Golf Tips - Step-Breathe Your Mind Into Focus

By Dr. Bob Phillips, Golf Psychologist

One of the most effective changes that a golfer can bring into his or her game is what I call step-breathing. The benefits of using step-breathing are many. You give yourself a solid, focused mental and physical place from which to hit your shots or make even the longer putts, you have a time to find the best level of mental arousal, and you gain more control over your playing tempo.

Another advantage of taking the time and centering yourself with step-breathing is that it places a nice dividing line between the thinking part of your golf swing and the hitting part. The old saying is; "The thinking must stop before the hitting begins."

You begin to learn step-breathing at home. You simply sit in a comfortable chair and imagine a side view of a set of stairs. When each stair drops down, this is your exhale. When the stair is flat, and horizontal to the ground, this is your inhale. In normal breathing your breath in and out and really never move lower in your body. If you were to graph a normal breath it would be a "U" shaped curve. It would go down on your exhale and back up on you inhale. Your breathing would be one long line of "U" shaped curves. This is fine for taking in oxygen, but not very effective for centering your mind and body to maximize your golf.

You continue your training by practicing lowering your center of breathing from high in your chest, near your throat, down to your lowest point in your stomach. Following your six or seven steps down into your body. Remember the exhales are when you drop a little further down and the inhales are the flat part of the step. On the inhale you do not go down, but you also do not go up, as in a normal breath.

Once the breathing is very low in your body practice keeping it there for four or five breaths. Then let it gradually come back up. If you practice this exercise one hundred to one hundred and fifty times you will begin to find that the breathing begins to anticipate your lowered center of breathing and your breathing will automatically drop on the second or third breath. When this happens you have learned the ability of using the short form of step-breathing. The short form of step-breathing utilizes this learned reaction and allows you to become fully centered using only two or three breaths. On the course, or even in practice, you will need to use this short form of step-breathing so that you can quickly get centered and ready to take the swing or the putt.

After you have learned the short form of step-breathing you are ready to make it part of your pre-shot routine. After you have planned your shot, addressed the ball, recalled a successful shot like the one you are about to make, you can use the step-breathing to end your thinking, relax your body, lock your expectation on the exact target and be externally focused on the ball. No thinking, no worrying, no wobbling of focus and fully ready to put the ball where you want it.

Now that you can center your breathing, begin to use it on the practice tee. Practice your pre-shot routine before each shot. (Did you think the practice tee was only for physical practice? How will you find your best game if you only practice the physical aspects of your game?) Establish your exact target, complete the step-breathing short form, focus on the ball and let yourself hit the ball. By practicing the entire routine you will soon be very comfortable with the procedure and your scores will reflect your new level of mental and physical control.

Do not try to utilize this or any other mental training technique until you have understood the theory and concepts involved and practiced the mental technique to the extent that you are able to fully use the procedure. Then bring it into competition after you have used it in practice several times. There are no short cuts to improving your game. You need to do the work and do it in the right order before you can really enjoy the higher level of play it brings.

Start practicing your long form of step-breathing today and soon you will have the mental control you need to play your best game. *


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