Swimming and yoga actually have a lot in common because both focus on breathing diaphragmatically (deeply from the middle body) and also moving the body in rhythm along with the breath. So a great way to boost your clients’ swimming routine is by asking them to extend their inhales and exhales during some basic postures.
Practice inhaling through the nose for four counts, then exhaling through the nose for four counts as they sit comfortably. After several minutes, switch the breath for swimming by asking the client to inhale and exhale only through the mouth for four, six or even eight counts in and out. Ancient yoga texts tell us that this “pranayama” (the energy of breathing) can be practiced daily, whether they are lying in bed, practicing a plank pose or doing the breaststroke in open water. They can practice it any time. Try these sample routines:
- Chest expansion: Interlace hands behind back, and lift the rib cage upward; then breathe deeply to fill the lungs. Pull arms and hands away from the body, and hold for one minute, chin dipping to the chest and arms away from the body in back. Help your client slowly hinge forward so the head lowers to the floor and hands reach behind toward the floor to hold. This powerful stretch opens the chest, neck and shoulder muscles before and after any workout.
- Dolphin: From a downward dog pose, come to the forearms, and clasp both hands with elbows under shoulders. Slowly walk both feet in closer to the body, keeping forearms on the ground and lifting up and away with the shoulder blades. Try to get heels to the floor, and breathe for one minute. This upper-body toner builds endurance through all swimming musculature.
- Abdominal exercises: Ask your client to lie on his/her back, feet on the floor and close the eyes. Interlace hands behind head, open elbows, and begin breathing in and out through the nose or mouth. Exhale up and hold for six seconds, then slowly lower back down on an inhale for four seconds. Inhale up, surfing on the breath and then lowering down like a wave. Keep abs tight at all times, and challenge the exercise by crossing opposite knee to elbow or raising both knees in the air; keep it going for several minutes, linking breath to movement. Creating a stronger, firmer belly enhances all movements through the water.
Beth Shaw is the founder and creator of YogaFit Training Systems Inc. (www.yogafit.com) and is the author of YOGAFIT. Beth presents at all major yoga and fitness conferences and is contributor to fitness magazines and an animal rights advocate. She holds a BA in Business from Long Island University and numerous yoga, fitness and mind/body certifications.