At a coaching conference six years ago a prominent American coach pulled me aside to ask me what I thought about yoga for swimmers.
At that time I had been practicing yoga for seven years. I was also including a yoga for swimmers practice as part of the training program for the athletes I was coaching. The implementation of a yoga practice designed specifically for swimmers benefited them in several different ways.
Since that point I went on to do my yoga teacher training and am a trained yoga therapist. I now teach Swimming-Specific Yoga classes to athletes of all levels in the Vancouver area as well as online.
The following are seven ways yoga for swimmers practice can help you improve your performance.
The most common reason that swimmers will incorporate yoga is to become more flexible.
Focusing on mobility is much more appropriate. When athletes attempt to become more flexible many sacrifice stability to increase range of motion. By doing this athletes can often compromise their joints leaving themselves vulnerable to injury.
Focusing on mobility in a yoga for swimmers practice will increase range of motion and lengthen muscle tissue at the same time as stabilizing the joint forming greater integrity and strength.
There are many ways that a swimming-specific yoga practice can be used to develop strength.
Core strength is an integral part of the majority of both dynamic and static poses. Poses and sequences are created so that athletes develop strength and co-ordination so that they have a connection throughout the body.
By incorporating swimming-specific movement patterns into these sequences it develops functional strength that can be transferred into the water.
3. Body Awareness
Swimming-Specific yoga is a very effective way to develop body awareness.
Some of the best and most coachable athletes have a tremendous amount of body awareness. Because of this they make technical changes with greater ease.
Athletes will develop body awareness by performing movement patterns that they are unaccustomed to. By doing this it creates greater variability within the nervous system.
Swimmers will also develop body awareness by bringing specific attention to how their body is responding at different points in the practice.
4. Ease of Movement
Effortless effort is a term used often when teaching yoga. Exerting effort with a sense of ease is a major focus in any practice.
Swimmers learn this by working with the breath. Co-ordinating the breath with movement develops the ability to perform in a more relaxed state.
Upon hearing the phrase ‘effortless effort’ an athlete reacted by saying, ‘That is Easy speed!’
He hit the nail on the head. The ability to swim with easy speed is one of the goals of a taper, which is one of the reasons the process feels so miraculous.
Easy speed is about being in a state of ‘flow’. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the foremost expert on the subject says there is a strong connection between yoga and flow:
The similarities between Yoga and flow are extremely strong; in fact it makes sense to think of Yoga as a very thoroughly planned flow activity. Both try to achieve a joyous, self-forgetful involvement through concentration, which in turn is made possible by a discipline of the body.
There are many different styles and types of yoga. A swimming-specific yoga practice incorporates many different styles so a session can be tailored specifically for recovery.
One of the most effective ways to enhance recovery is through restorative yoga. In restorative yoga props are often used to support the body in different poses. This use of props gives the body a greater ability to relax and let go.
This style of yoga also activates the parasympathetic nervous system which allows the body to restore even more effectively.
6. Injury Prevention
Swimming-Specific Yoga sessions are designed to prevent injury by addressing imbalances in the body and improving movement patterns that can cause common injuries. There is a focus on developing specific strength, mobility and body awareness that enable an athlete to support joints that may vulnerable to injury.
Yoga can also be therapeutic and help athletes rehabilitate many types of injuries and illnesses.
7. The Mental Game
The psychology of training and competing is extremely important to achieving success in swimming. A yoga for swimmers practice is a very effective way to develop several mental skills.
Yoga sessions will develop skills to reduce performance anxiety, increase self-awareness and improve self-talk. Practices can also include different visualization strategies.
This Yoga for Swimmers article is brought to you by Swimming Specific Yoga the world’s top resource for online yoga classes and courses designed for swimmers.
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