How Yoga Helps Swimmers

By Subodh / February 9, 2015

Swimming and yoga, I feel, are two facets of a card that gel perfectly well with each other. Ask any swimmer who practices yoga and you will get the same answer – the impression both leaves after the workout is the same – relaxed, stretched, more flexible, and strong. The good thing here is that yoga enables swimmers to put up a better performance levels in the following ways:

  1. Better breathing capacity
  2. Longer, stronger, supple, and flexible muscles
  3. Better levels of core strength and back support
  4. Opens up the hips and shoulders
  5. Improved visualization and inner awareness
  6. Lower levels of physical and mental stress
  7. Lower chances of injuries

Here are 3 yoga poses for swimmers.

1. Gomukhasana – Cow Face Pose

Gomukhasana

Open up the hip and shoulders while improving your core strength and awareness with this yoga asana.

How to do:

  1. Sit on the yoga mat, legs stretched out to your front.
  2. Keep the core engaged while back is straight.
  3. Bend the left knee and let the left heel rest beside your right hip, sliding it under your right knee.
  4. Bend the right knee and stack it atop the left, placing the right foot beside the left hip.
  5. Make sure that your sitting bones are resting on the floor.
  6. Inhale and lift your right hand above your head.
  7. Exhale and bend it at elbow and rest it on your upper back, palms facing the back.
  8. Inhale, bend the left hand, and slide the left arm from beneath and interlock with the right hand.
  9. Fix your gaze at a center point and elongate the torso, pulling your shoulders and right elbow towards the mat.
  10. Hold the posture, breathing deeply, for 10 deep breaths.
  11. Exhale and release the hand.
  12. Relax for 3 deep breaths.
  13. Repeat the other side.

2. Parighasana – Gate Pose

Parighasana

Along with offering a good stretch to the entire body, the Gate Pose tones your abs, peps up circulation levels, and makes the spine more supple and flexible. It also offers additional stretch for the muscles located around the ribs, thereby improving the lung capacity.

How to do:

  1. Sit down on the mat on your knees, buttocks resting on the heels.
  2. Separate the knees hip distance apart, keeping the thighs parallel.
  3. Extend your right leg towards your right, placing the sole flat on the floor, while toes are extended. Keep the knee of the right leg active.
  4. Inhale and lift your left arm over the head, while sliding the right hand to reach your ankle. Keep the fingertips of the left hand pointed towards the right side.
  5. Exhale and bend towards your right from the waist, while keeping the left side of the body relaxed.
  6. Fix your gaze at the fingertips of the extended hand,
  7. Open up the chest backward, while pushing the hips a little further to the right.
  8. Breathe deeply and hold the pose for 5 deep breaths.
  9. Inhale, release the left hand by the side of the body, and keep the torso straight.
  10. Exhale and bring the knees back to initial posture, hands resting on your thighs.
  11. Repeat the other side.

3. Dhanurasana – Bow Pose

Dhanurasana Bow pose

A strong core and back is a key requisite for swimmers. And, curling your body like bow bestows you with that. Being a back bend, it also opens up the chest and shoulders. A wonderful fatigue and stress easing pose, it can strengthen your arms and legs too.

How to do:

  1. Lie down on the mat on your abdomen, legs stretched out to the back, hands resting along your body, toes extended.
  2. Bend the knees and allow you heels to come closer to the buttocks.
  3. Grab the ankles with respective hands.
  4. Inhale and lift your torso off the ground, while pulling the legs away from the body.
  5. Tilt your head backward, opening up the chest.
  6. Suck your navel in and towards the spine.
  7. Roll back the shoulders
  8. Balancing yourself on the lower abdomen and breathing deeply, hold the posture for 5 deep breaths
  9. Exhale, release the hands and legs.
  10. Place the hands aligned with the chest.
  11. Place the forehead on the mat.
  12. Relax.
  13. Do 5 such repetitions.

The Pranayama For Swimmers

Dirgha Pranayama – Three Part Breath

Dirgha Pranayama

A long, deep breathing practice expands the chest, allowing more and more oxygen to flush in. A higher lung capacity will facilitate better breathing, especially when swimmers indulge in diving and under water swimming. This one is the ideal breathing technique for any swimmer and it involves retention of breath and is done in three parts.
You can do it by sitting in a comfortable seated pose of your choice. Alternatively, you can lie down on your back, and experience the air moving in and out of your body. The procedure is the same, irrespective of your body posture.

How to do

  1. Lie down on the yoga mat on your back.
  2. Keep the eyes closed, allowing your entire body and mind to relax.
  3. Observe the way you inhale and exhale naturally. Focus on the space in between you eyebrows.
  4. Take 3 rounds of deep inhalations to prepare your body and mind for the Pranayama practice.
  5. Once you complete the three rounds, take a deep inhalation via your nose.
  6. Inhale in such a way that you entire abdomen is filled up with air. Exhale and empty the air. In simple words, with each inhalation, your tummy should look like an inflated balloon and with each exhalation, you have to deflate it.
    1. 5. Do 5 such rounds.
  7. With the next inhalation, fill the abdomen with air.
  8. Inhale a little more, allowing your rib cages to be filled with air.
  9. Exhale and expel the air from your ribs and then from the abdomen.
  10. Do this for 5 rounds.
  11. With the next inhalation, fill your abdomen completely with air. Inhale a little more and fill the rib cage. Inhale further and let the chest expand as the air fills in.
  12. Exhale, expel the air from the chest, followed by the rib cages, and then finally from the abdominal region.
  13. Do this for 5 breaths.
  14. After finishing the 5 rounds, with the next inhalation, fill your abdomen completely with air. Inhale a little more and fill the rib cage. Inhale further and let the chest expand as the air fills in.
  15. Hold the breath for a count of 15.
  16. Now start exhaling by expelling the air from the chest, rib cage, and then finally from the abdominal region, by sucking the navel in towards the spine.
  17. Repeat the retention three more times before getting into normal breathing.

This completes one round of three part breathing. You can do 5 such rounds.

Keep practicing yoga and improve your swimming potential! All the best!