As a child swimmer who swam competitively from ages 7-18, yoga has revealed to me so many ways that I was using my body in the pool that set me up for injury. My primary events were 100 Butterfly, and 200 Individual Medley, which I swam until my junior year of highschool, when I fractured my S1, the pool. Presumably this happened from overarching my back in butterfly. After this injury manifest, I started swimming middle distance freestyle events. 
As a child swimmer who swam competitively from ages 7-18, yoga has revealed to me so many ways that I was using my body in the pool that set me up for injury. My primary events were 100 Butterfly, and 200 Individual Medley, which I swam until my junior year of highschool, when I fractured my S1, the pool. Presumably this happened from overarching my back in butterfly. After this injury manifest, I started swimming middle distance freestyle events. 

YOGA POSES FOR SWIMMERS

Elbow to Knee

REASON: Most swimmers spend all of their time on their fronts, and this tends to create a little extra arc in the low back. As strong core is essential to stabilize the low back and lumbo-sacral joint against the pressure created by a freestyle or butterfly kick. 

CUES:  Pick the feet up off the floor, knees bent so feet are lower than the height of the knees. Clasp hands behind the head and neck. 

Inhale Curl head and shoulders up

Pause –hold breath Press low back down, curl tailbone up towards ceiling

Exhale Reach both elbows towards the right knee, knee stays bent, straighten left leg. 

Bottom of exhale Feet active, curl pubic bone towards navel, pull belly in

Inhale Bring torso back to center, both knees bent and together, head and shoulders stay lifted

Pause –hold breath Press low back down, curl tailbone up towards ceiling

Exhale Reach both elbows towards the left knee, knee stays bent, straighten right leg. 

Bottom of exhale Feet active, curl pubic bone towards navel, pull belly in

Inhale Bring torso back to center, both knees bent and together, head and shoulders stay lifted

  • Continue the cycle, doing between five and ten on each sid

Extended Warrior Variation

REASON: All the pulling we do with the arms tends to round us forward. This pose helps to open up the upper chest and neck, while simultaneously helping us to get into the legs and ground them down.

CUES: Come into Warrior II position. Feet 4’-5’ apart, depending on leg length. Line up front heel with back arch, back foot turned in 30 degrees. Bend front knee over front ankle. Set left forearm down on left thigh

Inhale arch chest forward

Exhale Reach right arm around behind the back, taking a hold of left thigh, or whatever is reachable

Inhale Press down on left forearm in order to open left shoulder, getting space in the shoulder joint

Exhale Relax left each toward left shoulder without collapsing left shoulder

  • Stay for 5-8 breaths
  • Repeat on the other side

Turbo Dog 

REASON:  All of the extreme reaching and pulling we do destabilizes the shoulder joint, making the connection very slippery between the head of the upper arm bone and where it sits in the primary shoulder joint. This pose helps strengthen the chest muscles, and stabilize the head of the humerus in the gelnoid fossa. 

CUES:  Come onto hands and knees. Spread fingers wide, middle finger pointed forward. Relax the neck.

Inhale Lift the upper back skyward, relax head and neck down

Exhale Bend elbows straight and halfway towards the floor, squeeze inner elbows towards one another

Inhale Breathe into the upper back

Exhale Straighten legs

  • Use upper back, chest and arms to hold the space between the bones of the shoulder joint. There should be no bone friction! 
  • Hold until you feel the integrity of the pose slipping. Then, come down gently onto hands and knees
  • Build up strength over time, gauging it through the strength and length of the breat

LASTING THOUGHTS

Swimming is such a wonderful activity that promotes health through a lifetime. I know of so many people who live into old age and swim daily. That said, it can present its own repetitive use injuries, and a yoga practice is a wonderful way to compliment swimming, bring some more mindfulness to an already pretty meditative activity, and protect the joints so that they will endure into your 90s. When you swim, swim with love, so that your body absorbs that message. Bi-lateral breathe so that your torso and neck learn to twist evenly and both shoulders receive even load in the joints. Swimming is a terrific meditation. Enjoy that. 

Contributed by Erica Mather www.theyogaclinicnyc.com