25 Sep 2014

Yoga For Swimmers

We asked Nicole Walsh, co-founder of Sydney's InYoga studio, to give us five reasons to get our downward dog on before diving in.




Swimming and yoga go hand-in-hand: both are gentle on the joints, employ the co-ordination of muscles, mind and breath, and are deeply relaxing. For those looking for a competitive edge in any sport, or to alleviate the aches and pains of training, yoga is becoming a popular choice for land and water athletes alike. Here's how yoga can benefit your swimming training:

Flexibility. Yoga is renowned for improving the length and flexibility of muscles, particularly around joints. Repetitive movements like swimming strokes can create tightness in muscles, which results in imbalances in joints. The more range of motion available in the shoulders, hips, ankles and spine, the more smoothly your body will glide through the water, and your stroke will feel more effortless. Yoga can help overall flexibility, which can improve your body rotation, allowing a longer stroke and easier arm recovery.

Strength. The body needs gravity to build strength in muscle and bone, and one of the drawbacks of swimming is the lack of weight bearing. Yoga poses offer a functional and compatible way to cultivate the necessary strength in the core, upper back and shoulder regions. Having a strong and stable core makes you more torpedo-like, and helps your body propel through the water in a straight line.

Balance. For the body to move effortlessly in any activity, it needs a balance of strength, flexibility and stability in the musculoskeletal system. Yoga can help create balance in the body, and correct many of the postural imbalances that we accumulate through repetitive daily habits like slouching in front of computers, the television, etc. Better posture means you'll swim straighter in the water, avoid issues like sinking legs, and minimise energy expenditure.

Breathing. Developing a good breathing technique is one of the biggest challenges for swimmers, and inadequate breathing will have a knock-on effect on your stroke and kick techniques. Full yogic breath is a pranayama (breathing technique) that encourages using full lung capacity. Yogic breathing helps you focus on the exhalation, which, when swimming, allows you to exhale underwater and can greatly help with bilateral breathing.

Meditation. Swimming is a kind of moving meditation - it's an inherently rhythmic, relaxing and solitary practice. Following the black line in the pool can initially seem quite dull, however by applying a yogic mindset, swimming laps can take on a soothing, meditative quality. For a more yogic approach to swimming, ignore the clock and slow things down, focusing on each breath that you take. This will not only improve your technique, but also leave you feeling more zen-like at the end of your session.

Yoga poses:

Plank pose – develops strength in the core and upper body, especially arms and shoulders.

Balancing table – develops upper body and core strength, and in particular core muscles that allow for more stability during body rotation when swimming.

Bow pose – counteracts forward rotation of the shoulders (hunching),that can result from tight, over-contracted pectoral muscles.

Locust pose – develops strength in upper back muscles, which balances the shoulder joints, improving stroke technique.

Supine twist – releases tension in the spine, and can help to balance the body evenly through body rotations, improving stroke technique.

About Nicole

Nicole Walsh is a yoga teacher with over 13 years experience and is one of Sydney's most respected teachers. She is the co-founder of InYoga, a vibrant yoga studio in the heart of Surry Hills. She offers a progressive approach to Vinyasa Flow Yoga, blending her wealth of knowledge and experience to create dynamic, inspirational classes. Her teaching style infuses traditional yoga practices with a modern twist. Nicole leads yoga workshops, retreats and teacher trainings both in Australia and overseas.


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