Breathe Some Focus into Your Golf Game
Anirban Lahiri #lahiri won the Indian Open on Sunday 22nd February 2015 whilst using a breathing technique as part of his meditation to keep him in the zone …
and while all around him were coming apart at the seams he kept his focus to go on and win on the first play off hole.
James Hahn #jameshahn uses a breathing technique to keep his focus and he won the Northern Trust Open on the same day!
So it couldn’t be a better time to learn how breathing techniques can help your golf.
In this session we will first take a look at how your breathing pattern is affected by your state of mind and also how your state of mind can be changed by changing your breathing pattern and then we can expand on a technique that you can use both on and off the course to help you play better more often, save shots more consistently and have so much more fun on the golf course.
Each State of Mind Has a Unique Breathing Pattern
As you have seen in previous posts or in the book Golf on the Chemical Edge you are the sum total of your DNA and of the experiences that you have had since your mother’s egg was activated.
There are really three things that make up your behaviours and personality as you are now. Two of them are down to the DNA that you are given when your egg is first activated and the third is due to the learning experiences you have had since that moment.
Think of your DNA as memory but not any old memory. This is memory, some of which, is as old as the first cell on the planet; and some as old as the first humans and some as old as your parents. It is made up and passed on by the DNA of your biological parents. Simply put; think of DNA as being made up two things:
1. A set of instructions or memory designed to turn the first cell into a human being
The plans and instructions for the building of a human being in general are contained within the DNA of each of your parents. For instance how to divide and increase cell numbers, which cells become arms, which cells become muscles, how many lungs or hearts you have and much much more all designed to create a human being all passed down through the centuries each time a child is born.
These instructions and ingrained memory are what enable you to produce the chemicals that, when they are mixed in a particular way, we think of as emotions or feelings (states of mind).
Part of the human DNA tells the cells in your body how to react when they experience particular feelings (states of mind / emotions) including the amount of oxygen needed to maintain a particular effort, the amount of adrenaline needed to increase or decrease the heart rate to produce that effort etc..
Your DNA instructions tell your cells how to go and get that oxygen or adrenaline, which organs to use, what muscles to expand or contract to work those organs etc.
It also is the set of instructions that create what you might term natural instinct and also what some term your sixth sense.
2. A set of instructions or memory designed to build YOU in particular
Where the DNA, between your father and your mother, differs the stronger DNA will overcome the weaker – this is where you get the colour of your hair and eyes from, whether you are left or right handed, who’s nose or type of hair you take, your height and build and so on enabling you to become a mixture of the characteristics of your parents.
3. The Experiences You Have
The third thing that forms your behaviours and personality are the experiences you have from the time your egg was activated until now. These will impact on the way you turn out. This includes:
- how your mother lived while you were in the womb – whether she smoked or not, what she ate or drank, whether she was happy, sad or something else
- how you were treated by the people you mixed with; parents, brothers & sisters, other close relations, friends, enemies, teachers etc – how they interacted with you are all experiences that you learned and which become stored in your memory. These affect what you come to think of as important, scary, exciting etc
- other experiences that you have that might be thought of as good or bad are all stored in your memory – what you learn to identify as scary, or fun, or loving etc most often come from your experiences after you are conceived.
When an event happens; you experience that event based on your subconscious reaction after processing the information you have stored in your memory.
Your conscious mind processes the information and creates possible options of what that event might mean to you. Each of those options will be based on memory stored regarding past events or similar events and the benefits you gained before or the consequences you suffered and the memory will also have potential reactions ready made and tailored for your best interests.
Those past events are stored in your memory in the form of pictures, sounds, smells, taste and the chemicals (or feelings) that you experienced at the time and each of the options for action include a formula for how much oxygen and other chemicals you might need pumping through your system to deal with the situation.
The options with which you might react will depend on whether your memory recognises that situation as a non-threatening or threatening situation and the amount of chemicals pumped through your system will depend on the perceived level of threat or otherwise to you along with the amount of effort imagined to carry out that reaction.
Your conscious mind creates the thought and your subconscious reacts by playing the pictures, sounds, smells and tastes into your conscious whilst immediately pumping the remembered chemicals into your system.
Try this …
Think of a time when something happened or was said which made you feel mildly threatened in some way – maybe physically threatened, or embarrassed, or rejected or something else. Now replay the event in your mind – see what you saw, hear what you heard and feel what you felt like at the time.
