Yoga for Swimmers: Five Poses for the Chest and Shoulders

This article has been provided by Steve Krojniewski 

As a yoga sports coach, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many swimmers who are looking for ways to improve their performance in the pool. Some successful poses we’ve worked on have increased core strength, improved ankle mobility, and increased lung capacity; however, there are two areas in a swimmer’s body that always seem to need constant attention: the shoulders and the pectoralis muscles.

It goes without saying that it is important for a swimmer to have stable and strong rotator cuff muscles for performance. Additionally, it is important for the serratus antierior, rhomboids, and trapezius muscles to be strong and stable for increased performance as well. At times, though, the stability and flexibility of the pectoralis muscles can be overlooked for overall shoulder girdle health.

When swimmers have shortened, tight pectoralis muscles, some of the issues that may occur are poorly rounded shoulders, glenohumeral joint dysfunction, numerous breathing dysfunctions, and even Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. It should also be pointed out that shortened tight pectoaralis muscles cause kinetic chain dysfunctions such as gait dysfunction and inhibited backward swimming motion.

In order to combat these issues, I have created a sequence (one that I use with the Notre Dame Swimming Team) to specifically lengthen the pectoral muscles. It will also help to stabilize the shoulder girdle, increase spinal extension, and strengthen deep spinal muscles.

Modified mountain with 2 blocks:

Begin by placing one block between the feet. Square the feet so they are parallel with the block and with the outside of the mat. Put the other block widthwise between the hands and raise the arms to shoulder height. Extend the tops of the fingers past the edge of the block, turn the thumbs up towards the ceiling, and squeeze the block. Posteriorly rotate pelvis, lift the sternum, and press the ribs back. As you squeeze both blocks, depress the shoulders down the back and slightly protract the shoulder blades.

Hold for 10 breaths and release the pose.







Open-hearted pectoralis stretch:

Place the hands at the lower back and interlace the fingers. Externally rotate the shoulder back and down and squeeze the shoulder blades. Posteriorly rotate pelvis, lift the sternum, and press the ribs back. Extend the arms so you reach the knuckles toward the ground, and roll the triceps towards each other.

Hold for 7 to 10 breaths and release the pose.








Eagle arm stretch:

Abduct the arms out laterally. Bring the arms toward each other, while taking the right arm over the left arm. Bend at the left elbow and point the left fingers toward the ceiling. Adduct the right arm towards the left arm and bring the palms of the hands together. Depress the shoulders and elevate the arms towards the ceiling. Continue to press the ribs towards the back and posteriorly rotate the pelvis.

Hold the pose for 7 to 10 breaths and then release. Change sides.







Pectoral stretch at the wall:

Stand with the left side of your body to the wall. Extend the left arm behind you and place the palm of the left hand on the wall. Extend the spine, internally rotate the right arm and shoulder, and place the right arm behind the back. Press the left hand into the wall and lift the chest. On an exhalation, slightly turn the torso and head to the right.

Hold the pose for 7 to 10 breaths and then release. Change sides.








Mountain at the wall:

Begin with your back to the wall and a block between the feet. Press the thigh – bones back. Posteriorly rotate the pelvis and press the ribs back towards the wall. Externally rotate the shoulders and have the arms at a 45-degree angle. Then turn the palms forward and press them both into the wall. Depress the shoulders down the back and squeeze the shoulder blades together. Level the chin to the ground and press the head back. Press into the wall as if you are the only one who can hold it up.

Stay in the pose for 7 to 10 breaths and release.






Click on the link to practice along at home or on the road:

Sequence for Pectoralis, Shoulders, and Spine

All images provided by Kendra Bayne



Steve is the owner of True Balance Yoga and the leading yoga instructor at the University of Notre Dame. Steve is a certified Kripalu Yoga instructor and also has received additional training; he’s received certification from the Sage Rountree School for Yoga for Athletes and from the Institute of Yoga Sports Science. He is currently working extensively with the Notre Dame swimming and diving program, the women’s soccer team, and the men’s basketball team. He has worked with the women’s lacrosse team, men’s lacrosse team, men’s baseball team, softball team, women’s golf, the cheerleading squad, and members of the football, cross country/track, and volleyball teams during his tenure.

Steve is a prAna Ambassador and has teamed with prAna to teach clinics for athletes nationally and internationally. Some of his published work can be viewed on Inside Lacrosse, Swimming World, Softball Magazine, and the College Sports Business News. He will also be speaking at the 2018 CSCAA Convention.

He has been a registered yoga teacher for over 13 years and has over 15,000 hours of teaching experience. He is also a Certified Licensed Massage Therapist and received his training at the Holistic Wellness Academy.



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Does anyone know of a study that shows the benefits of yoga on swimming performance?

Steve Krojo

Here’s one study how yoga breathing assists in swimming performance.


please let us know if any jobs are there in schools in bangalore…

About Jeff Grace

Jeff Grace

Jeff is a 500 hour registered yoga teacher who holds diplomas in Coaching (Douglas College) and High Performance Coaching (National Coaching Institute - Calgary). He has a background of over 20 years in the coaching profession, where he has used a unique and proven teaching methodology to help many achieve their …

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