I love this time of year so I can finally get outside with my sticks. But each year my body feels more and more like a stick — stiff and breakable. My shoulders are tight, and my lower back hurts the following day. I also don't seem to have the patience I used to have. How can yoga help me get back into the swing?
Because golf is a seasonal sport, it's easy to lose the flexibility and mentality it takes to play the game well. And each year as we age, it gets harder if we don't work at it (unless you go to Florida over the winter, which isn't a bad option).
But luckily golf and yoga have two things in common: They revolve around the spine and require focus and concentration. Let's start with the spine first.
Biologically, we stop automatically generating fluid in the discs between the vertebrae in our twenties.
That fluid is what keeps the joints lubricated and easily moving. Luckily, that fluid can be created by simple movement of squeezing and releasing to keep them "juiced up." Most regular daily activities aren't enough to make a difference. Purposeful and repetitive movement is necessary. And it's very easy to include into most lifestyles.
The six movements to include in each day are a forward bend, back bend, left and right side twists and left and right lateral (side) stretches. You can do them sitting or standing. Here's how:
Formal yoga class routines with a teacher offer a lot of variations that smoothly flows them all together, kind of like a golf swing. But to break them down on your own, here's what to do. First close your eyes and take a few deep inhales down into your belly and let them out through your mouth with a very extra-long sigh. Then put your hands on your lower back, pull your elbows toward each other and look up at the ceiling (back bend). Then move your hands to the hip crease where the leg meets the pelvis, bend your knees and bend forward to lay your ribs on your thighs (forward bend). Go only as far as you can without forcing.
Then cross your arms and hold onto the opposite shoulders, turn to the right, back to center slowly, then turn to the left (twists). Then put your right hand on your right hip and stretch the left arm over your left ear. Repeat on the other side (lateral stretch). All these movements should be slow, always breathing and holding for at least one or two full cycles of breath. Do the flow three to five times.
Regarding your patience, if you coordinate the breath with the movement in the above spinal flows, you absolutely will develop concentration. If you hold a stretch and relax at the edge, you abso-lutely will develop focus. And if you stay on the mat and empty your mind, there's a lot less between you and the hole.
DIANE UTASKI ANSWERS YOGA QUESTIONS in her columns; send questions to [email protected]. Find more info at www.cincyoga.com.