Maintain optimal swimming range of motion with this standing practice designed to flow
During this lockdown period due to COVID-19, many swimmers are attempting any wacky activity that mimics swimming, such as soup-can 400 IMs or resistance band swimming on a table with their heads in bowls of water to maintain their swimmer identities. Today, I waded in a river of icy runoff from the Santa Catalina Mountains and the water was so cold it chilled my bones and numbed my feet. It wasn’t swimming, but it felt refreshing to be partially submerged in water at least.
Although yoga doesn't normally take place in the water, it can provide wonderful solace from stress and worry, and there are movements that complement the sport we’re missing right now. The sequence outlined below is designed to help you maintain optimal movement for swimming so that everything will be working the way it should once our water worlds are available again.
Instead of moving fast, let these range-of-motion movements really flow, like you’re moving fluidly through water. The long breaths and fluid movements will be relaxing to your nervous system.
To begin, take several deep breaths with the eyes closed, slowly lengthening and relaxing the breath and emptying the mind of all distracting thoughts. Then begin the practice.
Stand with your feet together or slightly apart, toes pointing straight ahead. Inhale and raise your arms overhead into tall mountain or rise up on the toes if you like. Exhale and melt down into chair pose, keeping the weight in your heels and pushing your buttocks back. Perform these two activities as a flowing movement five to 10 times. Allow a long, fluid breath to dictate the pace of your movements and imagine you’re moving fluidly as if you are doing this sequence in the pool.
Flowing Shoulder Mobility Sequence
Stand at the front of your mat. Step your left foot back. Right foot is pointing straight ahead, your leg is straight, and your left foot should be turned at about 45 degrees outward. The left leg should also be straight. The leg position is the same now as for triangle pose.
Exhale, bending front leg and sweeping arms (palms down) up and then inhale, sweeping arms around and down and straightening the leg. Perform this sequence five times.
Lower Back/Hip Freeing
Stand in a wide stance on your mat or straddle it and then sink into the knees a little, keeping them slightly bent. Place hands on hips. Take a deep inhale, exhale, and angle the body to the right, sweeping forward and to the left and back up to vertical. Inhale at the top and then exhale, this time angling to the left and sweeping forward and over to the right before returning to vertical. Continue, doing at least five times on each side. Keep weight grounded in the center the whole time and imagine the cervical spine and the whole back is always lengthening throughout the movements.
Stand in a wide stance on your mat or straddle it, toes turned outward. Inhale, reaching up toward the sky; exhale, melting down into goddess, bending the knees and taking arms into cactus arms while opening the chest/heart center. Perform this sequence at least five times. Maintain a comfortable flow, allowing your fluid movement to follow the breath.
Stand in a wide stance on your mat or straddle it, toes turned outward. Inhale, lunging to the right and raising the left arm up. Exhale, lunging to the left and lowering the left arm while raising the right arm. Do this flowing movement for at least five cycles per side, ensuring the knees never extend past the toes. Some people prefer to inhale for one lunge cycle and to exhale on the next one. Please do what feels right for you.
Straddle-Stance Forward Fold
Stand in a wide stance on your mat or straddle it, toes turned straight ahead. Inhale and then slowly melt forward, bringing hands down to the lower legs or holding on the big toes with your index and middle fingers. Ensure that your weight is not too far back and that it feels balanced. Inhale raising the head and then exhale, lowering the head and bending the legs, moving your buttocks back. Do this flowing sequence at least five times.
Immerse Yourself in Relaxation
End your practice with five to 10 minutes of Savasana so that you can descend into a deep state of rest and finish your practice feeling calm and replenished. Relax on your back with your toes falling softly out to the side and your arms slightly away from your body, palms facing upward. You might listen to a meditation app such as Insight Timer or just try counting your breaths down from 15 to one during this time. I find it helpful during this dry spell to add a visualization component where I can experience a relaxing swim in my mind. Use all five senses to immerse yourself in the experience.
- Technique and Training