This first set of yoga poses for swimmers I’ve put together focuses on opening the shoulders and reaching the arms overhead. Front, side, and rear deltoids, trapezius and rhomboid, latissimus, all are opened and strengthened so that the arm can rotate more freely in the shoulder joint. Although this is not a comprehensive practice, these poses are a good way to add yoga to your swimming fitness regime.
Tadasana, arms overhead palms touching, fingers interlaced. The focus here should be to achieve maximum reach, from the mid-back through the rear deltoids, and up the arms. The arms extend as straight as possible to strengthen and extend the arm muscles. By interlacing the fingers, the arms can be pulled straighter, thereby opening the shoulders more. Hold for 10-15 seconds, repeat several times.
Downward facing dog. Here, focus again on lengthening and straightening the arms as much as possible, especially through the tricep and underarm (latissimus). Push the hips back from the ground to open and extend the latissimus and rear deltoid. Hold from 30 seconds to a minute or two. Repeat to build strength.
High lunge w/twist rear hand pointing toward back wall then overhead. This pose will prepare the arms and shoulders for the end of the stroke when the stroking arm is extended fully toward the rear of the pool. Focus on opening the front shoulder. Hold 5-10 breaths, repeat, hold, repeat.
Extended side angle. This pose mimics the forward extension of the crawl on the extending side. You can see in this classic pose that the focus is extending the upper arm as far “overhead” as possible, as well as rotating the upper ribcage open. The extension starts from the rearward foot, all the way through the leg and hip, up the side through the latissimus, finally through the extending arm. [Advanced: for an extra intense front deltoid opening take the bind]. Hold 10 breaths.
Bow – dhanurasana. Actively push the feet toward the rear of the room, while flexing the trapezius and rhomboid muscles between the scapula (middle back), thereby pulling the front shoulder open and lengthening all the arm muscles. Try to relax the front deltoid / pectoral to achieve maximum opening of the front shoulder. Hold 5-10 breaths. Repeat up to 5 times, relax on your stomach for 10 breaths between repetitions.
If you’re coaching a swim team in the Chicago area, call me at (312) 671-6453 to discuss how I can help you to add yoga to the team’s fitness regimen.
Coming next: PART III: YOGA FOR SWIMMERS: TWISTS
Read PART I: YOGA FOR SWIMMERS INTRODUCTION here