Open Your Shoulders And Your Heart
Some useful stretches
A Shoulder Opening Practice for Swimmers
Hunched shoulders and tight pecs anyone? As a swimmer you probably know that these anatomical pitfalls tend to come with regular swimming when you don’t stretch and counter pose from the repetitive use of certain muscles. What you might not know is that yoga is the perfect antidote for your case of tight muscles, and might just spare you from injury in the future as well. The sequence of yoga poses below, when done mindfully, before or after a workout will enhance your swim workouts, increase flexibility, and by opening the heart area, even improve your mood.
Throughout this sequence remember to maintain a smooth, steady inhale and exhale, through your nose, mouth closed. Hold each pose or side for five to eight smooth, steady breaths.
Cow Face Arms
Sitting cross legged or kneeling with your seat on your heels, inhale your arms out to a T-position, exhale bend your left elbow and bring your left arm down, behind your back, palm facing away from you, and swing it up the center of your back, like the hand on a clock. Inhale your right arm straight up along side your right ear, then bend at the elbow and reach behind your back for your left hand. You can use a strap or towel if you can’t make the clasp. With practice your will be able to reach your hands closer and closer together. Roll the shoulders open. It is more beneficial to open the chest and have the hands apart, than to have the hands touch while hunching over! Release arms and gently shake out. Reverse sides.
Bound Garland Pose
Come to a squat position, with your feet comfortably apart, toes pointing outward. If your calves are very tight roll a towel under your heels for support. Lean forward slightly and place your left palm on the ground, in front of and in the same direction as your toes. Use the leverage of your upper arm against your inner knee to open the shoulder and chest. The right arm opens up to the sky diagonally. If you can, reach your left arm around the knee, by rotating it inward and bending at the elbow. The left elbow is hooked around the knee. Reach both arms behind you and clasp the hands, or use a strap. This pose opens the shoulders and pecs with the added bonus of stretching the hips and calves. Gently release and switch sides.
From Bound Garland Pose, lower your buttocks to the ground and walk your hands behind you, shoulder width apart. Feet are hip width apart. Fingertips point towards your feet. Inhale, push up using the strength of your legs and core, until you are in a reverse tabletop position, resting on the soles of your feet and your palms. Belly is level with hips and shoulders. Gaze at your belly. If you neck is comfortable you can gently drop the head back, further opening the shoulders chest and heart. This pose will not only open your shoulders and chest, but also strengthens leg and core muscles. Gently lower down on the exhale, roll out wrists if tender, push forward onto the soles of your feet and gently and slowly roll up one vertebrae at a time.
About the Author
Barbara Won is a yoga instructor based out of Santa Barbara, Calif. She is an avid swimmer, surfer, wife and mom of three. She developed Yoga for Swimmers when she saw her husband, a three-time water polo Olympian, his teammates and her fellow aquatics athletes suffering from poor posture and injury. Her DVD "Yoga for Swimmers" is available at yogaforswimmers.com, liquidyoga.net, or amazon.com.