Yoga for Golfers: My Journey
By: Michael Riek
Like many people would be venturing off into a completely new realm of exercise, I was very skeptical of yoga at first. The stigma that it was only for women, that it was all about flexibility, and that the
“breath” was a critical tool in the practice all sounded a bit foreign to me, considering I was a male whopreferred more “masculine” methods of exercise. But o
nce I realized how closely integrated my passionfor golf and the practice of yoga were, I decided it was worth a try.
Coming to Yoga
To give you a bit of background, I was a three-sport athlete in high school, earning all-conference honorsin football, basketball, and golf, and when I graduated I was blessed with a choice of which sport(s) toplay at the collegiate level. Though my highest aptitude was likely in football or basketball, my truepassion was golf, and I was excited to see how much I could progress with golf as my only athletic focus.After a successful four-year college career where I made great strides in improving from a 10-handicapto a scratch golfer, I continued to play competitively in Wisconsin amateur tournaments, and in thesummer of 2011, had my most successful season yet, nearly winning two tournaments and contendingin a few others.As a person who loves taking on challenges and is driven to continually improve, I pondered the idea of honing in on an exercise program that would give me an advantage on my competition, and in early2012 I decided I wanted to take initiative in further developing my golf game. I began researching golf-specific exercise programs and stumbled upon a website dedicated to yoga for golfers, and wassomewhat intrigued. I found out there was a certified instructor named Jim Crane in Oshkosh, WI, thecity I worked in, and so I decided to contact him. What really sold me about Jim was before agreeing tomeet me, he made it clear that this program would require dedication and was not just a casualpractice. He asked me a series of questions about what my goals were and what prompted me to getinto yoga, and upon telling him that I wanted to improve my golf game by increasing my strength,flexibility, and balance, I knew a one-on-one environment with Jim was what I wanted to pursue.
I had expected the first few meetings to be a learning experience, picking up on the terminology andbasics of yoga, but it was much more difficult than I had originally thought. Simple poses that werefundamental to yoga proved to be very difficult for me, and I realized how much work I had ahead of me. The progress was slow but noticeable, and it wasn
t until four to six weeks after starting that Itransitioned from a mindset of simply trying yoga to a long-term mindset committed to integrating yogainto my golf game. What initiated this decision was my realization that the most worthwhile things in mylife were never easy, and making that connection with my early struggles in yoga was a turning point.Following that conscious decision, I began seeing significant changes in my mind and body.