Yoga for Swimmers: Three Ways to Develop Greater Body Awareness

Developing greater body awareness is one of the advantages of incorporating a swimming-specific yoga practice into your training program. By becoming more in tune with your body it enables you to change technique more efficiently and understand how you respond to different training stimulus.

Three highly effective ways to develop body awareness through a swimming-specific yoga practice include; balance, body scanning and noticing differences.


Balancing poses create a heightened sense of awareness by decreasing your base of support. To create stability in these poses subtle and sometimes not so subtle adjustments need to be made to stay upright.

To make these adjustments successfully you have to understand how your body is responding when standing on one leg.

There are two more bonuses when it comes to balancing poses. One is that they are playful and fun. Two is that they help you to stay away from taking yourself too seriously. Something I always remind people of when balancing is that you can take what you do seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. This allows you to practice balances in a way that you do not get discouraged or become frustrated with your present abilities to stay vertical.

After all in poses like the one below you are pretending to be a bird so really how can you take yourself too seriously!

Flying Eagle

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  • Start in mountain pose
  • On an inhale extend your arms up and out to the sides and then overhead
  • On an exhale bring your right arm under your left
  • Start to bring the forearms towards each other with the full expression of the pose being where you are crossing your wrists and wrapping your hands with the palms facing each other
  • On an exhale sit back into about a 1/4 of a chair
  • On an inhale cross your right thigh over your left
  • Keep your upper body erect and your spine long
  • ​The full expression of this pose is where you wrap your left foot behind the calves of your right leg
  • On an exhale fold forward at your hips slowly bringing your elbows towards the knees
  • On an inhale unwrap your arms and legs extending the top leg back behind you and the arms out wide like airplane wings with the palms pointed towards the ground

Body Scanning

In a Swimming-Specific Yoga practice we always begin with a body scan. This gives you time to understand how your body feels at the start of a practice.

This creates a baseline, which enables you to understand how your body responds to the practice. It also strengthens the mind-body connection.

Another benefit of doing a body scan at the beginning of a session is it gives you the opportunity to practice a mindset of non-judgement. The ability to look at experiences in a non-judgemental way has been shown to not only positively affect performance, but also improve an individual’s mental health.

The video below I take the Canadian Junior National Team through a body scan at the beginning of a sixty-minute practice.

Noticing Differences

Practicing yoga in a mindful way gives you the opportunity to notice the responses in your body throughout a class.  Noticing differences in how your body feels can be done in two different ways. The first is noticing how a pose feels on one side then how that differs from the other.

The second is understanding how your body is responding to your practice as a whole. We discuss in the section above how a body scan helps in this process. Another strategy is doing the same pose more than once in a class and noticing how the pose feels different.

The rotating lunge is a great way to understanding how a pose feels different on one side compared to the other.

Rotating Lunge

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  • Start in a high lunge
  • On an exhale keeping your spine long twist to the right so that your chest and shoulders are facing the right side of the room
  • As you twist keep the arms extended and bring them to shoulder height
  • On an inhale come to back to centre extending the arms overhead
  • On an exhale keeping your spine long twist to the left so that your chest and shoulders are facing the left side of the room
  • As you twist keep the arms extended and bring them to shoulder height

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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