Swimming is a repetitive movement which responds well to yoga as both a complement and a counter-balance. Regular practice will improve mobility, strength and encourage body awareness. Importantly it also provides weight-bearing exercise that's essential for those who spend many hours a week suspended in water. Challenging the body in static poses helps to stabilise the joints and strengthens the bones, preventing early withdrawal form the sport due to injury, and later on in life protects against osteoporosis.
Our aim is to practice moving with ease on the mat so we can flow in the water. Yoga designed for swimmers uses dynamic sequences to warm and open the body, encourage stability from the core and to move in a way that's different from the pool. That means stretching the chest open to balance the constant contraction of the chest and forward roll of shoulders in most swimming strokes. We work to strengthen the back and shoulder muscles that are under-used or abused in the pool avoiding injuries to the rotator cuff ('swimmer's shoulder').
Every class ends with some time in stillness, holding static poses for a few minutes to deepen the stretch and stress on connective tissue and joints. This helps to restore energy flow in the body and so aids recovery from training. A focus on the hips is of benefit to breast-stroke in mobilising the hip joints to free the knees. And not forgetting the feet; which need to be flexible in all strokes but when stiff can be like 'trying to lift a plane off the ground with the flaps down'!
Overall, regular yoga practice will improve body alignment and the feel of your body in the water, so you'll know when your stroke is wrong or you're dragging in the water. I love to finish each class with a twist, squeezing tension from the spine and upper back so that when we lie still at the end of each session we can fully appreciate the relaxation that sweeps through the body.
I've teamed up with swimming coach and personal trainer Mark Durnford to create a six week course of yoga designed for swimmers. We start on Saturday 27th February at 2pm, Nuffield Leisure Centre in Clifton. Sessions are £10 drop-in, or sign up with Createfit for all six sessions for a discount of £2 per session. We're also on Move GB.