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Fit to a Tee | Taking it to the Mat

By: Tom Cunneff

Appeared in Fall 2013 LINKS

Let’s face it, yoga can seem a little strange to some, but the ancient practice from India is the perfect workout for your modern golf game and lifestyle because of the benefits to your core, flexibility, and balance, and the fact that you can do it almost anywhere anytime. It also can help relieve lower back pain, often due to musculature imbalance from playing a one-sided game or due to tightness in the hips, hamstrings, or hip flexors. Another added benefit: Yoga can help improve your focus and concentration. Here are four exercises from the “Golf Yogi,” Mark Williamson, a former mini-tour player who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he gives personal training sessions. “If done on a regular basis at 75 percent effort,” he says, “these stretches will help keep the golf muscles long and fluid and should lead to an increase in range of motion.”                                                                                       

Cow/Cat Start off on all fours with your head raised, your wrists directly underneath your shoulders, and your knees directly underneath your hips. As you inhale with your arms straight, lower your belly and roll your shoulders back (this is “cow” position). As you exhale, press into your palms, tuck your chin to your chest, draw your naval up, and drop your tailbone (this is “cat” position). Repeat 10–15 times following the flow of your breath.

Figure 8’s From an all-fours position, bring your knees all the way together. Start to drop your hips to the right and let your head go to the left. Work the hips back over the heels and then off to the far left side and up again making a large circle. Pretend a flashlight is attached to your lower back and you’re drawing a circle on the ceiling with the beam. Repeat 10 times and then change direction.

Low lunge and Twist Start in a low lunge position with your left knee on the mat and your right knee at 90 degrees directly over your ankle. Place your hands on the top of your knee and press forward, while dropping the tailbone down and leaning back with your torso a little. Hold for 30–60 seconds, then switch legs. For the twist, with your right foot out front grab the outside of your right knee with your left hand and extend your right arm over your back left foot while twisting through the core and keeping a firm front knee. Hold 30–45 seconds.You can twist deeper on each exhale while releasing a bit on each
inhale. Switch sides.

Half Splits From the low lunge position with your right foot in front, sink into your back knee while straightening your front leg. Keep the toes of the front foot pointed toward the ceiling and press your front heel into the ground. Keep a flat back to get a good stretch by looking out in front of your right foot, chin up. Hold for 30–45 seconds and then switch sides.

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