Hot summer days call us to the water, and whether you are a casual dipper or serious swimmer, yoga can really help your strokes. Swimming, like any repetitive exercise, causes overuse in some muscle groups and underuse in others. If you engage in a variety of strokes, you can lessen this problem, but we still engage the upper body, primarily shoulders and back, during the swim. There are several yoga postures that can balance the body, and breathing practice is key.
Swimming and yoga have a lot in common; both focus on moving with the breathing a rhythmic way. Ancient yoga text tell us that a "pranayama" (breathing) practice should be done daily. 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. Here are some yoga postures for swimmers:
- Chest Expansion Standing, interlace hands behind back; lift ribcage upward, breath into filling the lungs. Pull hands away from the body. The powerful pose opens the chest, pectorals and shoulders before and after the swim.
- Knot Pose Lying face down, pull right arm across left side of body and left arm across right. Arms should be right under the chest. Switch sides after 10 deep breaths. The opening pose creates space in the deltoids and scapula.
- Camel Pose On knees, reach hands back to sitting muscles (gluteus) squeeze tight and press forward, lift chest and experience an incredible anti-aging backbend. Release after five deep breaths into a forward fold Child's Pose.
- Abdominal Exercises All of our movements in and out of the water originate from the mid-section. Making our center strong only enhances our movement through water. Lie on back, feet on floor. Interlace hands behind head and slowly lift on the exhale, release on the inhale and like a wave, let the strong centered breath lift you up and down. Keep the abs contracted at all times.
- Super Person Pose Lying face down, lift arms and legs off floor, hold for five breaths and repeat five times. This back strengthening pose creates good posture muscles in and out of the water.
Beth Shaw is the founder and creator of YogaFit Training Systems Inc.and the author of YOGAFIT. She holds a BA in business from Long Island University and numerous yoga, fitness and mind/body certifications. For more information on yoga and cross-training, check out the YogaFit book, released this summer, or go to www.yogafit.com.