I’m fortunate enough to have a boyfriend who likes to learn and study. When he gets interested in something new he learns as much as he can about it. That is what happened with him and swimming – therefore, in our symbiotic relationship I received his skillful knowledge in the pool. Whether you’re a freestyle swimmer in the lane or just want to increase your swimming technique for the beach, I pass these yoga tips and swimming tips along for you to try out and enjoy.
If you’re not a swimmer already you may want to consider adding a pool session or two to your weekly schedule. Swimming is great cardio that’s much gentler on major joints suffering from strain or arthritis. At first, like any new hobby or exercise routine, i.e. – yoga; swimming can feel frustrating initially. It may feel more like flailing than swimming, but stick with it and you’ll be gliding down the lane before you know it.
Yoga Tips for Swimming
My pool regime consists of gentle warm ups and then goes straight into a few laps of freestyle. Let’s break down freestyle (you know that style that most everyone uses, arms circling up over head, face in the water, legs kicking behind you) from top to bottom of the body parts utilized in terms of yoga warm ups and swimming techniques.
- Swim Breath: Typically when swimming freestyle you inhale on the surface of the water by twisting your head to one side, through your mouth. Then you slowly exhale through the nose or mouth (I prefer nose.) While still on land, practice slowing down your breath only through your nose and then workshop the breath specific to swimming. In a comfortable seated position, turn your head gently to the right and inhale through the mouth, allowing your mouth to open just slightly. Then slowly return the head to center and exhale through the nose or mouth – emphasis on going slowly here – count the exhalations at either a 3 count or 5 count. Turn your head to the left at the end of the empty breath and inhale through the mouth in the same manner as you did the first time. Return the head to center and exhale to your count of 3 or 5. Continue this simple, relaxing breathing technique for a few minutes. Eyes opened or closed.
- Shoulder Openers: Of course the arms and shoulders are a major component of freestyle swimming, so be sure to safely warm up your shoulders before getting into the pool, especially if you have any shoulder issues. To warm up your shoulders, place your fingers on the tops of your shoulders, elbows pointing out at your side. On an inhalation roll both elbows in towards each other aiming to almost touch them together in front of your face, continue the roll to point the elbows up towards the ceiling keeping your fingers on your shoulders. On the exhalation, roll the elbows back behind you lifting your chest up. Continue to move with the breath and after 10 sets as described switch the direction of the elbows this time inhaling the elbows behind and exhaling them down in front of you for 10 more rounds, adding to 20 total.
- Twist it Out: After you get in the pool and start your freestyle swim allow yourself to get used to the stroke and breath work attempting to take your inhalations from right and left, which is why counting the breath to a count of 3 or 5 is key. By counting your exhalations to an odd number your inhalations will alter which arm is extending and entering the water, alternating right and left and therefore alternating to which side you turn your head for your inhalation. We all have a dominant side and it’s tempting to breathe in from that dominant side only, but practice inhaling from both sides for balance in your swimming. As your body moves through the swim it will automatically twist to the side that you inhale from, or the side of the back arm that’s exiting the water, elbow up as the other arm is reaching forward and entering the water in front of you. To better understand this movement try it now, seated or standing, begin “swimming” with the arms only and notice how when you reach your right arm forward and pull your left elbow back your body naturally twists at the trunk/core to the left and vice versa when the arms are switched. To increase awareness of twists in the water, warm up outside of the pool with simple yogic seated twists – parivrtta sukhasana. Sit cross legged, spine erect, inhale center and exhale twist to the right placing the left hand on the right knee and right hand behind you to aid the twist. Hold for a few breaths. Return to center on an inhale and exhale to the left. Hold and continue for 10 sets.
- Front Body: The front of our hips and lower torso are often pretty tight from sitting, driving, cycling, and other such activities where the knees are bent and thighs parallel to the floor. Swimming counteracts the sitting position because the legs are extended back behind you, but due to our tight muscles in the fronts of the legs, finding correct form in a freestyle swim can take some time and patience. When you get in the pool, try not to overly bend your knees in your kick. Before jumping in, open your front body by standing feet hip distance with a little micro-bend in your knees. Place your hands at your low back and on an inhalation start by pushing your thighs and hip bones forward extending the stretch up your front body to your chest. Lastly, on the same inhale breath, gently, gently release your neck, careful not to mindlessly drop your head as far back as it goes, but instead keep some control and if it is painful on the neck then keep the chin tucked in the entire time. Start by holding the back bend for 2-3 breaths and slowly come up on an inhalation. Increase the hold as comfortable.
Have fun reigniting or introducing a new, healthy habit into your week. For better success get yourself a pair of decent goggles and a swim cap to keep pesky hairs out of your eyes, and a sporty one piece as opposed to one with cut outs or a bikini, you don’t want to be adjusting in the water. Save the two piece for sun bathing.