Yoga for Swimmers: Increasing Your Mobility with Yoga

Incorporating a plan to optimize your mobility is a valuable part of a well rounded training program. A yoga for swimmers practice is an effective and efficient way to accomplish this.

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

Many approach a yoga practice with the goal of becoming more flexible. This often creates a mindset where people are willing to sacrifice joint stability to achieve an increased 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

Four Key Areas to Focus on for Swimmers

  • Shoulders
  • Spine
  • Hips
  • Ankles

*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.

Shoulders – Thread the Needle

Yoga for Swimmers

Thread the Needle Preparation/Thoracic Twist

Yoga for Swimmers

Thread the Needle

Cues:

  • Start in a table top pose – on your hands and knees with shoulders over elbows, elbows over wrists and knees under hips
  • On an inhale lift your right arm up and out to the side twisting through the spine and stretching through the chest and shoulder
  • Exhale and bring your right arm under your left placing your forehead and right arm onto the ground finding length through the outside of the shoulder
  • Inhale and extend your left arm forward stretching into the left side of the back

Spine – Cobra

Yoga for Swimmers

Cobra

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

Thoracic Spine – Lying Thoracic Twist

Yoga for Swimmers

Lying Thoracic Spine Twist – 1

Yoga for Swimmers

Lying Thoracic Spine Twist – 2

Lying Thoracic Spine Twist – 3

Cues:

  • Start by lying on your right side with your knees stacked
  • Your hips and knees should be brought towards a 90° angle
  • Bring your right arm out wide from the shoulder like an airplane wing with the back of your hand on the ground
  • Place your left palm on top of your right palm and turn your gaze towards your hands
  • Keeping your left arm extended and your knees stacked on an inhale bring your left arm across the body guiding the back of the left hand towards the ground
  • Your gaze will follow your left hand
  • As you do this movement ensure that the right shoulder stays anchored onto the ground

Hips – Upright Dragon – Upright dragon into a Lunging Quad Stretch

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
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 Modified Planche Plank

Yoga for Swimmers

Down Dog

Yoga for Swimmers

Modified Planche Plank

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

Modified Planche Plank

Cues

  • Start in table top
  • Keeping the shoulders directly over the elbows and the elbows over the wrists walk your knees back about a few inches
  • Exhale engage the core
  • Inhale bring the knees off of the ground bringing the legs towards straight engaging the glutes
  • Ensure that there is active length in the spine and that the space between your shoulder blades is filled with your upper back

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

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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