The way we breathe is inseparable from our state of mind; that is, the way we breathe affects our state of mind and conversely, our state of mind affects the way we breathe. Under normal circumstances, the average person takes about fifteen breaths per minute. Stress, anxiety, mental agitation or overload increases our breathing rate. The more rapid we breathe; the shallower and more irregular it becomes. Rapid, shallow, and irregular breathing provide less oxygen to the brain, making it more difficult to process information and can affect our decision-making processes and ability to focus while playing golf. It also provides less oxygen to your arms and legs making it more difficult to swing the golf club to the best of your ability.
Because our state of mind is connected to the way we breathe, if we change how we breathe we change our state of mind. That has a tremendous impact on our ability to focus properly. Also, changing our breathing pattern so that it is slow, deep, and rhythmical can provide much needed energy to our extremities so we can perform better. Breath control is such a powerful technique that it is the corner stone of most Eastern philosophies and disciplines like Yoga, Tai Chi, and Karate.
So, if you are playing poorly you are probably experiencing stress and anxiety. Even if you’re concerned about playing poorly or just the outcome of a specific shot you are experiencing stress and anxiety even if you’re not aware of it. Taking one or more cleansing breaths to rid your body of stress helps you play better. Most golfers I work with take deep breaths but the way that they take a deep breath doesn’t facilitate good performance. They take a quick deep breath and blow the air out just as quickly. It’s all done in their chest as you can see their shoulders move upwards towards their ears. When they exhale their shoulders are still in this more upward position. This raises your center of gravity and compromises your balance which also compromises your performance.
To get rid of stress, you must inhale deeply and slowly from your abdomen without letting your shoulders raise up. The abdomen and chest expand when inhaling correctly. You should exhale even slower. When exhaling properly the chest and abdomen get smaller. I usually suggest inhaling for four seconds, holding your breath for a second, and exhaling for 8 seconds. Try it. Inhale, 1…2…3…4… Hold, 1… Exhale, 1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8… Now let your breathing return to normal. How did that feel? Did your chest and stomach expand when inhaling and contract when exhaling? Great!
I always suggest including one or more cleansing breaths as part of your pre-shot routine to eliminate the effects of any conscious or unconscious stress and anxiety that could affect your performance. Take one cleansing breath as you stand behind the ball and another while in your address position just before you pull the trigger when you swing, putt, chip, pitch, or hit a sand shot. You can learn to do this when you practice so you remember to do it while playing. Check it out and see if performance breathing improves your game. Until next time,