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Yoga for Athletes

12 Yoga Poses to Improve Your Swimming

These two six-pose sequences will help you warm up and cool down before and after you jump in the pool.

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Whether you enjoy a leisurely breaststroke or a fast front crawl, swimming gives you a great full-body workout, which is why it’s important to warm up properly before you begin and cool down when you get out of the pool. This sequence will help keep your core strong, your stroke smooth, and your body injury-free.

Before

Ocean Breath

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Feel free to add Sun Salutations to your warm-up before you start.

1. Sit comfortably with your spine upright and take a couple of long, deep breaths. 2. Inhale through your nose and exhale through the mouth. With each exhalation make a ‘hhhaaaaa’ sound as if you are trying to steam up a mirror. 3. Now continue to make the same sound as you exhale, but close your mouth so you are constricting the back of your throat to make a soft ocean sound. Practice for 2 minutes.

See also How to Cultivate More Energy Through Your Inhalations

Cat–Cow

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1. Begin on your hands and knees with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your hips stacked over your knees. 2. Inhale. Lift your tailbone to arch your back, letting your stomach hang towards the floor, drawing your shoulders away from your ears and lifting your head. This is Cow. 3. Exhale. Tuck in your tailbone to round your spine, pushing your mid-back to the sky, broadening your shoulder blades and tucking in your chin. This is Cat. 4. Repeat this flow 10 times, deepening each inhalation and lengthening each exhalation, and matching your movement with your breath.

See also Add Cat Pose and Cow Pose to a Gentle Vinyasa Flow

Table-Top Twists

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1. Begin on all fours with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your hips stacked over your knees. 2. Take the weight onto your left hand and bring your right fingers to rest just behind your right ear. 3. Inhale. Rotate your chest open, bringing your right elbow to point towards the sky. 4. Exhale. Rotate your chest back downwards, bringing your right elbow to point towards your left arm. 5. Practice the whole sequence 10 times, then repeat on the other side.

See also Give Your Back a Treat with this Series of Twists

Down Dog

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1. Begin on your hands and knees with your shoulders stacked over your wrists. 2. Hook your toes under and start straightening your legs to lift your bottom towards the sky. As you do this, push your chest back towards your thighs to create an upturned V-shape. 3. Hold for 10 breaths, focusing on creating length in your spine as you inhale and straightening your legs and releasing your heels closer to the floor as you exhale.

See also Dig Deeper in Down Dog

Shoulder Rotations

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1. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and your core slightly braced to give you stability. 2. Making sure your hips stay facing forwards, rotate your left shoulder backwards, making the biggest, smoothest circle you can. You might feel it (and hear it!) clunk if you are new to this movement, but there should be no pain. Make five rotations altogether. 3. Push down gently on your left shoulder with your right hand and make five more backward rotations. 4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 using your right shoulder. 5. Repeat steps 2 to 4, this time rotating each shoulder forwards instead of backwards. Do 5 rotations in each direction, then repeat on the other side.

See also 10 Yoga Sequences for Neck and Shoulders

Forward Bend Flow

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1. Stand with your feet together. 2. Inhale. Reach your arms out to the sides and overhead, bringing your palms together in Upward Salute. 3. Exhale. Hinge from your hips to drive forwards and stretch your arms out to the sides to gently sweep the floor with your fingertips (bend your knees if you need to). 4. Inhale. Keeping your spine long, come back up to Upward Salute. 5. Repeat 10 times, matching your movement with your breath.

See also Fold Forward, Turn In

After

See also Yoga for Swimmers

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Excerpted from Stay Young With Yoga by Nicola Jane Hobbs, Published by Bloomsbury Publishing, 2020, Text copyright © Nicola Jane Hobbs, 2020, Original photography © Glen Burrows, 2020