability
With all the benefits to be gained from stretching, why is it still a major
challenge for some of us to begin a stretching program?
Some people perceive flexibility training to be boring and believe that
results come at a slow pace. These misconceptions create obstacles that can
prevent us from initiating and adhering to a stretching program and may
provide us with excuses not to stretch.
Individuals often don’t know what muscles to stretch and how to stretch
them. The information that’s generally available can be overwhelming and
therefore stretching may be avoided all together. Unfortunately, there never
seems to be an urgency to stretch until one gets hurt. Remember, it is never
too late to start stretching.
Getting started – Guidelines and strategies for a successful yoga experience
1. Get the written permission from your physician clearing you to
participate in this or any other physical fitness programs.
2. Find a quiet place, free from interruptions and loud noises. The
space should be warm to insure that muscles remain flexible.
3. Set goals and be realistic. If you only have fifteen minutes a day
to practice don’t attempt to complete thirty poses. Adherence to the
program is more important than completing as many poses as possible.
4. Vary your yoga practice. For example, on the odd days do poses on
pages., even days do the poses on pages. Another example is to work varying
body parts such as shoulders, low back and core one day, hips wrists and
core another day. Our DVDs and downloadable content on www.KRFlexFit.com offers you these programs.
5. Yoga is best when practiced on an empty or almost empty stomach. A
piece of fruit or glass of juice is acceptable, not a stack of pancakes.
6. You should never experience pain, either in the muscles, joints or
nerves. Slight discomfort as the muscle is stretching is acceptable, but
pain is not. Be gentle and patient – Rome wasn’t built in a day.
7. Always modify the pose, paying keen attention to the body and its
reaction to each pose.
8. Never “bounce” in the pose. Move into the pose as deeply as
possible and hold that position, creating a “static” position. Bouncing or
“ballistic” stretching can cause injury to the muscle.
9. Remember to flex the opposing muscle. This will create a stretch
reflex in the antagonist muscle, sending the message for the muscle to
relax. For example, it is necessary to squeeze, flex or engage the
quadriceps when attempting to stretch the hamstring.
10. It is always helpful to keep the “core” slightly engaged. That
refers to gently “drawing the navel towards the spine” at all times. This
facilitates support of the lumbar spine. In addition, “lifting the rib cage
off the waist” supports better posture and increases diaphragmatic breathing
11. Keep a positive attitude and realize the body responds very quickly
to your yoga practice. You are never too old to begin yoga.
12. Have fun and enjoy the process!
Here we go!
Warming up for your yoga practice is as important at warming up for golf.
Just as the mind needs time to “decompress” and become more relaxed and
focused the body needs time to create blood flow to the muscles. Practicing
the Warm-up sequence allows the body to prepare for the yoga practice or the
golf swing. Be moderate in the intensity of the poses. This sequence can be
done as pre-yoga or pre-golf preparation, requiring approximately five to
Extended body stretch with knee to chest: Lumbar spine
Stretch the body as long as possible with the arms over head. Flex and point
the feet and focus on the stretch in the belly. On the exhalation bring the
left knee to the chest and forehead to the knee. Switch sides and repeat
Spinal rotation: Core, hips and shoulders
During this exercise I want you to focus on the abdominals, specifically the
oblique abdominals and on keeping your shoulders connected to the floor.
Inhale as you bring your knees to the right, focus on the left oblique as
you bring your knees back. Switch sides are repeat five times in each
Window washers: Hips, gluts and quads
Place your feet wider than your yoga mat. Inhale and allow the legs to fall
to the left. Exhale and return to the starting position. Switch sides and
repeat five to ten times in each direction.
Cat/cow pose: Erector spinae muscles, gluts and core abdominals
Place the hands under the shoulders, spreading the fingers wide and pressing
the entire palm into the floor. Inhale and press your spine towards the
floor. Roll the shoulders back and maintain a neutral cervical spine.
Exhale, focus on your core and gluts and you press your spine towards the
ceiling. Tuck the chin into the chest. Repeat ten times in each direction.
Child’s pose to extended side stretch: spine, shoulders and lats
Sit back into a child’s pose with the arms extended as wide as your yoga
mat. “Walk” the hands out to the left, grounding down with the right hand.
This will intensify the stretch on the right side. Hold for three breaths
and switch sides. Repeat three times on each side.
Modified cobra pose: gluts, hamstrings and spine
Bring the legs together, pressing the tops of the feet into the floor and
squeeze the gluts. Place the hands slightly below the shoulders. Pull the
navel towards the spine, tailbone moves down and the core is engaged. On the
exhalation lift the chest off the floor. Relax and repeat five times.
Forward fold with elbows clasped: Hamstrings and lumbar spine
From Downward facing dog pose, walk the feet towards the front of your mat
and allow your body to completely relax, opposite hands clasping opposite
elbows. Hold for five breaths, bend the knees deeply and rollup to standing
one vertebrae at a time.