Breathing is the most vital body function you have. The intake of oxygen is necessary for your brain function. Almost all your body functions interact with your breath. You can live forty days without food, ten days without water, but only four to six minutes without oxygen. Without breath, there is no life.
When we breathe, we inhale oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide which is a waste product of cellular respiration during the production of energy. The golf course is a wonderful place to energize your body as the trees take in your carbon dioxide waste and give off life-enhancing oxygen for you to inhale.
With a reduced intake of oxygen, you could also experience:
- Indecision: difficulty in choosing clubs or reading greens.
- Short term memory loss: forgetting to consider all options before hitting.
- Difficulty of complex tasks: trouble shots, short-sided shots, big breaking putts.
The way you breathe can directly affect your emotional state. Changing your breathing can change your thoughts and emotions. Paying attention to your breath is a vehicle for releasing stress and allowing the body to find its balance. Your breathing is a good indicator of your feelings and thinking patterns. Proper breathing can relieve stress-related symptoms, such as performance anxiety. It is important to keep your breathing even for consistent golf.
When you are tense or anxious, your body gives you signals such as perspiration, tightness or pain in the stomach, rapid heartbeat, short breaths, raw throat, and clammy, shaky hands. When you are relaxed, your breathing will be deep, regular, comfortable, smooth, and easy instead of shallow, rapid, and irregular.
Shallow breathing while stressed reduces your energy, compromises your motor skills, and reduces oxygen intake. In addition, there are psychological consequences that will lessen your abilities to perform.
Do you hold your breath when you swing?
When frustrated or angry, most people breathe in, hold their breath, and tense their bodies. When there is tension, the body cannot move smoothly and efficiently. Tension is the number one golf swing wrecker and can cause a variety of golf problems. Instead of producing a smooth, effortless easy swing, the anxious golfer uses brute force resulting in a fast, jerky, hard swing.
Many golfers say that they do hold their breath when they are swinging. Pay attention to how you breathe. Like your golf swing which has a momentary pause at the top of the backswing to change direction, your breath also has a momentary pause when it changes from the inhale to the exhale. The rhythm of your breath is affected by changes in your state of mind. Conversely, you can change your state of mind by changing the rhythm of your breath.
Holding your breath causes more tension, which inhibits your smooth club motions. Less tension creates faster club head speed. Increased club head speed means more distance which is a goal of every golfer.
Slow down, take a deep breath, and calm down
Your breathing is a good indicator of your feelings and thinking patterns. Proper breathing can relieve stress-related symptoms such as performance anxiety. It is important to keep your breathing even for consistent golf. Proper breathing can prevent nervousness and improve your short game motor skills when the pressure is on.
When nervous, frustrated, or angry in a pressure packed golf situation, golfers tend to freeze, tense their bodies and swing quickly to avoid the feelings. When there is tension, the body cannot move smoothly and efficiently. Tension can cause a variety of swing problems including poor club head speed, incorrect swing path and faulty clubface alignment at impact.
We have been taught to relieve tension by sucking in our stomachs, taking in a big breath and throwing our shoulders back. This creates tension and tightness in your chest and shoulder muscles. In golf we need to have these muscles relaxed so we can make a full shoulder turn to set up the torque for maximum golf club acceleration.
Breathing consciously and deliberately is a gamechanger for all golfers. Under stress you breathe high in your chest, which means that only half of the capacity of the lungs is being used. The air is only moving out from the top half of the lungs. When you use the entire lung capacity, the brain is then more fully oxygenated.
Breathing in deep, long breaths through your abdomen sends the incoming oxygen to every part of the body, refreshing and relaxing every cell. Whenever you want to focus in the moment, take several long, deep breaths. Now is the only time you have. Use deep breathing to experience the joy of the moment by releasing all perceived stress and anxiety as you exhale.
If your abdomen is not expanding when you inhale, and falling back when you exhale, you are not breathing the most efficient way for your mental, emotional, physical coordination and health. Abdominal breathing allows adequate room for the lungs to expand and take in adequate oxygen.
Deep breathing by allowing your stomach to protrude on the inhale is the key to relaxation. The more you relax, the better you feel. The more you relax, the easier it is to focus. The more you relax, the better you perform.
Relaxation of the mind and body is key to hitting one shot at a time, and for focusing in the moment of now.
My personal preference to relax before hitting any shot on the golf course is to inhale deep breaths during my pre-shot routine. I take three deep breaths consciously; one each to calm and focus my mind, my body, and my spirit.
Here are six important reasons for using deep breathing before every shot and putt:
- Breathing deeply relaxes your muscles.
- Breathing deeply clears and focuses your mind.
- Breathing deeply helps you to visualize
- Breathing deeply helps you to feel your shot or putt.
- Breathing deeply keeps your arousal level
- Breathing deeply helps you to regain balance after a mishit.
Use deep breathing during your range practice as well as during your round to get yourself to let go of overthinking and to focus. Make it part of your pre-shot mindset so you can pay attention to what you are doing in the moment.
Small disciplines repeated with consistency everyday lead to great achievements gained slowly over time!
Play “in the zone” with Joan
Entrain Your Heart & Mind for Peak Performances
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