Great athletes are always looking to improve in their sports and, for many, that means embracing cross-training. One great cross-training practice is yoga—best known for loosening tight areas, building strength and mental benefits—the practice can be particularly helpful for swimmers. Allow these five poses to serve as a starting point to better your swimming and yoga practice.
The shoulders and back contain key muscles for swimming and rabbit pose stretches those areas exactly.
How to: From table top draw the knees together. Tuck the chin towards the chest and bring the crown of the head down to the ground, with forehead touching the knees (or as close as comfortable). Bring the hands behind you and grab the ankles. Exhale out. On the inhale, lift the hips high while pulling on the ankles, creating an opening across the shoulder blades and stretch along the spine, with little to no weight on the crown. Release and slowly roll back up.
Thread the Needle
Thread the Needle is another pose that gives the shoulders, upper back and neck a great stretch.
How to: Inhale to twist open, reach the right arm up, exhale thread the arm through and then bring right shoulder and right ear down to the ground, while keeping the hips square. One option—find the bind by wrapping the left hand behind the back, reaching for the inner thigh. Release and repeat on left side.
Down Dog Pose
For swimmers, the down dog pose works twofold: it strengthens the shoulders and stretches the hamstrings.
How to: Lift the hips high and come to downward facing dog. Peddle out the feet, take deep knee bends, find any movements before settling into your dog. Find an inverted V, with a long flat spine, neck relaxed between the shoulders. Draw the heels down while pressing the shoulders away from the ears. Remain here for three breaths.
Sun Bird Pose
Great for targeting and strengthening the core, arms, legs and glutes, this pose builds up crucial areas that swimmers use regularly.
How to: From table top position, extend the right fingertips forward at shoulder height while extending the left toes back. Keep the hips square, core engaged, with one long line of energy from fingertips to toes. Find three rounds of breath here. For an added challenge: round the spine and draw the elbow in towards the knee then breathe. Inhale lengthen, exhale curl three times. Release into table top and repeat on the opposite side.
Cat Cow Pose
With benefits for the spine and the neck, as well as a focus on deep breathing, the cat cow pose is a great move for swimmers.
How to: Come into a table top position, placing the hands under shoulders and knees hip width distance apart. Spread fingers wide and keep the neck neutral. Moving into cat/cow, Inhale for cow—lift the gaze, dip the belly. On the exhale curl and round like a cat, tucking the chin into the chest while tailbone tucks under. Inhale for cow, exhale cat. Continue to move through cat/cow continuing breathing, finding any other organic movements to warm up the spine.