GUEST POST BY JAYNE STOREY
Maintaining a state of relaxed concentration is the key to superior performance on the golf course, especially when you’re under pressure.
This article explains the simplest and most direct route to holding your nerve and delivering shots that are fluid, effortless and precise, especially when the next shot is the one that really counts.
In addition to working with golfers, over the years Iíve coached athletes from many different backgrounds, including a Masters World champion swimmer, an Iron Man record-holder, an Olympic middle-distance runner, junior gymnasts, snow-boarders and a number of elite tennis-players.
Time and again experience shows that whatever the competitive situation might be, the skill that separates the champion from the runner-up is being able to maintain a state of relaxed concentration aka ëthe zoneí or flow-state. This is perhaps more true in golf than any other sport.
The ancient Buddhist art of Meditation (awareness of breathing) is proven through my extensive research over the past 17 years (and verified by the latest findings from neuroscience) to be the only way to train for the zone.
This elixir of performance is not a psychological technique (you can’t think your way into it) but a daily practice or deep practice of mindful attention. It will virtually guarantee that you can get round the course in fewer shots, put yourself in contention, and hole out to win.
How your breathing changes when you’re under pressure
Changes in your body go something like this. You perceive a tense situation, say a bad lie after a hooked tee shot and immediately and unconsciously you start shallow breathing. Next, your chest will get a little tighter, less oxygen is fed to your brain, your nervous-system becomes flooded with adrenaline, your heart beats a bit quicker, your muscles tighten and this makes your whole body tense.
With a tense body you are likely to feel up-tight, engage in too much self-talk, rush your shot preparation and probably shorten your back-swing, leading to a potentially duff second shot which will only increase your sense of anxiety, keep your breath shallow and hasten your decreasing circle of performance ÖI call it the Circle of Deterioration.
Hereís what happens when you take control of your breathing
Changes in your body go something like this. You perceive a tense situation, say a bad lie after a hooked tee shot and immediately and unconsciously you start shallow breathingÖbut this time you catch yourself, regroup and start breathing deeply, slowly and mindfully.
Now, instead of allowing your innate Stress Response to take over and run your brain, body and nervous-system for the duration of the shot, you can take conscious control of your mental and emotional state, bringing them back to neutral and opening the doorway to the zone.
Deep breathing sends more oxygen to your brain which then floods your nervous-system with endorphins, lowers your heart-rate, relaxes your muscles, strengthens your mind~body connection, raises your confidence levels, and creates 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.
The inherent challenge
Now if youíre up to date with current trends itís likely that youíve heard or read about the beneficial effects of meditation before and you also know that many of the worldís top players now practice awareness of breathing when theyíre walking to the first tee or stepping onto the putting green.
But knowledge alone cannot accelerate your performance; an intellectual understanding of why meditation works wonít help you lift that trophy ñ instead whatís required is consistent, dedicated practice and an attitude that isnít afraid of daily effort.
And Iím not talking about spacing-out while listening to a meditation app on your iPhone, but actually knuckling down for 15 minutes every day, sitting quietly, focusing on your breathing, reducing all that mental chatter and getting reacquainted with your physical self (being present in your body in the moment).