Were you gripped watching Phil Mickleson make history last week winning the PGA Players at the grand age of 51? Incredible to see his game not only match, but surpass the world's number 1 and 2 who failed to make the cut. I'm sure you've since read several articles applauding his success, which hopefully has inspired many of you who are also in the over 50 camp too. Phil has worked hard to achieve his success and it hasn't happened overnight, he's put the hours in the gym to strengthen his body and increase his flexibility. But how many of you also picked up in his interviews, that he has also been training his mental side too? Phil has always incorporated mental toughness training into his regime and is known for using visualisation techniques to great effect around the greens. More recently he has been working on "staying in the moment," to help quieten his mind. In particular, his focus has been on slow deep breathing. You could see him composing himself before taking on a shot, especially in the closing holes on the final day. I have written in previous blogs about the merits of slow deep breathing to remove tension in the body. Whilst I know its has been proven to change the chemical composition within the body, to remove the stress hormone cortisone, I've struggled to find a way to physically demonstrate this, apart from the client seeing the benefit for themselves. That is until recently when Jason one of my guys I coach in Australia sent me this photo.
Jason has been using deep breathing to help improve his game in anxious moments to great effect. He wanted to learn more about the benefits this could bring, so he recently attended a 2-day seminar with Wim Hoff, the Dutch extreme athlete. During the training they were asked to wee on a piece of litmus paper before and after completing a deep breathing exercise. As you can see there is definitely a change in the chemical composition, proving without doubt that breathing has an impact on the body. Still not convinced? Then try this exercise. Take your golf stance and close your eyes. For a few seconds think back to a time when you were afraid or think of a situation that cause you to feel anxious. Now check your breathing, is it deep and relaxed? Chances are its not, some people even stop breathing at this point. It you continued to breathe it will have been shallow, high up in your chest and restricted. Don't worry this is a natural reaction, its your body preparing to fight or flee. Animals are know to freeze in such moments when they fear danger and stop breathing to increase their ability to hear what is approaching. When we anticipate a stressful situation, we tense up and stop or restrict our breathing, just like a scared animal. For the next part of this exercise, take your stance again, close your eyes and take a few slow, deep and even breathes. Imagine each breath goes deeper into your body with each inhalation, filling it as much as possible. Now check your body and mind - is your body tense, or your mind full of anxiety? Not likely. Most people respond with their bodies becoming more relaxed and their minds feeling more at ease. Fact tension and deep breathing are incompatible. If you're tense, you won't be deep breathing and if your deep breathing your body will not be tense - simples!
Hope you found this blog interesting, if you would like to learn more about deep breathing techniques and how to do it correctly please get in touch.
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