Summer’s here, and hot days call us to the water. Whether you are a casual dipper or a serious swimmer, yoga can really help your strokes. Like any repetitive exercise, swimming causes overuse in some muscle groups and under-use in others. Fortunately, if you engage in a variety of strokes, you can lessen this problem. However, we still engage the upper body during the swim, primarily the shoulders and back. Several yoga postures can balance the body, and breathing practice is key.
Swimming and YogaFit have a lot in common. Both focus on moving with breath in a rhythmic way. Ancient yoga texts tell us that a “pranayama” (breathing) practice should be done daily. An extremely deconditioned person has the option of swimming as a way to enhance this breathing practice. During Yoga and Swimming, the primary focus should be on the breath; then, the focus moves to breath united with movement. You can practice your swimming strokes on land, concentrating on the breath. Our yoga practice requires breathing in and out of the nose while our swimming breath is in and out of the mouth, but with practice can move closer to the yoga breath.
YogaFit postures for Swimmers:
Chest Expansion Standing: Interlace hands behind the back; lift ribcage upward, and breathe, filling the lungs. Pull hands away from the body. The powerful pose opens the chest, pectorals, and shoulders before and after the swim.
Knot Poses: Lying face down, pull the right arm across the left side of the body and the left arm across the right. Arms should be right under the chest. Switch sides after ten deep breaths. This opening pose creates space in the deltoids and between the scapula.
Camel Pose: On your knees, reach your hands back to sitting muscles (gluteus), squeeze tight and press forward, lift your chest, and experience an incredible anti-aging backbend. Release after five deep breaths into an extended child’s pose.
Abdominal Exercises: All our movements in and out of the water originate from the midsection. Making our center strong only enhances our movement through the water. Lying on your back, feet on the floor, interlace hands behind your head and slowly lift on the exhale, release on the inhale, and let the strong, centered breath lift you up and down like a wave. Keep the abs contracted at all times.
SuperPerson Pose: Lying face down, lifting arms and legs off the floor, holding for five breaths, and repeating 5x. This back-strengthening pose creates good posture muscles in and out of the water.
Focused Breathing and Visualization: With the hands on the belly, knees bent, and feet on the floor. Inhale and exhale into the midsection. This simple exercise gives us time to visualize moving through the water, staying calm and focused, and uniting breath with movement so our Swim becomes a complete Body/Mind exercise.
Have a fun Summer !!
For more information on yoga and cross-training, check out the YogaFit book, The YogaFit Athlete.