Asahi as a Lifelong Exercise for Golf

Sue Schaefer


I LOVE GOLF! I do not just love golf; I really love golf. I love to watch golf on TV. I love to read articles about golf. I love to talk with people about golf. I especially love to be on a golf course. Thinking about my next shot, taking in the scenery and the fresh air, and sharing the experience with friends and acquaintances soon hopefully to be golf friends. All of this is amazing when I stop to think about it because I am not a particularly good golfer. I have my share of good shots in every round but never find myself pulling it all together to get the score that I would like to see.

(Golfing in Greenfield Park, West Allis, WI)

I have been golfing for a long time. There was more frequent golf when I was younger but work and raising a family led to only occasional golf outings for many years until I retired 8 years ago. With time on my hands and a friend in a golf league I decided it was time to get back to the game. Once a week league play led to going 3 to 4 times a week to various golf courses with my new golf friends. The love was rekindled. There was a difference, however. I was no longer in my 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, or even 50’s. I returned to golf when I was 65.

I am not the only person who has come back to the golf course. In the summer of 2020 while in the beginning of dealing with the Covid-19 virus, golf became one of the few activities that continued to be available. This led to an explosion in the number of golfers, both young and old, that has continued to this day.

Like many of the golfers I know, I focus more on making sure that I have the right equipment with me for my round of golf than whether I have prepared my body to be the best it can be to golf to the best of my ability. As a result, after returning to golf as a senior, my shoulders, lower back and hips began to ache and impact how well I played and enjoyed golfing. In addition, my balance was not helping my game. It is likely that other new and returning golfers are affected by the same things.

(Sue's Beginning Teacher certification Jan. 2021)

Golf is challenging physically in many ways. It requires endurance, flexibility, strength, and balance. In addition, golf is a mentally challenging game which requires awareness of where your body is in space, focus when taking a shot, and the ability to be present for the next shot no matter what occurred on the last one.

I have always been active and depended on my regular walking and yoga stretches to address the physical requirements for golf. In addition, I read articles and books to learn more about recommended exercises, both physical and mental, to improve my golf. Despite that there was nothing that I was able to put together to use on a regular basis. Until Asahi. In the rest of this paper, I will review various Asahi exercises that are effective in maintaining your body and mind for golf.

There is an endless number of resources available in books, magazines and online that deal with the areas of the body to exercise to stay healthy and be prepared for your golf round and to improve your mental approach to the game. They provide specific areas of the body to stretch or strengthen. The issue that I found with many of the suggestions was that they did not provide me with a good flow of exercises that I could easily repeat to provide improved flexibility, leg strength and balance required not only for golf but for everyday living. Asahi at its core provides this.,, an online golf lessons platform, highlights the benefits of regular exercise in golf. Per Skillest, regular exercise comes with many additional health benefits beyond improving your golf ability. Regular workouts can improve your range of motion, increase muscle strength and endurance, improve balance and coordination, and reduce the risk of injuries. In addition, they address the importance of mobility in golf to provide coordination of various joints in your body. Basically, regular exercise provides flexibility throughout what Asahi refers to as the Chain of Joints – toes, ankle, knee, hip, spine, shoulder, jaw, neck, elbow, wrist, and fingers. They also address various exercises that are essential for golfers over 60 to keep your joints agile and your muscles flexible. They include such exercises as hip circles, standing leg curls, ankle stretches, and calf raises

The Mayo Clinic website, depth/health-tip/art-20048557 , states “Want to avoid golf injuries? Start by thinking through your golf swing: 1. Use proper posture. Avoid hunching over the ball, which may contribute to neck and back strain. 2. Stay smooth. The power of a golf swing comes from force transferred smoothly through all the muscle groups, from your ankles to your wrists. 3. Don't overswing. Relax and take a nice, easy swing at the ball.”

(Golfing at New Berlin Hills Golf Course, New Berlin, WI)

There are Eleven Principles that make Asahi effective an effective health exercise. They are:

- Combining movement and breath

- Staying relaxed

- Moving slowly with concentration

- Keeping your body in alignment

- Alternating contracting and expanding the body

- Working through the string of joints

- Focusing on your core

- Practicing balance

- Letting the movements flow

- Moving in spirals

- Being in a state of awareness

Looking at the Mayo recommendations for golf, we can overlay a number of the Asahi principles directly. 

1. Proper posture – Asahi directs one to keep the body in alignment, not leaning forward or back or to the right or left with one’s head held upright. This body alignment helps one to find and maintain a natural posture. 

