What swimmer does not love hearing those words?
With championship meets on the horizon taper means shorter practices, an increased amount of sleep, a reduction of all physical exertion which in turn results in an abundance of energy and positive emotion.
With recovery being at a premium it only makes sense to utilize every tool available. Restorative yoga is a very powerful tool that both a swimmer and a coach can have included in their tool boxes.
For a more detailed explanation on what restorative yoga is see 6 Styles of Yoga That Can Enhance Your Swimming Performance.
A quick explanation of restorative yoga is a practice that uses props such as bolsters, blocks, blankets and straps to allow participants to perform yoga poses where they completely let go of all tension and stress.
In this type of yoga poses are held for 5-20 minutes (very few classes will actually have you in a pose for 20 minutes) which allows the body to effectively release tension. The challenge is allowing yourself to be in stillness, but stillness will help enhance recovery.
Benefits of restorative yoga:
- Taps into the parasympathetic nervous system which will:
- Reduce cortisol (commonly known as the stress hormone)
- Improve sleep
- Increase the effectiveness of nutrient absorption
- Releases muscular tension
- Allow for greater sense of calm in both the body and mind
Three simple restorative poses that will help improve the effectiveness of your taper include:
1. Heart bed
In heart bed you create a supportive structure that will put the body on an incline. This positioning will help to gently open the chest and shoulders. You can also use this pose to gently open the the hips through internal or external rotation.
If you would like to increase mobility in the hips externally and open stretch through the inner thighs place the soles of the feet together and allow the knees to fall out wide. If you would like to increase mobility in the hip through internal rotation place the soles of the feet on the ground about mat width apart and let the knees fall in.
2. Supported Deer
This is a great twist that has a subtle hip opening. Seated on the floor place your left leg in front of you at a 45 degree angle and then bend your right knee so that your foot is behind and the knee is at a 45 degree angle. Place your left foot on the inner right thigh.
Place a bolster or cushion at a 90 degree angle at your left hip (the bolster will be pointed straight on to the side from the hip). On an inhale lengthen the spine looking forward on an exhale twist to your left and lower your body onto the bolster.
3. Supported Bridge
If you don’t want to invest in bolsters and blocks you can substitute them effectively with pillows and text books.
When I first considered starting a restorative yoga practice I thought it might be a waste of time considering I would be staying in one spot for up to 5-10 minutes (very few classes will actually have you in a pose for 20 minutes). I soon found by learning how to intentionally relax and release tension in my body was the most effective way for me to recover from a hard run or workout.
This is the perfect practice to incorporate into your taper. Really it is a perfect practice to incorporate into your weekly routine to enhance recovery.
If you have any questions about yoga or have subject matter you would like to see covered in these articles please feel free to email Jeff at [email protected]
Jeff Grace is the owner and operator of Excel with Grace which specializes in teaching sport specific and therapeutic yoga.
Jeff is trained in vinyasa (flow), hatha, yin, restorative and therapeutic yoga practices. He is also completing his 500 hour certification as a yoga therapist.
Jeff has been deeply immersed in the sport for decades. He has been coaching for over 20 years and has had athletes medal at both CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) Championships and Age Group Nationals.
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