This is the first of an eight-part series on the ‘Golf Obstacles’ inspired by Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtra.
Injuries/Disease (Sanskrit: Vyādhi): Listed as the first and foremost obstacle in Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra (I:30), it is extremely hard to continue progressing with our game and our attitude improvements when we are sick or injured.
On the physical level, the golf swing is only supported by the body’s physical capacity. Conversely, technical swing flaws can expose the body to injury. The fundamental requirements of a golf swing are (1.) the motion must repeat under pressure and (2.) not cause injury. Both the body and the technical swing interact with each other to influence physical motion and injury risk.
Correcting a swing habit for injury prevention is important because the positions in a violent golf swing left unadjusted, will lead to joint injuries. For example, the technical swing flaw of an ‘out to in’ swing path with an excessive angle of attack (also described as ‘coming over the top’) can expose the left/front wrist, elbow or shoulder at impact position to harmful damage. These repetitive stress injuries limit our practice ability and hinder our progress. The incorrect swing makes the obstacle an interruption.
The body’s physical weaknesses also contribute to injury and sickness. For instance, the golf swing demands a lot of mobility from the thoracic-lumbar junction. If a golfer lacks range of motion in this area of the spine, the lower lumbar or cervical vertebrae (especially C5) are more prone to injury. Similarly, lack of core strength or joint stability is a physical impairment and an accident waiting to happen.
Most of the time, the physical pain and the discomfort of sickness and injury are enormous distractions in our games. The mental frustrations and exhaustion from pain and discomfort can lead to substantially more suffering. Who isn’t cranky when they don’t feel well?
However, sometimes we are too sick to care about our game so that in certain situations we can let go and then end up playing better. At LPGA Tour Qualifying-school tournament for instance, ‘the sick ones’ weren’t nervous, had no strength to try and overpower the course and their only focus was to get through the round as quickly and easily as possible so they could get back into bed. They often outperformed the healthy players who had the energy to fabricate self-induced pressures, adrenaline rushes and extreme tension levels. Even a small wrist injury could help a player swing slower, with less tension leading to better ball striking. The acute injury was an obstacle, but not an interruption to performance.
Modern science still applauds yoga’s health benefits. Intelligent, well-planned yoga practice with correct form is a powerful way to improve the body for golf and prevent golf injuries. Ageless, there is a level of physical yoga practice for every golfer. So go for it, down dog your heart out. Yoga saves lives!
Dodie Mazzuca is the founder of Golf PROformance and teaches golf and Mindfulness for Golf programs in Santa Cruz, CA.