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October 23, 1999
Of Asanas and Eagles
But no sooner did the 65-old-year bend to hit the ball, that he would be jerked back to the reality of his back pain and other aches.
"I'm just old and that is a bad enough sin but to top it all, I am in bad shape," said Singh, a retired businessman in Albany, New York.
But Singh need not despair. He can rely on Clayton Horton, a yoga instructor in San Francisco, who claims combining golf with yoga can eliminate the aches and pains.
"Golf yoga, simply put, is a dynamic synthesis of ancient eastern tradition and the western game of golf," said Horton, 34, a Native American who grew up in Oklahoma.
"Golf yoga allows golfers to avoid back pain and improve their game. Golf-oriented asanas or postures produce a myriad of benefits," explained Horton, who has studied yoga for 12 years and has been teaching it for three.
"My experience in golf and yoga led me to develop these easy techniques. Strength and flexibility are developed, producing a powerful fluid swing with greater range of motion. Muscles are toned and healthy, strong joints are rejuvenated," said Horton, who teaches yoga at the Mill Valley Yoga Studio in Marin County, San Francisco. He recently teamed with the Meridian Sports Club in San Rafael to introduce Golf yoga classes and camps in the area.
It has always been known that yoga can relax the mind and rejuvenate the body. Golf yoga emphasizes on the spine, torso and shoulders, which gives them the ability to put the power in their swing. To succeed, many serious golfers believe, you must become one with the course, go with the flow. And though the game appears to be acted out in the physical realm, much of it remains in the mind.
"Yoga promotes greater body awareness,'' Horton says. "You become more conscious of your emotions and reactions. Golf is not only about good shots or what you score, it's also about attitude. Enlightenment begins with the sensing of our inner self. Golf is the perfect arena in which to connect the self with the natural world. Golf yoga allows the golfer to harness the mind, body, emotions, and will lead towards a state of awareness called 'The Zone'," Horton said.
"It's a phenomenon in which the athlete's 'at oneness' with the natural world and his inner faculties become a juggernaut of unstoppable momentum as the ball approaches the hole."
"Reversal of the aging process and stress reduction will be appreciated by adhering to this program," said Horton, who studied in Mysore with K Pattabhi Jois and B N S Iyengar two decades ago.
Horton always loved sports. He began playing golf at age 5. A competitive swimmer in high school and college, he moved to California at 20 to become a full-time triathlete. But a knee injury put an end to that ambition and he took up yoga in San Francisco.
He found it so stimulating and inspiring that he made it an integral part of his life.
He uses Patanjali's yoga sutras when guiding his golf yoga students towards 'The Zone'.
"Golfers enter 'The Zone' when thinking mode is transformed into doing mode; out of the mind and into the body," Horton said.
The development of inner awareness begins with sensing and observing what Horton calls the "feeling body".
"Yoga postures awaken the neuromuscular system to an extent that the student recognizes muscles and ranges of motion not felt before."
Horton has observed that most golfers don't have a good swing because their body won't allow correct or full range of motion. "Golfers also can't change what they can't feel; developing physical intelligence is the key to modifying and refining the swing."
The enterprising golf instructor has also incorporated a technique -- borrowed from yoga and which is known as gazing -- in which eye exercises are performed to calm, still, and focus the mind.
"Learning to stay cool and calm, and relaxed out there on the course is a must. Golf is not just about your score or your shots," Horton said.
"What are essential are ones attitude and how one reacts to the dynamic highs and lows of your own golfing experience."
Kristin Leigh, a teacher at Jivamukti, a yoga studio in Manhattan can clearly see why yoga would benefit golfers.
"The two are close in the sense that both require focus and concentration. If you do yoga and are fit, it gives you a single-minded focus which would help any sport," Leigh said.
"Golf is repetitive motion. Yoga would help keep the blood flowing and the energy moving."
Gareth Valles, 41, a physician and a yoga student of Horton said he finds yoga balances any sport that requires concentration.
"I don't play golf but I use yoga when I ski, play soccer, rugby or anything that is physically challenging. Golf would be an ideal example because it's a classic game of challenge, " Valles said.
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