Swimming allows you to feel weightless in the water. Your senses withdraw inward as the outside noise is dulled into the background. The breath deepens and surrenders. Your movement becomes free as you harmoniously glide through the water.
The same sensations occur in yoga, only you are on dry land.
Yoga and swimming complement one another. Both enhance relaxation, deepen the breath and improve mental clarity. They are gentle on the joints and therapeutic to injuries and other physical limitations.
However, body alignment becomes imbalanced with swimmers due to the over development of the front of the body. The repetitive strokes overuse certain muscles while weakening others. Yoga focuses on full-body alignment using gravity to build strength and length evenly, increasing your mobility.
Yoga is a powerful option for cross-training. Outside of the water, the weight of your body provides resistance. The resistance builds strength in the muscles and bones due to the force of gravity. Bone density also increases due to the weight-bearing activity of yoga. All of this helps to prevent injury.
Here are four yoga poses that will assist you in or out of water.
ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA: DOWNWARD-FACING DOG
How To Do it: Come down to the floor onto your hands and knees. Align knees directly below your hips and hands slightly in front of the shoulders.
Spread your fingers and turn your toes under. Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. Start by keeping the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted.
If possible, slowly begin to straighten knees and draw the heels down towards the floor. Draw your tailbone down. Release your head down, gazing between the knees or thighs. Spread shoulders wide and breathe steadily. Stay in pose for 1-3 minutes.
Why Do it: Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches and hands. Strengthens the arms and legs.
URDHVA MUKHA SVANASANA: UPWARD-FACING DOG
How To Do it: Come down to the floor lying on your belly. Bend the elbows and place the palms of the hands at the sides of your waist so that the forearms are perpendicular to the floor. Spread your fingers.
Inhale, press into the hands, lift the torso up and lift your legs a few inches off the floor. Firm your thighs and turn them slightly in. Firm your arms and turn them slightly out.
Tip the head back, gazing upward. Breathe steadily, lifting the chest and dropping the shoulders down and back. Relax the glutes. Stay in pose for 15-30 seconds.
Why Do it: Stretches the chest, lungs, shoulders and abdomen and strengthens the spine, arms and wrists. Improves posture and firms the glutes.
GOMUKASANA: COW FACE POSE
How To Do it: Come to a seated position with both legs extended forward. Slide your left foot under the right knee to the outside of the right hip. Cross your right leg over the left, stacking the right knee on top of the left, and bring the right foot to the outside of the left hip. Sit evenly on the sitting bones.
Inhale, and reach the right arm up. Exhale, bend the elbow and place your hand on your upper back.
Inhale, reach the left arm behind your back and reach up between the shoulder blades to interlock the hands.
Gazing forward, lengthen the torso and draw your right elbow and shoulders down. Breathe steadily. Stay in pose for one minute and switch sides, reversing the legs and arms.
Why Do it: Stretches the ankles, hips, thighs, shoulders, armpits, triceps and chest.
DHANURASANA: BOW POSE
How to Do it: Lay on your belly with your arms alongside your torso, palms face up. Bend your knees and reach back to grab your ankles. Keep knees hips-width apart.
Inhale, lift the knees up and lift the thighs away from the floor. Your head and upper torso will also lift off the floor. Continue to lift the knees and thighs upward and press the feet into the hands to help deepen the stretch. Gaze forward.
Breathe deeply to open the chest, and draw the shoulders down. Stay in pose for 20- 30 seconds and repeat one or two more times.
Why Do it: Stretches the entire front of the body, ankles, thighs, groin, abdomen, chest, throat and deep hip flexors. Strengthens the back muscles and improves posture.