Athletes and coaches have many questions when considering the implementation of a yoga for swimmers practice. The most important question to have answered is; how do you make a yoga practice safe and effective?
Here are my five keys to developing a safe and effective yoga practice.
Incorporating swimming specific yoga into your training can have many benefits. One amazing thing about yoga is that classes can be designed to match almost any focus. Sessions are created in a holistic manner and can fit seamlessly into your periodization.
Before participating in a yoga class you should know what your intention is. Is it to target core body strength? Do you want to improve mobility? Are you looking to recover from an intense workout in the pool?
All of the above can enhance your ability to improve your performance in the water, but classes are designed very differently based on the intention.
As with any training you need to have clarity about why you’re doing what you’re doing.
There are two aspects of awareness that are key within a swimming specific yoga practice. Those are awareness of the breath and of the body.
The awareness of breath is the essence of any yoga practice. That awareness will bring your attention and focus into the present moment. Focusing on the present moment makes almost anything you do more effective, efficient and enjoyable.
Working with your breath also enables you to move with greater ease and relax more effectively.
The first reason Body awareness is important is safety. By focusing on this skill you learn to listen to your body and understand what your limits are.
Your practice should challenge you in a way that you are outside of your comfort zone without reaching a point where you feel pain.
Developing greater body awareness also allows you to control your more body effectively, which can be applied directly to developing better technical skills.
There are several misconceptions when it comes to mindfulness. Many think it is about clearing your mind and attempting to think about nothing.
Mindfulness is an awareness of the present moment. Keeping your attention present while noticing thoughts and feelings that arise without engaging with them.
I encourage my students to allow thoughts to come into their minds noticing them without allowing them to steal their attention away from the moment, away from their breath.
If your attention gets taken away, which it most likely will, acknowledge it, accept it and refocus on your breath with a smile.
Allowing Not Forcing
Yoga is not about being bendy, being beautiful or being able to do a handstand.
This expectation tends to lead to two things; it discourages people from trying yoga or many try to force themselves into poses they are not ready for.
One of the ways I see this manifest itself is when people are striving to be more flexible. In the quest of being able to gain range of motion they sacrifice stability within a joint.
By doing this they may come into the shape they think they are suppose to be in, but leave themselves vulnerable to injury. Always allow yourself to come into a pose. Never force yourself into a pose.
Yoga teaches the balance between effort and ease. You can work towards being able to do different poses, but challenging yourself on that path you need to listen to what your body is telling you.
Athletes consistently judge their performances, which is a necessary part of improving in the quest for excellence. One of the things that can happen though is that mindset can change from being about performance to harshly judging who they are as a person. This can have detrimental affects on their mental health.
Yoga gives athletes the time and space to stay away from judgment while learning to accept who they are as a person, which includes their strengths and weaknesses.
Yoga is not about perfecting a pose or judging yourself against others. The practice is about challenging yourself in a mindful way that will improve your wellness and in turn improve your performance.
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