2. Stay smooth – Asahi principles direct one to move slowly with concentration, while letting the movements flow while working through our string of joints, from our toes to our fingers. By moving slowly in Asahi and golf it lowers the risk of injury and provides the opportunity to do the movements correctly. 

3. Relax – Asahi also directs us to stay relaxed during the practice. By moving through the Asahi exercises while applying the Asahi Principles, one is automatically following the high-level Mayo recommendations to prepare and maintain your body for golf.

(Sunrise at New Berlin HIlls Golf Course, New Berlin, WI)

The Mayo Clinic also provides an online article detailing recommended golf stretches designed to promote a fluid, full golf swing which can improve golf performance at Practicing Asahi daily provides an overall exercise program that addresses each of the recommended body area stretches. It builds up a strong foundation to support the physical requirements of golf. Also, once the exercises are familiar it is easy to pick and choose the appropriate Asahi exercise to be able to complete an overall stretching warmup prior to your round of golf. For each of the stretch groupings below, Asahi movements are suggested from Series I, II and III that would meet the stretch goals.

Warmup golf stretches

- Initial Breathing – Quiet the mind and breathing

- Series I Relaxation Exercise 1 – Release tension in arms and shoulders

- Series III Relaxation Exercise 2 – Release tension from entire upper body

Golf stretches for the leg strength

- Series II Balance Exercise 1 – Lifting leg at start strengthens standing leg

- Series I Balance Exercise 2 – Strengthens calf muscles

- Series I Back Exercise 1 – Strengthen legs through squatting, extending and twisting

(Sue teaching Asahi at FinnFest in Duluth, July 2023)

Golf stretches for the back

- Series II Back Exercise 3 – Movement in the lower back in a circular movement

- Series III Back Exercise 2 – Forward extension and stretching of back

- Series I Back Exercise 1 – Stretches along sides of the body

Golf stretches for the hips

- Series I Balance Exercise 1 – Improves hip flexibility

- Series III – Back Exercise 1 – Rotation of body in figure eight motion

- Series I Balance Exercise 3 – Stretches hip flexors

Golf stretches for the wrists

- Series III Neck/Shoulders Exercise 1 – Spiral rotations of wrists

- Series II Back Exercise 1 – Hand positions at end of movement

- Series II Relaxation Exercise 3 – Rapid straighten arms at end of movement

Golf stretches for the shoulders

- Series II Neck/Shoulders Exercise 1 – Promotes mobility in the shoulders

- Series I Neck/Shoulders Exercise 2 – Loosen tension in shoulders, chest and neck

- Series I Neck/Shoulders Exercise 3 – Loosen tension in neck muscles

(Sue's outdoor class in Sanctuary Woods, Wauwatosa, WI)

Golf stretches for the core muscles

- Series III Balance Exercise 1 – Multiple balance components strengthen core

- Series II Balance Exercise 1 – Core strength to maintain balance

- Series II Neck/Shoulders Exercise 2 – Work through whole chain of joints

The last topic that I would like to address is the impact of the mind on one’s golf game. Over time I have found that most of the time when a shot I take goes bad it is because I am not present in what I am doing. Perhaps I do not mentally think about my pre-shot set-up, am thinking about what happened on the previous hole or am just distracted by something going on around me. One of the first golf books that I read when I returned to golf was “Zen Golf – Mastering the Mental Game” by Dr. Joseph Parent. Dr. Parent applies the Buddhist concept of being present and awareness through stories and exercises to help a golfer to stay calm, clear thoughts that lead to poor shots, eliminate bad habits and mental mistakes. 

When looking at the Asahi practice, the focus throughout is to increase mental awareness through the development of the mind and the body. Asahi consists of a flow of breathing-movement-mind- silence. By practicing this flow throughout the Asahi movements, it becomes second nature that can easily be transferred to the flow of movements on the golf course. Just as in Asahi where I am remaining present and aware of my movements, I can move to my next golf shot, be aware of what I am doing, focus on my pre-shot setup and complete the shot without thinking of external distractions.

In summary, I have found that the ongoing practice of Asahi has had a positive impact on my physical and mental preparation for golf. It was an easy to learn total body exercise that addressed the need to strengthen the body, maintain and increase flexibility, improve balance, calm the mind and be present in the moment. The issues of shoulder, hip and back pain that I experienced when I first returned to golf have for the most part been resolved through a daily Asahi practice and pre-golf round Asahi movements.

(Sue, in the back row, getting her advanced Asahi teacher training in Saarijärvi, Finland, with Asahi Developer Dr. Yrjö Mähönen (front right) August 2022)

Categories: : Asahi and Golf, Asahi as a Warmup