We know that the repetitive nature of the golf swing often causes lower back pain. It has been estimated that 80 percent of Americans, whether they are golfers or not, will experience back pain at some time in their lives. That's 80 percent of Americans! In my opinion, sedentary lifestyles, obesity and lack of regular physical exercise are major contributors to this astonishing statistic.
Many factors contribute to lower back pain. Certainly the repetitive nature of the golf swing is a factor, but many lower back issues are directly related to tight hamstrings. In the 20 years I've been working as a yoga teacher and fitness professional, the most common, consistent physical issue I see in most people concerns their hamstrings. Frustrated and embarrassed, clients will tell me, "I can't even touch my toes - help!" The truth is that most people cannot touch their toes. There are numerous reasons for that: The back is tight, the belly gets in the way and flexibility exercises are not practiced on a regular basis.
The following four exercises will help you work the hamstrings, actively and passively.
Note: Before you begin these or any other exercises, obtain written permission from your physician. Remember that if you move very slowly and gently, you should never experience pain. Never bounce your body in a yoga pose. Move into the pose and then hold it for five to 10 breaths. Breathe through the nose only. Breaths should be deep and relaxing. Flexing the quadriceps sends a direct message to the hamstring to relax. Take time to visualize the muscles that are affected by the pose becoming more relaxed, loose and flexible.
Place the strap around the right foot. It is essential that your right leg be as straight as an arrow. Flex your right foot, and move your toes toward the face, with your heels pressing toward the ceiling. Feel the stretch in the hamstrings and calves. Level one is done with the left leg bent and is indicated for students with lower back pain. Level two is done with the left leg straight. Hold for 10 to 20 breaths and switch sides.
Begin with your back against the wall, legs out straight. Sit up as tall as possible, with your shoulders back and your head resting against the wall. Flex your quadriceps and feet to increase the intensity of the pose. Hold for 10 breaths. You may repeat this three times to increase the intensity.
Place a strap around your left foot, while placing your right foot at the groin. Be sure your right leg is at a 90-degree angle. (It does not matter if your knee is off the floor.) Fold forward while gently pulling on the strap. Relax your head and hold for 10 breaths. Switch sides.
This is a wonderful "restorative" pose that can help offset the effects of a long round of golf. Bring your buttocks as close to the wall as possible. Your hips should be on the floor without any tension in the lower back. Move your shoulders away from your ears, and roll your shoulders back. Palms face up. Close your eyes and relax for five minutes.
Practice these poses three days a week. You will quickly see a dramatic improvement in the flexibility of your hamstrings.
November 8, 2005
Katherine Roberts and her highly successful Yoga for Golfers program, five instructional videos/DVD and, book have been featured in USA Today, Sports Illustrated, Golf Magazine, Self Magazine, Golf for Women, Athlon Golf, Affluent Golfer Magazine and numerous other media. She is a member of Golf Magazine's fitness panel. Katherine can often be seen on The Golf Channel.