In my last post I discussed why I love the game of golf.
I shared that my approach to golf partly reflects my approach to life and that in my next post (this one) I’d elaborate on the part that’s not covered by golf. So it may be best if you read that post before you read this one.
For me, the most noticeable physical benefits are flexibility and energy.
I have significantly greater range of motion. My joints aren’t as stiff in the morning as they used to be. When I get out of bed it no longer sounds as if I’m packed in bubble wrap.
I wouldn’t say my energy is actually higher but it seems more consistent. It’s easier to maintain my energy and recharge.
Mentally, it’s easier for me to clear my head and focus.
That’s a benefit for golf that I did not anticipate when I first started yoga. I expected greater flexibility to give me a smoother swing and it has. I’m striking the ball better than I ever have in my life.
But one of my biggest challenges with golf and life is staying in the moment.
On the golf course, a couple of nice holes in a row can be very distracting. Instead of focusing on the shot that I need to hit, I’ll find myself extrapolating what my score will be for 18 holes if I maintain the scoring average I have for the first few holes.
Once my mind goes there, my round usually falls apart.
Or if I hit a bad shot, I try to make up for it by hitting a heroic next shot that compounds the error instead of playing the smart shot that fits my game.
That’s why I love yoga.
Yoga helps me to place my attention where it needs to be rather than allowing monkey chatter to clutter my thoughts.
I should have played a 5 instead of a 6 iron on that last shot. A bogey or worse here could really make a mess of my score since the next hole is the toughest one on the course and not an opportunity to recover strokes. That group ahead of us is sure taking their time. How come they never seem ready to hit? If we don’t play the back nine any faster than the front nine, I’m gonna be right in the middle of rush hour traffic when I leave. Should I stop by the Post Office on my way to that meeting tomorrow or does it make more sense to do that on the way home afterwards? Was Wallace Shawn in any Muppet movies?
The golf shot that occurs after – or as is more often the case, during – the monkey chatter seldom is my best effort. Being in the moment is important in golf but I’ve made very little progress learning it in golf. Focus is something I have to bring to the course because it is not something that I’ll find after I get there.
The expression “relax to play golf, don’t play golf to relax” comes to mind.
In yoga, there is immediate feedback when my mind drifts or is cluttered. I fall out of the pose. I notice I’m not breathing. I lose track of the teacher’s guidance and cues.
But when I stay focused, I go deeper in the pose. I notice and maintain the rhythm of my breathing. I move feel the flow of the practice as the teacher guides me through the movements.
Yoga teachers talk about “being on your mat” and putting aside the rest of your life while you are in your yoga practice. As soon as you step on your mat, focus on your breath and your movement. Everything you leave off the mat will still be there after your practice and there’s nothing you can do about any of it until after practice, anyway.
In every facet of my life, I get so caught up in my brain’s cycle that I described in my last post [anticipating, visualizing, doing, humbled, over-analyzing, starting again] that I lose moments.
Some moments are not sufficiently savored or celebrated but it’s not just the special moments that need my attention.
Other moments are challenges or obstacles that gain power because my attention is elsewhere. Small problems grows because my focus is scattered.
It’s important to anticipate and plan what you’re going to do each day and next year and for the rest of your life. And it’s important to reflect and learn.
It’s also important to be in each moment and make the most of it.
I love that yoga helps me achieve that balance.