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Surf’s Up: Yoga for the Beach

Posted on July 16 2019

Yogi in Down Dog on a Stand Up Paddle BoardWith temperatures already edging into the 90s, your local pool or a nearby lake has a whole new appeal. Whether you swim competitively or just enjoy a relaxing freestyle, summer is the time the water calls you. After that first bracing chill, the flow of the water all around you feels fantastic—your body is supported in the water and it’s intensely refreshing in the summer heat. But, like all sports, swimming works your body in asymmetrical ways, which can lead to muscle soreness, overuse, and even injury. However, your yoga practice can be fantastic for counteracting those tendencies and helping you jump in the water with trouble-free.

Yoga Journal notes that for most strokes your body is in much the same position. Your chest stays contracted and your lower back is fairly rigid. The backstroke works for the opposing muscle groups, but not enough to strengthen your back and release the pectoral contraction sufficiently. And, many people who come to swimming with a background in other sports, like running, may be so tight that they find it hard to move in a fully extended way that makes them efficient as they drive their bodies through the water.

These are some reasons why hitting your mat can pay off in the pool. Many movements in yoga require your body to work through a full range of motion. In a pose like Plank Pose, for example, your whole body is extended. For a counter-pose, you might come to Garudasana (Eagle Pose), with both arms and both legs bent and crossed. During your practice, you will bend forward, back, and to the side. You will stretch from head to toe, and strengthen not only your arms but your entire core and your legs. 

Yoga also helps balance muscle development. Backbends like Ustrasana (Camel Pose) help release the muscles that can be tight from swimming. Like swimming, yoga requires you to work your body as a whole, so the two are complementary. Yogic breathing techniques also enhance the entire experience of swimming, allowing you to bring in more oxygen but also to coordinate your strokes with your breath. The music of that rhythm may enable you to swim longer and with less effort as you ride the waves on the water on the ebb and flow of your breath.

Before you dive in, try these poses to get in touch with the fluidity of movement. 

How to Upward Facing Dog


Urdhva Mukha Svanasana "Upward-Facing Dog"

Benefits: This backbend helps stretch pectoral muscles that are tight from swimming. 

How to do it:
 Start face down on your mat, with your legs stretched out behind you and the tops of your feet on the floor. Put your hands next to your midsection at the widest point of our rib cage. On an inhale, press your hands into the mat and straighten your arms, keeping your elbows close to your sides. Keep your lower back supple and avoid compressing your low back (think of a hammock). Stay for 15 to 30 seconds, then release.



How to Bound Angle Pose


Baddha Konasana "Bound Angle Pose"

Benefits: This pose helps stretch your hips, which makes the breaststroke more efficient. 

How to do it
: Begin by sitting on your mat or a blanket, with your legs stretched out in front of you. Bring your knees in and let them open out to the sides. Bring your feet as close as you can toward your hips. Gently engage your center and keep your pelvis even (don’t fall back or forward). Remain in the pose for one to five minutes, then release.


How to Boat Pose


Paripurna Navasana "Full Boat Pose"

Benefits: This pose strengthens your core, which will help you protect your back in the water. 

How to do it
: Start by sitting with your legs in front of you and your fingers slightly behind your hips. On an exhale, bend your knees, lifting your feet off the floor. If you can, stretch your knees. Engage your lower abdominals, but don’t let them pop out. Think of pulling them up and in. If you can, lift your arms at a right angle. If that’s not possible for you right now, leave them on the ground or clasp your thighs. Remain in the pose for 15 to 30 seconds, gradually building to one minute, then release.

You can also integrate some swimming friendly techniques throughout your practice:

Back it up. As you practice, try to think of your arms always moving from your whole back, not just your shoulders. This will help prevent rotator cuff injuries.

Dip your toes in the pool. Your feet propel you when you swim, so make sure you pay attention to them in class—not only in toe sits but as you roll through your feet from one asana to the next.  Yoga also uses the full range of your ankle, so take advantage of that.

As you practice, think of moving through water. Imagine the resistance against your arms and legs. See how that engages your muscles differently.  Try to keep your body “long” as you move. Next time you go for a swim, remember that feeling. Then grab your swimsuit (and your YogaPaws to get a good stretch before and after) and go play.

Thanks for reading!  Feel free to take 10% off your next order with code: PAWBLOG



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