Swimming is a unique sport. Moving through water in a horizontal position without the opportunity to breathe at will puts uncommon demands on the body and yoga can help you improve your swimming.
As most adult athletes train freestyle, this article focuses specifically on that stroke. For an efficient freestyle you need to develop core strength, focussing on having a cross-body connection.
As freestyle is an arm-dominant stroke, the chest, shoulders and thoracic spine can become tight. The hip flexors and quadriceps often stiffen up because of the demands of the freestyle kick.
The following poses will help you address:
- Shoulder mobility
- Thoracic spine mobility
- Hip mobility
- Core strength
You should perform these poses either as part of a yoga session where you are properly warmed up, or after swim practice in the water.
When performing the first two lunging poses you have the option of having the trailing knee up or down. With the knee down you will develop greater hip mobility whereas having the knee up will increase lower body strength.
1. Sunbird to Table Top Quad Stretch
Benefits: Core strength & hip mobility
- Start on your hands and knees with shoulders and elbows directly over your wrists and your knees directly under your hips.
- On an inhale, extend your right leg up and back, keeping your hips even.
- Bring your left arm up and forward straight from the shoulder socket with the thumb up.
- Keep core engaged strongly and feel active length in your spine.
- On an inhale bend right knee bringing heel toward your seat.
- Come around with the left hand and hold onto the right foot.
- Kick your foot into your hand stretching the quadriceps.
2. Upright Dragon
Benefits: Hip mobility
- Start in a low runner’s lunge with the back knee down.
- The front knee stays directly over the ankle pointed straight forward.
- The back knee moves back enough that you feel a stretch in the hip flexors.
- Keeping your low back stable slowly bring your upper body into an upright position placing your hands on your front thigh.
- Keep the spine long with the shoulders relaxed back and down.
3. Lunge with Cactus Arms
Benefits: Shoulder & hip mobility
- Start in a runner’s lunge.
- The front knee stays directly over the ankle with the hips square.
- On an inhale bring the upper body up with the arms overhead.
- On an exhale bring the shoulders and elbows to a 90-degree angle.
- Draw arms back while keeping the spine long in a neutral position.
4. Lunge with Chest and Shoulder Opener
Benefits: Shoulders, thoracic spine & hip mobility
- Start in a runner’s lunge with the right foot back.
- Keep the right hand on the ground and move it approximately two inches to the right.
- Thinking of the shoulder and arm as one unit, inhale and bring the left arm up and out to the side, twisting through the mid-spine.
- Roll the shoulder open rather than dropping the arm back.