Ironing out Anxieties: Brody's Psychophysiology Teaches Relaxation Methods
Davis, Barker, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Over the past decade, sports psychologists have become as common to the terrain of the sporting world as agents, personal trainers and secretarial assistants. Nearly every high-priced athlete lists a mental guru among the entourage of specialists he calls a support team.
Naturally, a game as mentally-based as golf has more than its share of these 7-iron swamis, but do they really do more than just preach positive thinking?
Dr. Evan Brody, the founder of Performance Enhancement Consultants, Inc. in Silver Spring, is pioneering a new field called psychophysiology. He won't just tell you to relax on the golf course, he'll show you how.
"There are lots of guys out there that will tell you to clear your mind of negative thoughts or relax, or what have you, but then they don't really tell you how," says the 39-year-old black belt and student of tai chi. "That's where physiology comes in. I have developed a specific set of mental conditioning drills which ultimately allow the golfer to relax the mind and trust the body to perform as it was trained."
Brody has a doctorate in sports psychology, a master's in exercise physiology (both from Maryland), and, probably most importantly, a broad-based knowledge of the martial arts. Combining the three sciences, Brody developed a series of 10 drills that are designed to increase one's awareness of the body and swing, while decreasing one's focus on the external world.
First, Brody will have you breathing through your feet.
"After you address the ball, inhale through your feet, feeling your body expand up through the torso," says Brody in his calming tone. "As you exhale, relax your shoulders and arms, feeling your soft hands on the club. As you complete the exhale, your upper body relaxes, and you should feel the weight from your upper body settle into your thighs and, finally, your feet, resulting in a "rooted" feeling as your weight sinks into the earth. This rooted feeling becomes the "feel key" to swing away."
According to Brody, the "exhale" drill allows you to clear your mind of extraneous and distracting thoughts before the swing, as well as increasing the efficient transfer of energy through your body by decreasing muscular tension. The act of breathing itself also creates an internal rhythm that dictates swing tempo.
And that's just the first of Brody's trade secrets. Before Dr. Golf lets you off the range, he'll have you making minute-long slow motion swings with your eyes closed, producing 100 percent distance with 50 percent effort and making surprisingly solid contact while blindfolded.
"People rely too heavily on the external," Brody says. "If you trust your swing, really are intimately in tune with your swing, then you don't need your eyes to hit the golf ball. People tend to overcompensate for a poor sense of feel with their eyesight. That's what my instruction is all about. Teaching people to become more in touch with what's within, and less restricted and dominated by what's without."
Brody's client base includes a variety of professionals from the PGA, Senior PGA, LPGA and Nike tours. Locally, Brody works with both MAPGA professionals and rank-and-file amateurs. Woodholme teaching professional Wayne DeFrancesco, defending Maryland Open champion and probably the area's best player, has seen Brody and sanctions his methods.
"He and I are pretty much on the same wavelength in that he doesn't try to get you to pretend pressures aren't there," DeFrancesco says. "You don't have to invent situations with Dr. Brody. He offers you concrete ways to mediate the tension in your body and overcome external pressures."
But Brody doesn't claim to be a golf professional. A mid-range handicapper himself, Brody can't teach you to play the game; he can teach you to play the game better. For that reason, Brody's instruction is most effective for players who already have a strong fundamental grasp of the game. …