The 4 Best Yoga Poses for Swimmers

Staying loose and strong are essential for efficient swimming. These four poses strike the perfect balance.

vinyasa ashtanga yoga yogi asana stretching swimming swimmer stretches for swimmers swimming stretches flexibility josh shrei body santa fe body yoga outside outside magazine outside online body work

Just as with swimming, yoga demands a deep awareness of breathing. Here, though, that breath helps you get deeper in your stretches.     Photo: chuckcollier/iStock

Swimming and yoga go hand-in-hand. In fact, getting out of the pool after a serious lap session feels similar to the after-effects of an hour-long yoga class: stretched, strong, and in a state of zen. 

The good news: swimming takes the shoulders through a full range of motion so a good baseline of flexibility is inherent to the sport. 

The bad news: the constant use of shoulders to propel through the water can result in tightness from overuse.

The goal: develop a good foundation of openness in the shoulders, while keeping length in the core. This is how swimmers maximize their full range of motion and use the entire extension of the body to their advantage. Think of the body as one piece.

First, focus on lengthening in both directions from the navel while swimming. This will bring alignment and length and keep arm exhaustion to a minimum.

Next, practice these four poses, a mix of shoulder openers and core- and back-strengtheners.


Shoulder Stretch Into Cat/Cow

The Moves:

  1. Start on all fours with your legs hip-distance apart, tops of the feet flat on the floor.
  2. Bring your upper body down to the floor, reaching the arms out long in front of you.
  3. Turn your upper body toward the left, to start, putting your right ear and shoulder on the floor. Extend your right arm straight out to the left, palm up.
  4. The left arm reaches overhead in line with the side body, fingers to the floor and left bicep alongside your ear.
  5. Hold for 30 seconds.
  6. Come up onto all fours and continue into Cat/Cow for one minute. 
  7. Then repeat steps 1-6 toward your right.

 

The Reason: Shoulder Stretch into Cat/Cow is a shoulder opener.


Shoulder Stretch on the Floor

The Moves:

  1. Lie flat on the floor with your legs out straight behind you, hip distance apart, and your arms straight overhead, forehead to the floor.
  2. Bring your right arm, to start, under and across your chest, leaning into your right shoulder and onto your arm.
  3. Bring the left arm straight up and overhead, fingers to the floor, bicep near the ear. The more you roll toward center onto the shoulder joint, the deeper the stretch you will feel.
  4. Hold for one minute, then repeat on the opposite side.

 

The Reason: Shoulder Stretch will open up tightness in the shoulders.


Shalabasana

The Moves:

  1. Lie flat on the floor with your legs straight out behind you, hip-distance apart, and arms straight ahead, forehead on the floor.
  2. In one strong, swift motion, lift up with your feet and reach up and out with your arms, raising your heart off the floor. Your gaze should be out in front, between your hands. 
  3. Hold for 20 seconds. Then repeat for two minutes. 

 

The Reason: Shalabasana is a core and back strengthener that will build length and alignment through the body and the limbs. Focus on keeping the neck and spine as long as possible for full effect.


Half Dhanurasana

  Photo: BODY of Santa Fe

The Moves:

  1. Lie flat on the floor with your legs straight out behind you, hip-distance apart, and arms straight ahead, forehead on the floor.
  2. Bend your right leg, to start, and reach back with your right arm until you are holding your right ankle.
  3. In one strong, swift motion, kick up with your thighs and reach out and up with your left hand.
  4. Keep kicking your right foot into your right hand and kicking up and out with your left foot, keeping your knees close together.
  5. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat.
  6. Do steps 1-5 on the opposite side of the body.

 

The Reason: Half Dhanurasana is a core and back strengthener that will build length and alignment through the body and the limbs. Focus on lengthening through the entire side body for full effect.


Josh Schrei is a yoga teacher at Body in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and an endurance athlete. He placed 9th among 40- to 49-year-old males in the Jemez 50K Trail Race last year. In October, he’s planning to do 3,000 sun salutations around South India’s sacred Arunachala mountain to raise money for Water.org.

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web

Comments