Here’s the second feature in our three-part series by Jayne Storey, Creator of Chi-Performance GOLF.
Maintaining the essential equilibrium of a relaxed yet focused state in times of pressure is the key to winning at golf, whether it’s the local club tournament or a major championship.
The performance of every player I’ve worked with either excels or deteriorates during those singular high pressure moments such as the final tee Shot or the clutch putt for victory, depending on one factor alone – how aware they are of their Breathing and whether they can allow the breath to deepen and slow down before taking the shot.
Breathing affects, alters and influences the chemistry of the brain and with it, the mind~body connection. It’s the link between your thoughts and movement. No awareness of breathing, no mind~body connection and no unification of mental game and technique.
The brain is the primary organ affected by anxiety, and it’s also the primary organ which influences movement. When anxiety centres are aroused in the brain the autonomic nervous system (which governs the involuntary nerves that regulate the heart and so forth) is activated.
The ‘Stress Response’ which is hardwired into our nervous-systems and which manifests when we feel under threat (more specifically when the ego is threatened) is coupled with quick and shallow breathing into the upper chest. This creates a descending spiral which no amount of technical or psychological know-how can alter as the shallow breathing and feelings of anxiety simply compound each other. The worst case scenario of course is the Yips.
However, studies show that deep abdominal breathing can actually change the chemistry of the brain and body by activating the parasympathetic nervous-system (the Relaxation Response) allowing it to take precedence over the sympathetic side which releases adrenaline so that we calm down and regain a state of equilibrium.
Let’s take a look at a typical pressure scenario on the golf course, exploring the relationship between the breathing and the ability to make a winning shot.
Here’s what happens without paying attention to the breath.
You’re approaching a difficult shot, perhaps from a bad lie after a hooked drive off the tee and the ensuing pressure immediately and unconsciously triggers the tendency to shallow breathe, thus activating the ‘Stress Response’.
The resulting changes in your body go something like this.
First your chest will get a little tighter, less oxygen is fed to your brain, your nervous-system becomes flooded with adrenaline, your heart beats faster, your muscles shorten and tighten and this makes your whole body tense.
Feeling tense you are likely to start over-thinking technique in an attempt to regain confidence, but you’re also likely to rush your pre-shot routine and shorten your backswing, leading to a potentially duff shot which will only increase your sense of anxiety, ensuring you keep on shallow breathing and thus continue with the ever decreasing circle of your performance …I call it the Circle of Deterioration.
Circle of Deterioration
Now here’s what happens when you take a few deep breaths.
You’re approaching a difficult shot, perhaps from a bad lie after a hooked drive off the tee and the ensuing pressure immediately and unconsciously triggers the ‘Stress Response’ and with it the tendency to shallow breathe.
However, this time, as you’ve been practising Meditation and can therefore remember to focus on your breathing and are confident that you know how to regulate your breathing and use it to encourage fluid movement, you simply use your training to activate a state of relaxation akin to the meditative state and which manifests as the zone or flow.
Now, instead of allowing your innate Stress Response to take over and rule your brain, body and nervous-system for the duration of the shot, you can take conscious control of your state via your breathing.
Deep breathing in turn will send more oxygen to your brain which can flood your nervous-system with endorphins, lower your heart-rate, relax your muscles, increase your mind~body connection, raise your confidence levels, and create a calm yet focused state from which to set-up and swing. Physiologists call it the Relaxation Response… I call it The Circle of Excellence.
Circle of Excellence
You play golf because you want to win. Of course you want to enjoy yourself and know that you’re improving and playing to a personal standard that gives you satisfaction…but most of all you want to win games.
It’s been said that in the history of the sport, it all comes down to a few seconds and a few inches, even millimetres sometimes. However long you’ve played, however many lessons you’ve had, however many hours you’ve worked on the range, however much you’ve read, it’s all about the way you manage your state when the next shot is all that counts and where the outcome either way is all that separates you from victory or defeat.
Learning to love these moments instead of dreading them…learning to engage your competitive spirit instead of getting in your own way…learning to make room for confidence instead of fearing failure, really can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths.
Signup for Jayne’s newsletter to get your Free Training Report ‘Breathing to Win’ or find out more about Jayne’s Chi-Performance method here
Next time we’ll be bringing you a unique feature on Jayne’s research into the mind~body connection and show you 5 ways to strengthen this on the course for more fluid and consistent shot-making.
We’ll also be releasing a special offer on Jayne’s highly acclaimed audio programme ‘Deep Practice for Effortless Golf’ with a massive saving and lots of FREE bonus material. This offer will only be available from GolfDashBlog so stayed tuned!
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