Logging laps in the pool leaves you stretched and strong. And, after dulling the noise of the outside world, swimming can have a meditative, blissed-out impact. Just like yoga.
Yoga has become the dryland complement for many swimmers — both amateurs and professionals. It counterbalances the overdevelopment that freestyle, breaststroke and butterfly can cause in the front body. It provides a weight-bearing, strength-building workout. And, it takes your body through its full range of motion, encourages flexibility and lengthens your muscles, which makes you a more efficient and powerful swimmer. Hold each of these poses for 5–10 breaths to elongate and loosen the muscles you just worked.
1. CAT AND COW
Cat stretches your back and strengthens your abdominals, while cow opens your chest and strengthens your back. Flowing between them warms up your spine.
The move: Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees so that your palms press into the ground, and your knees rest under your hips. Make sure your wrists, elbows and shoulders form one straight line and your knees and hips form another.
As you exhale, press into the ground with your hands and round your back like an angry Halloween cat. Gently bring your chin toward your chest and activate your abdominals, pulling your bellybutton toward your spine.
On your inhale, come into cow by arching your back in the opposite direction. Broaden your chest and lift your tailbone to the sky so your belly sinks toward the floor.
Hold each pose for several breaths or find a gentle flow between the two so that with each exhale you round into cat and with each inhale you open into cow.
2. THREAD THE NEEDLE
After loosening up your spine with cat and cow, move into thread the needle, also known as half knot, which stretches your shoulders and upper back.
The move: Start in a tabletop position, wrists under your shoulder and knees under your hips. As you inhale, take your right arm to the sky, palm facing away from your body. Exhale and sweep your right arm under your chest, resting your shoulder on the ground. Turn your right palm up toward the sky and rest your right check on the ground. Keep your left palm pressing into the earth or deepen the twist by taking your left hand to the small of your back. Hold for several breaths. Then on an inhale, sweep your right hand toward the sky for a gentle counter-twist. Exhale, release your right hand to the earth and repeat on the other side.
This pose is a great core and back strengthener and helps counterbalance overdevelopment in the front of your body. Focus on finding length throughout your spine and remember your neck is part of your spine so look forward, but not up.
The move: Start lying on your belly with your forehead on your mat, arms by your sides and legs extended behind you. As you inhale, lift your head, chest, arms and legs up. Concentrate on lengthening your spine rather than how high you can lift. Keep your gaze forward so you avoid compressing your neck.
Deepen your chest and shoulder opening by interlacing your hands behind your back and pressing your knuckles toward your heels. Hold the pose for five breaths and lower down on an exhale.
This is a challenging twist that involves a deep squat, while opening your shoulders, chest and hips. You can make it much more accessible with props, so grab a blanket and strap before you begin.
The move: Stand at the top of your mat with your feet wide and toes pointed out slightly. Bend both knees so you are squatting with your butt close to your heels and your torso close to your thighs. If your heels lift off the ground, slide a folded blanket under them.
As you exhale, twist from your belly toward your right. Bring your upper left arm to the outside of your right knee, turning your palm down, bending your elbow and wrapping your arm around your right shin. Sweep your right arm around your back and try and grab your left wrist with your right hand. If you can’t reach, grab a strap to make the bind a lot easier.
Hold the twist for five breaths, inhale to come back to center and repeat on the other side.
This continues to open your chest, lengthen your spine and stretch your shoulders.
The move: Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor with your ankles under your knees. Your feet should be hip-width apart and parallel so that all 10 toes point in the same direction. Arms rest on the floor by your sides, palms down.
As you inhale, press into the backs of your arms and feet, tilt your pelvis up and lift your hips up until your thighs are about parallel to the floor. Lift your hips as high as you can, scoot your arms under your back and interlace your fingers. Try and snuggle your shoulders under your upper back and lengthen your knuckles toward your heels. This will add a shoulder stretch. After 5–10 breaths, remove the arms, exhale and slowly roll down vertebrae by vertebrae.
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