Yoga for Swimming: Increase Your Mobility with Yoga

Developing a swimming-specific yoga practice is an effective and efficient way to address your mobility.

Increasing mobility in specific areas of the body in a functional way can have a positive effect on your swimming performance as well as helping prevent injuries.

Many approach a yoga practice with the goal of becoming more flexible. This often creates a mindset where you are willing to sacrifice joint stability to achieve an increase in range of motion. When approaching training where the goal is to optimize the full movement potential in a joint always focus on:

  • Joint stability
  • Creating range of motion where you will have the ability to apply power

This is one of the reasons I prefer the word mobility over flexibility

Five Key Areas to Focus on for Swimmers

Tom Barton of Q-Swim has something he calls the big five. These are five areas of the body that he feels need to be focused on when developing the mobility that helps a swimmer create an optimal streamline position.

The big five are:

  • Pecs
  • Lats
  • Abdomen
  • Hips
  • Ankles

Poses below that are incorporated into a swimming-specific yoga practice target these five areas.

*An appropriate warm up should be done before doing any of these poses. That warm up could be through a more complete yoga practice, progressive dry land movements or in water training.

Pecs

Melting Heart

Yoga for SwimmersYoga for Swimmers

Cues:

  • Start in a table top pose (hands and knees)
    • Fingers spread wide pointed forward
    • Shoulders over wrists and hips over knees
  • Extend your arms forward and bring your hands just a little wider than the mat
  • Keep the hips over the knees press your sternum towards the ground

Standing Chest Stretch

Yoga for SwimmersYoga for Swimmers

Cues:

  • Start in Mountain pose (strong standing posture)
  • Interlace your fingers and bring your hands behind your head
  • On an exhale:
    • Press your hands into your head and your head into your hands
    • Feel your neck extend and engage
  • On an inhale:
    • Draw your shoulder blades towards the spine
    • Bring the elbow back stretching the chest while keeping a long spine

Lats

Child’s Pose with Side Stretch

Yoga for SwimmersYoga for SwimmersYoga for Swimmers

Cues:

  • Start on your knees with the top of the feet down
  • Bring the big toes together
  • The knees can be wide or together
  • Fold forward at your hips and bring your seat towards your heels
  • Place the head on the ground and reach forward with the finger tips
  • Once at full extension press the finger tips into the ground and feel as if you are pulling the mat back towards your armpits

Side Stretch Variation

  • From child’s pose on an inhale start to reach your hands and upper body to the right
  • As you do this lift your belly up and place it on your towards your left thigh
  • Feel as if the right side of your seat is dropping down towards your heel

Modified Puppy Dog

Cues:

  • Begin in table top pose
  • Keep your hips over your knees
  • Come down onto your elbows
  • Place the palms together behind your head bringing your thumbs towards the spine
  • Bring your head on or towards the ground keeping the elbows close to the ears
  • Press the sternum towards the ground
  • Press the elbows down and feel like you are dragging the mat back towards your hips
  • If you need more intensity you can bring the knees back a few inches

Abdomen – Cobra

Yoga for Swimmers

Cues:

  • Lie flat on your stomach
  • Place your hands directly under your shoulders with your elbows tucked in towards your ribs
  • On an exhale press the top of your feet into the ground engaging your quads and feeling the knees lift off the ground slightly
  • Gently feel as if you are dragging the mat back towards your hips with your hands bringing the shoulders away from the ears
  • On an inhale your press your hands into the floor lifting your chest and chin up and forward off of the ground to whatever extent is comfortable for your ROM
  • If you feel any pain in your lower back lower the height of the pose or come out of the pose altogether

Cat Cow

Yoga for Swimmers

Cues:

  • Start in a table top pose (hands and knees)
    • Fingers spread wide pointed forward
    • Shoulders over wrists and hips over knees
  • On an inhale (Cow)
    • Lift your tail bone
    • Arch your spine
    • Bring the chest and chin forward
    • Squeeze shoulder blades towards spine
  • On an exhale (Cat)
    • Drop your tail bone
    • Round your spine
    • Drop your head
    • Press the ground away bringing should blades away from the spine

Hips

Upright Dragon

Yoga for Swimmers

Upright Dragon

Yoga for Swimmers

Upright Dragon

Cues:

  • Start in a low runner’s lunge with your right foot forward and left foot back
  • Keeping your right knee directly over your ankle back your left knee up enough that you feel a stretch in your hip flexors
  • Place the top of the left foot on the ground and gently square your hips
  • Once you find that stretch ensuring that you have stability in the low back and pelvis slowly bring your hands onto the front thigh
  • The upper body is upright with the a long spine and the shoulders relaxed
  • Extend the left arm long reaching towards the sky and then reach to the right keeping the knee pointed straight forward

Lunging Quad Stretch

Yoga for Swimmers

Lunging Quad Stretch

Cues:

  • Begin in a low lunge with the right foot forward and the left knee back
  • Have the right knee directly over the ankle with the knee and foot pointed straight forward
  • With the right hand on the right thigh bring your left heel towards your seat and come around with the left hand to hold onto the left foot drawing the heel in towards the seat
  • On an inhale bring the upper body up with a long spine
  • The shoulders are square and pointed straight forward

*The transition between these two poses is explained in the video below

 

Ankles

Down Dog to a Kneeling Ankle Stretch

Yoga for Swimmers

Down Dog

Down Dog

Cues:

  • Start in table top
  • Walk your knees back approximately two inches
  • Have your fingers spread wide pointed straight forward and press strongly into the fingers clawing the mat with the first knuckle
  • Ensure that you have your shoulders externally rotated. Meaning that your elbow creases are pointed away from you and your triceps are twirling towards each other
  • On an exhale press the ground away from you staying connected to your shoulders bring your hips up and back into an inverted ‘V’ position
  • Feel active length in the spine from the tailbone to the crown of the head keeping the neck in line with the rest of the spine
  • Keep a bend in the knees ensuring the spine is long

Kneeling Ankle Stretch

Cues

  • Start in a kneeling position with your hands at either side of your thighs
  • Slowly bring the knees up and off of the ground stretching into the tops of the ankles

 

This Yoga for Swimmers article is brought to you by Swimming-Specific Yoga the world’s top resource for online yoga classes and content designed for swimmers and multi-sport athletes.

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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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