Yoga for swimmers
If you are a keen swimmer, this lockdown is going to keep you out of the water, probably longer than you are used to, that is unless you are fortunate and brave to get into the open water or sea.
Here is where yoga may help you during this enforced downtime. There are many reasons to take up yoga to supplement your swimming. Last year I was teaching yoga at the Henley swim, for charity, but it was encouraging how many swimmers joined in and understood immediately the potential benefits of an enduring yoga practice.
Becoming more mobile
As a swimmer, focussing on mobility during a yoga session helps to improve the range of motion that a joint has as well as lengthening the muscle tissue, which improves the integrity and strength of a joint.
Most elite swimmers and those people who swim for fitness will spend a reasonable amount of time in the gym, training with weights and doing core exercises to increase strength.
They can enhance this by adding a yoga programme which is tailored to use movements that are specifically aimed at swimmers. Using both dynamic and static poses, core strength is improved as well as upper and lower body strength. The strength gained is functional, which means that it is directly transferrable into swimming.
Understanding your body
Yoga is a great way of developing awareness of your body, as it gets swimmers to perform movements that they are not used to and develops more variability in the nervous system.
This helps you to achieve technical proficiency, and when you are given technical changes or advice, you will find it easier to put these into practice.
Improving breathing coordination
In swimming, coordinating your breathing along with the movements you use in your stroke technique is important. Learning to breathe in coordination with your movements helps to keep you relaxed whilst performing the action, improving the efficiency of your stroke.
Yoga teaches effortless effort and this term is often used during yoga practices. Putting in the effort while moving with ease. This skill is taught through the use of breathing, which can be directly related back to swimming.
Recovering after training
There are many different styles of yoga, each of which offers very different benefits. Often, swimmers find their muscles are feeling stiff and tight after training and so the idea of stretching, or doing a yoga session, is not appealing.
However, restorative yoga uses props to help support the body while you are performing poses, which helps the body to loosen up. It also engages the parasympathetic nervous system which helps the body to recover more effectively.
By developing the aspects mentioned previously in this article; mobility, strength, awareness of your body, ease of movement and recover, you set yourself up for preventing injuries.
Creating a yoga practice which takes into account your individual needs as a swimmer, including strength imbalances and prior injuries, helps to prevent getting injuries in the future.
Developing yourself mentally
Being psychologically prepared for training, or competition if you swim competitively, is an essential part of being successful. Yoga can help you to develop mental skills to the best you can be.
Skills like reducing anxiety before racing through positive thinking, self-pep talks and visualisation and relaxation are all practices taught in yoga.