Jayne Storey has spent a lifetime studying the link between meditation and performance in high-pressure situations, like that crunch put. What she’s learnt about being in the zone, and breathing, may well help you to unlock your golfing potential.
Storey’s has spent the past seven years bringing the benefits of Tai Chi and the ‘quiet mind’ to golfers around the world, and now her new book ‘Breathe Golf’ details her approach – I read it to bring you some surprising truths…
1. A Game Of Golf Is Only Ever One Shot Something that has fascinated Storey for her whole career is how elite golfers, and other athletes, can have mastered their sports in training, only for everything to unravel once the competition is on, and the pressure mounts.
For you to fulfil your golfing potential, you’re going to have to face down the same paralysing effect. The first thing to do, is to fully recognise that everything comes down to what you are about to do, right here and right now; anchor yourself in the moment.
‘Once you train this ability, your mind will be strong enough to stay with the shot you’re taking, which, according to Jack Nicklaus, winner of 18 Majors, is the only shot that matters,’ writes Storey in her book Breathe Golf.
The athlete with the quietest mind in the moments before movement begins, always exhibits the most effortless motion
2. The Quiet Mind Wins The ancient practitioners of Tai Chi sought to quiet their minds as a route to mastering motion. But you don’t have to believe in eastern philosophy to see this effect, says Storey:
‘Neuroscientists who have been studying the brainwaves of world-class athletes have proven the tai chi adage that ‘stillness is the master of motion’. By showing that the athlete with the quietest mind in the moments before movement begins, always exhibits the most effortless motion, especially during intense pressure of competition.’
3. It All Starts With A Breath It's all very well observing that quiet mind wins, but how do you achieve this mindset when your brain is being bombarded with stimuli and you're internally stressing out, because you can't decide how to make a shot or approach that put?
‘It’s all too easy to hold the breath while you're swinging, or to take shallow breaths when you're anxious over a put. These things will only serve to activate adrenaline and with it, feelings of tightness and negative mental chatter,’ says Storey.
4. Look To Your Centre Of Gravity In Tai Chi, your body’s centre of gravity is known as the ’t’an tien’. ‘Located approximately 3 inches below your navel, this area is essential in breathing correctly for enhanced performance,’ says Storey.
Breathing deeply and purposefully is key to quieting the mind, and bringing your attention to the area around your navel will help to do this: ‘It has the effect of encouraging the breath to begin in the lower abdomen; conversely, when you try to take a deep breath, you end up causing the shoulders to rise and the chest to expand, which has the opposite effect.'
5. Bring Back Your Attention Using breathing to supercharge your golf performance doesn't just begin on the green. According to Storey, your ability to continually bring your attention back to breathing, which is normally an automatic process, can be developed in everyday life.
‘Follow your breathing during your meditation practice and then as often as you can throughout your day, recalling the breath by cutting into the endless stream of unconscious, mechanical thoughts... alongside the external distractions that rob you of your attention.’
‘Only as you develop his necessary skill, and ability, to continue come back to the breathing, no matter what else is going on inside or around you, can you then bring it into your game.’
6. Start To Regularly Meditate For Storey, the ideal way to bring an awareness of your breathing into everyday life, and then the golf course, is to start a 3-times-a-week meditation practice. She recommends blocking off three 30-minute sessions in your diary.
At the simplest level, all this meditation requires is for you to sit quietly on a chair with your eyes open. She recommends placing your chair about 3 feet away from a blank wall.
By giving yourself permission to do nothing but sit quietly and observe the tensions in your body while allowing your breath to come and go, you will become more settled be able to follow your breathing and notice how it becomes deeper and slows down.
Storey says every time you feel yourself becoming distracted and disappear into your thoughts you should make the effort to come back to your breathing and into the present moment. Continue this until your timer for 15, 20 or 30 minutes goes off.
Doing this simple practice will be invaluable in moving away from Storey’s ‘circle of deterioration’ where stress-induced shallow breathing reduces available oxygen, while at the same time increasing heart rate and tension.
Instead, deep breathing will bring you to the ‘circle of excellence’ where greater available locks oxygen results in endorphins, a slower heart rate and a better mind-body connection for enhanced performance. Result!
WHAT NEXT? Feeling good can also come from looking good, so if you want to bring some style to the course, then read the RSNG guide to golf fashion, now.
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Jayne Storey’s book Breath Golf is available from Amazon.
Comments are for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.