Thursday, June 7, 2012

Golf and Yoga: An Interview with Sarah Cohn

This article was originally published on Yoga City NYC.

Golf and Yoga: An Interview with Sarah Cohn
By Lisa Dawn Angerame

Author of new book “Practice Yoga While You Play Golf” Sarah Cohn began playing competitive golf at the age of 16 and became the first woman to play on Trinity College's men's golf team.  She discovered yoga during her career as a real estate attorney and the practice helped her find focus and flexibility.  Over time, she found that yoga was becoming invaluable to her golf game.

After retiring at age 50, Sarah decided that she wanted to share her experience of how yoga helped her stay loose and flexible on the course with others.  She spent the last five years studying (including doing her Teacher Training at New York Yoga and teaching at the studio!), practicing, and crafting this manual with totally cute illustrations for all levels of flexibility.  Would you expect anything less from a professional golfer/attorney/yogi?

Lisa Dawn Angerame:  How did this book come about?  

Sarah Cohn: About 10 years ago I began suffering from a lot of injuries related to a life participating in a variety of sports.  I found that the only way I could keep playing golf on a regular basis was to stretch during the round and so I incorporated some yoga poses that made sense in my body.  I also found that no matter how loose I felt on the first tee, by the time I was on the eighth or ninth, I began to tighten up if I wasn’t proactive with my stretching.  I looked around and saw that most golf fitness books dealt with either pre-round or post-round stretching.  I figured if it was helpful for me to do some yoga on the course, writing about it might help others too!

LDA: The title of the book is painfully obvious! 

SC: The original title was going to be Stay Loose, Swing Smoothly, Feel Good.  There was no way to make it flow and still be grammatically correct so I came up with the obvious title.  My editor was lobbying for titles that guaranteed better golf but the lawyer in me didn't want to make any promises that might not be kept.

LDA: Love that.  How does yoga help your golf game?  

SC: Yoga has helped me in numerous ways on the course.  First, it helps on an emotional level.  Just like every day on the yoga mat is different, some easy and flowing and others not so much, I realized that golf is no different. Yoga has taught me to let go of expectations on the course and just enjoy how fortunate I am to be able to play.  This translates to better, more enjoyable golf.  Then, on a physical level, yoga provides strength, balance and flexibility, which are invaluable in golf as in life.

LDA: What is the best way to describe how the two disciplines cross over?

SC: The biggest similarity between the two disciplines is that you are basically trying to improve upon prior performance each time you take to the mat or tee it up.  Improvement doesn't always occur and you can either accept it or make yourself miserable.  Yoga helps manage expectations on the golf course or the mat so that being miserable isn't an option.

LDA: What poses help with the short game?  Long game?  

SC: I don't know that I would differentiate between the short and long game.  The best poses are the ones that address each yogi/golfer’s individual needs.  If you have shoulder issues, you could spend the whole round on shoulder openers in many different poses.  Everything from eagle arms to wide legged straddles clasping the hands behind the back.  For me, hip flexors, hamstrings and low back are an issue so I focus on lots of twisting lunges, parsvotanasana and deep squats.  If you are pain free, you could also work on trikonasana with the arms extended by the ears to engage and strengthen the obliques, which are vital to the golf swing.  Virabhadrasana III is also terrific for working on strength, balance and flexibility. 

LDA: What muscles do you need to be aware of and stretch to help your flexibility for golf?

SC: Yoga helps increase or maintain your flexibility level which then makes it easier to rotate in the golf swing.  It is important to stretch all of the key muscle groups that you would stretch in a yoga class.  The most used muscles in golf begin with the hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, obliques and the shoulders.  Without stretching, a golfer's swing will get shorter and have less rotation as he or she ages.  This can translate to shorter shots, which no golfer enjoys.   

LDA: What is the best way to prepare for a golf game with yoga?  

SC: Practice yoga on and off the course.  Scan your body from top to bottom to figure out where you are tight and what area you may need to keep loose during the round.  Start with simple neck rolls, shoulder rolls, forward bends, gentle back bends and side bends.  Move on to gentle twists to get your body warmed up and then move on to gentle lunges and calf stretches.  These can be done at home before you head out or on the practice range if you have time to hit balls before you play. 

LDA: How do you stay focused while playing golf?

SC: This is actually one of the most difficult aspects of golf.  An average round takes about four hours and it is difficult to maintain focus for such a long period.  I try to be sure that when I am ready to hit my shot, there is nothing else except my planned shot running through my mind.  Visualizing the shot also helps a lot, as well as remembering what good shots in similar situations felt like.  If I have trouble focusing, doing breathing exercises between shots, like playing with the length of my inhales or exhales, helps clear my mind so I am ready to focus on my next shot.

LDA: Would you say golf is meditative?  

SC: Golf CAN be meditative when you are completely focused on golf.  It can be a walk in a beautiful environment.  Like yoga, it can be a moving meditation. 

LDA: Where can we buy the book?  

SC: The book is currently available at and at New York Yoga!

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