Chi-Power Golf Part 1 - Breathe to Win
The great Tom Watson once said "When I learned how to breathe, I learned how to win" - a statement that provides a terrific insight into the importance of correct breathing as a means of maintaining an emotional and physical balance.
Certainly, many golfers struggle with this fundamental skill, which means they are prey to the emotional highs and lows of the game, simply because they don't stay focused on their breathing and, as a result, let mental interference get in the way.
In this article I'm going to introduce you to the ancient art of Chi Kung - literally translated as breath or energy work - and how it can help improve your game.
What's this got to do with golf?
Well, many of you will have read about the benefits of controlling your breathing correctly (it receives a fair amount of coverage as a part of the "inner game") but the simple truth is, unless you actually practise the discipline on a regular basis, you will never gain the many benefits it can bring to your golf and life.
Yet, if you can incorporate it into your weekly schedule, this basic Chi Kung exercise will help you to develop a greater awareness of your mental state - fear, anticipation, anger, excitement (all happening on a golf course near you!) - and you'll have the tools to take yourself back to a more relaxed state, simple by focusing on your breathing.
Chi Kung - the Practise of Standing Meditation
• Stand in a natural posture, your feet shoulder-width, toes pointing outwards just slightly, your knees 'soft', your arms hanging loose at your sides and your head as if gently suspended from above. Allow your eyes to gaze gently, a mile into the distance, and relax your chest - but without slouching or allowing your shoulders to roll forward.
• Now, place your attention in your lower abdomen, just below the navel, at a point called the 'T'an Tien'. Allow yourself to focus quietly on your breathing, silently repeating "I am breathing in - I am breathing out" while you inhale and exhale.
• Gently soften and relax more as you stand with quiet awareness on your breathing and try to maintain a calm and steady focus on your centre-point.
The challenge is to hold your posture and maintain awareness of your breathing for at least 20 minutes (you then repeat the exercise 3 times per week). Clients who've made a commitment to this simple practise have reported many benefits, including feeling more relaxed, recovering more quickly from poor shots, a better eye for the target, fewer swing thoughts, better powers of visualisation and so on.
So how can you incorporate this technique into your own golf game?
Once you can comfortably stand for 20 minutes (and it may well take you several weeks to master this, as at first 5 minutes will seem like a lifetime!), you will start to gain greater awareness of your mind and body and can incorporate the learning into the following swing drill.
Chi Kung Swing
• Stand at address and focus your mind on your T'an Tien (your body's natural centre of gravity, approx 2" below the navel).
• Take a few moments to relax and centre yourself as you breathe. Keep your shoulders down, your chest empty and relax your jaw.
• Breathe in while you move to the top of your backswing, and then exhale all the way through to your finish. Focus entirely on your breathing and trust your swing.
• Try this drill 6 times "empty-handed" (i.e. without holding a club) and then try it with your favourite club and/or driver, but without striking a ball.
• Note your feedback on a scale of 1-10 (1=poor, 10=excellent).
Score in the following way for each drill:
#1 How focused were you on your breathing, did you manage to empty your mind of all other swing thoughts?
#2 How relaxed did you feel during your swing?
#3 Did you notice a greater feeling of stability throughout your swing?
Now step up to the ball and hit shots while staying completely focused on your breathing. Relax and enjoy!
For more information please contact Jayne Storey, PGA Approved Mentor www.chipowergolf.com