How To Trigger The Relaxation Response in Your Pre-Shot Routine

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Just about every golfer knows that relaxation increases success on the golf course. This article is going to explain to you how you can use your breathing to trigger the relaxation response throughout your pre-shot routine.

Before getting into the process, there is an important thing you need to know about your breathing. Every breath has a two-part cycle. There is an activating part which is when you inhale and flood your mind and body with oxygen. And, there is a relaxation part which occurs during the exhale as the lungs release the air and carbon dioxide.

To experience the relaxation response it requires a 1:2 ratio when breathing: for every 1 second of inhalation do 2 seconds of exhalation. It is also best to inhale through your nose, and exhale through your mouth which makes it easier to control the release of air. Now let’s take this information and apply it in your pre-shot routine so you can execute with a relaxed mind and body.

The pre-shot routine begins when you arrive at your ball and you are preparing to make a decisions about club and shot selection. When you arrive at your shot, begin your routine by taking a deep breath in and exhale twice as long. Use this first breath as a mental trigger for you to focus, clear your mind, and make a confident decision with the shot at hand.

The second position in the pre-shot routine is behind the ball. Hopefully, while you are in this position, you are using positive self-talk to direct your mind to success and visualizing the type of shot/ball flight you want to execute. Most, golfers also take a few practice swings to physically connect with the shot, practice mechanics, and/or work on getting the feel. Research indicates that pre-shot routines that have both behavioral aspects (i.e. practice swing) and cognitive aspects (i.e. visualizing a successful outcome) produce the best results. After you do your routine as you normally do, add one more element before addressing the ball. Finish this phase of the pre-shot routine with a deep breath in.

As you cross the imaginary commitment line into the 3rd position of the pre-shot routine and you approach the ball, exhale your breath slowly while either looking at the target or your alignment spot. Do your best to exhale this breath all the way through and let it relax you into your setup position.

Finally once you are properly aligned and addressing the ball. Take a deep breath in and look once more at your target. Continue focusing on the target in a relaxed way as you exhale slowly. As you just about finished exhaling, slowly trace the line of the shot back with your eyes, relax as you finish exhaling, and perform your swing with confidence.

This breathing routine, especially at address, will help quiet an overactive mind and keep you relaxed prior to the shot all the way through execution. In addition, it helps eliminate mental chatter because it keeps you away from staring at the ball and the ground, and gets you focusing more on the target. When you are focusing on your target in a relaxed way, the subconscious mind recognizes it is the desired goal and will increase the likelihood of an accurate shot.

Other benefits of this breathing routine include:

  • It triggers the relaxation response prior to performance which helps eliminate physical tension and relaxes the mind and body.
  • It keeps the mind focused on the shot at hand and in the present moment instead of worrying about negative outcomes.
  • It helps to eliminate mental chatter at address by keeping the mind relaxed and occupied at the same time.

Whether you use this entire breathing routine or just insert part of it into a key place in your pre-shot routine, deep breathing will help you perform better on the course. Take time to practice this at the driving range too and teach yourself how to relax into the shot and your swing. This is a great way to play golf in the zone more often and lower your score on the golf course.