When you find one and replay it and notice what happens inside you you will find that the memory creates the emotions and your heart rate and breathing patterns will change with these emotions.
Now try this …
Think of a time when you knew you were loved and which when you think of it now still makes you feel loved. Replay this event and notice what happens to the emotions and to your heart rate and breathing pattern.
The way in which you think of an event and whether it takes you towards your good drugs or bad drugs will trigger a response inside of you.
Let’s take the example of a golfer who is leading the Masters and is two shots ahead standing on the 16th on the last day and we will give him two different ways of thinking to see how his system might react:
Situation 1 – He has just been told that he has gone one up and that the Green Jacket is his to lose (by a helpful media person!). The previous leader was five ahead three holes ago but his game has folded. His caddy then says to him don’t think about losing and don’t think about going in the water here on the 16th. The player then says to himself “They think I choked last year and I’m not gonna choke this time – just stay away from the water – it would be hell if I lost this from here”
Situation 2 – He is unaware that he is in the lead and in fact thinks that another player is five shots ahead and has first place sewn up. He is happy that he has played well so far today and though he hasn’t given up – because you never know what can happen in the Masters – he makes a decision to par in with a birdie being a bonus and let’s see what happens. He says to his caddy “Fairways and the centre of the greens all the way in” and his caddy agrees with him.
Now these are examples and it is entirely possible that the same golfer could have either of these thoughts on any given day.
The golfer in situation 1 though is in a threatened situation. He is the man being chased, he is the one who has just had the water hazard made big in his mind, he is the one that has just thought about choking and he is the one who thinks it would be hell if he lost from there. As a response to the threat his subconscious will trigger a need for additional oxygen which will trigger a need for blood to be pumped furiously around his body to deliver that oxygen which triggers enormous amounts of adrenaline and sets his heart racing or pounding – the blood moves from his hands and arms and legs and is focussed on his internal organs and he finds he can’t grip the ball or swing smoothyl and his legs feel like they have gone to jelly.
For the golfer in situation 2 though nothing has changed. He has been playing well so far and he is pleased with how he has played. There is no additional pressure on him to perform better and in his mind there are no dire consequences of losing the Masters – therefore he can continue with the same requirements for oxygen and adrenaline as he had before (and with which he was playing well).
Really, which one do you think will play the 16th the best?
It’s a no brainer, the golfer in situation 2 has the best chance of playing the hole well. Does it mean that will be the case every time? Of course it doesn’t but the point is he is more likely to more often.
Now This is Where it Gets Interesting…
Change Your Breathing to Change Your State of Mind
Just as each state of mind triggers a breathing pattern so it works the other way around…
You can trigger a state of mind by changing the pattern with which you breathe. Focussing on breathing with a particular pattern will send a message to your subconscious to say which state of mind is required.
How does this help you?
It can help either to calm you down (many different states of calm) or to fire you up as needed.
Just as if you were to think of a time when you were calm the memory produces the breathing pattern to go with that time when you were calm – so too does your breathing as if you were calm produce the feeling (via the memory) of being calm. The two are interlinked as are any other states of mind and breathing patterns, heart rate etc.
Try This Breathing Technique
There are many techniques that are being used and the keys to the effectiveness of each are:
- the oxygen intake
- the change in pattern of the breathing in and out
- the distraction of the focus on the breathing itself and the sensations that are generated
The technique I am going to show you… actually let me show you first!
The technique involves breathing in through your nose, holding your breath to get maximum intake and then breathing out through your mouth.
- Take a full breath in through your nose to a count of four
- Hold your breath for a count of seven
- Breath out through your mouth to a count of eight noticing the sensation of the breath on your tongue
- Repeat this cycle four times and then just notice how your breathing has changed
Practice this at home first at least twice a day and then when you are comfortable with it and can see how it changes your state of mind, then use it when you are on the practise ground.
Please note that this is not part of your pre-shot routine however when you are on the golf course you should go through the four breathing cycle in between each and every shot – do it as you walk from shot to shot regardless of whether the previous shot was a good one or less than good.
Use the technique when you are just mucking around as well as when you are playing. Making a habit of using this technique all the time so that it becomes as automatic as putting one foot in front of the other when walking will mean that you begin to use it regardless of whether there is a pressure situation or not.
Within weeks if not days you will notice a marked ability to not only control your breathing but to control your state of mind on the course and as a direct impact of this control of your state of mind you will find that your scores are reducing and your enjoyment of the game rises still further.
And the good news is you can use the technique off the course and it will also help you there.