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by Emily Silver

July 1, 2013

Swim-improving flexibility, strength, and peace of mind are available on the mat

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Swimmers know: It’s important to be in the water at least once a day to keep your feel for the water and your stroke. Outside of the water, it’s equally important to get in some dynamic dryland workouts for strength and flexibility.

During my swimming career at Cal, coach Teri McKeever had us try a number of different cross-training exercises. Our workouts varied from normal weight lifting and hip-hop dance classes to Pilates, spinning on a bike, yoga, and running stadium stairs. We tried just about anything and everything.

Looking back, the one exercise that really stuck with me and that I still enjoy today is yoga. Yoga allows me to work on flexibility, core strength, balance, and mental focus, all skills that translate to success in the pool.

I admit that I was skeptical of yoga at first. “What are these moves?” I wondered. I felt like the instructor was trying to turn me into a human pretzel. I also found it hard to simply focus on my breathing and keeping balance in order to keep from toppling over onto my teammate on the mat next to me. But once I got the hang of it and felt more comfortable, I was hooked.

Yoga requires the same discipline and laser-focus needed to swim lap after lap in the pool, but without the mundane repetitiveness of swimming. It also works a completely different set of muscles, which can aid in preventing injury. But of all the benefits of yoga, one thing I liked most was that it enabled me to practice visualization and mental toughness, two things that helped me achieve success throughout my career.

Yoga is no longer seen as an obscure exercise that’s unrelated to swimming, it’s actually quite the opposite. With the growth of studios across the country, it’s becoming widely accessible and is worth trying out if you’re looking for a fun and dynamic way of staying in shape out of the water.

For those new to yoga, it’s important to have the necessary accessories to begin your practice. Before taking yoga, you want to make sure that you stay hydrated throughout the day. Carrying a water bottle with you will help make sure you drink enough water, and you should always have a water bottle with you in class, especially in classes with warm or hot rooms.

When you’re ready to get into your yoga flow, a yoga mat creates your own personal space in class while providing traction and support for your hands and feet. If you’re worried about alignment or stability, you can reach for a block to assist you in achieving proper form. A strap can be used to get into a deeper stretch or pose. These basic items can help you build a strong foundation in your yoga practice.

I also highly recommend wearing breathable and moisture-wicking clothing while practicing yoga. Because many poses require folding at the waist, bringing your head to hip level, I suggest wearing a form-fitting top to keep your shirt from riding up. Having the right clothes is a gender-neutral proposition: Men can strike their best pose in lightweight yoga tops while women often want to wear yoga-specific bottoms—preferably ones that have passed the ‘bend test’ and don’t become see-through when stretched. Maximum comfort is essential while practicing yoga to reach your perfect pose.

Not sure where to shop? offers everything you’ll need to get started and offers the biggest inventory of yoga gear at the best prices on the web, so you’re bound to find exactly what you need to get your yoga on in style and comfort without breaking the bank.


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