Yoga And Swimming: Perfect Partners – Cook Train Eat Race

Yoga and swimming are now a pair just like peanut butter and jelly or chocolate and peanut butter are a pair.  Why are yoga and swimming such a terrific combination you may ask and I am here to tell you why but a little background information first.

When I lived in New York I attended a yoga class on a weekly basis that was taught by Tao who was an 87-year-old woman who could do just amazing things.  Being the ‘fit’ guy I thought I was I tried to get into positions that she would be warming up in and they hurt.  After 2 years I was able to do a lot of the exercises that she was doing and then I moved to Dallas.  Yoga went away as well and then I found triathlon.

With all the swimming, biking and running I was doing yoga just didn’t seem to have a fit in my schedule even though I wanted to get back to it.  This past December when I switched coaches I made it clear how important yoga was to me and how I wanted to fit it in somehow, some way.  Maria and John were great about this and we put it in as an active recovery day on Friday’s.  So in mid-December I began attending Bikram Yoga because Bikram was highly recommended by Michelle and Beth.

Once again being the ‘fit’ guy I figured I could do everything.  In case you don’t know Bikram Yoga is done in a studio that is 105* and you do 26 poses in a flowing series.  So needless to say I was bending the way a twig would bend which is to say not so much.  At that same time I was swimming on a ‘hard-set’ at 1:55/100.  When I did my 800y TT back then my zones were configured so that easy was 2:01-2:05 per 100 yards.  Molasses!!!!!

Through the course of the past two months yoga and swimming have been going hand in hand on the progress front.  I am now able to do an entire series of stretches where I am actually touching toes, legs are flat on the ground and I can get in and out of camel’s pose with relative ease.  Swimming at the same time has seen times drop to the point where my easy swims are in the area of 1:50 per 100 yards and I am getting upset with swimming :46 per 50 as an easy swim.

Why Do I Think There Is A Direct Correlation Between Yoga And Swimming?

  • Yoga and swimming both require patience and discipline.  You cannot jump into the poses and expect to look like Gumby on Day 1.  Similarly swimming takes time and patience, as evidenced by the 4x per week to the pool totaling approximately 10,000y per week.
  • Yoga and Swimming are both form based movements.  If you have poor form in yoga you will fall over.  With swimming with poor form you will sink.  Working on both will allow you to touch your toes in yoga and swim more streamlined in the water.
  • Yoga and Swimming focus on breathing.  To get deeper into your stretches you need to breathe and losing that focus will cause the body to not react the way we would like.  In swimming the biggest fear is lack of breath/oxygen.  A simple twist of the head and you will take in oxygen and be back to breathing.
  • Yoga has poses the force you to back bend and get the spine engaged.  In swimming if you spine is not engaged then your legs will drop and thus an anchor will form and the slower you will go.

I will be swimming an 800y TT on Tuesday February 19th so my theory will be put to the test but I have the feeling that yoga and swimming practice will prove invaluable partners.

This article in Outside Magazine provides you with what they think are the 4 best yoga poses for swimmers.  Also, here are the key areas that yoga and swimming will work together as provided by Yoga Journal:

Shoulder Blades: In  various positions your instructor may tell you that the shoulder blades need to drop down the back. The same applies in swimming, where the shoulders create the biggest problems. Rotator cuff injuries or shoulder tendonitis occur when the rhomboids are not held in place when the arm is raised in freestyle stroke.

Hips: In Bound Angle Pose, the soles of the feet are touching together and the outsides of the knees lay flat on the floor, and this demonstrates a healthy external rotation of the hip. For many, the hips remain locked and stiff and for swimming, this congestion can manifest in a faulty breaststroke kick.

Ankles: In all of yoga’s standing poses, it’s important to place the foot on the ground in order to get full extension, and flexible ankles allow the foot to rest solidly on the ground. Similarly, swimmers use the ankles as the foundation of movement—propelling the body forward with a kick. The top of the foot should hit the water as if in hero pose—at 180 degrees.

Have You Adopted Yoga Into Your Training Routine?

How Do You Think Yoga Has Helped Your Training?

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  1. Jen Roe says:

    huh. who knew? I’ve been going to (but still seriously sucking at) yoga for a few weeks now in hopes to become a better runner. Even tho I am not good/balanced or flexible I do feel like I’m getting a tiny bit better every time I go. It’s definitely going to be a big work in progress and I’m not giving up.

    I have been practicing Vinyasa – basically because that’s what’s available to me. I did try Bikram when I was in Los Angeles and liked that better – unfortunately I don’t have a Bikram studio near by me but I may try alternate “hot yogas.”

    I guess my yoga will be a head start for me when i get to train for a tri some day. ;)
    Jen Roe recently posted..The best run ever and a little more yogaMy Profile

    • CTER says:

      Like anything else, the more you do it the better you get.

      I read recently that the point of yoga is not to see how flexible you are today but to see how flexible you are tomorrow.

      I could not do a full camel or lay on my back when I started but now I can. I still do not have the ability to lock my knees in certain poses but that is ok as I know I am getting better at it and that it is helpful not just at triathlon but also in daily life as I learn to breath to relax myself now as well.

      Keep it up… will look like Gumby soon enough!

  2. Jen Roe says:

    Ha. Gumby is a long shot but i look forward to getting further past my shins when my palms are supposed to be flat on the floor! I might be the least flexible person on the planet. I blame my mother for this. LOL – BTW, your post made me want to find Bikram and I found a studio in Montclair, NJ that isn’t too far. I might try another Bikram class.
    Jen Roe recently posted..The best run ever and a little more yogaMy Profile

  3. Maria Simone says:

    Exactly. That is all :)
    Maria Simone recently posted..Who are you calling old?My Profile

  4. Denaj says:

    You are spot on that yoga and swimming are great because of ankle flexibility, posture and breathing. I think it even goes farther with balance, symmetry, focus…
    I need to implement yoga into my training routine also.

    Also, glad you didn’t overlook hip flexibility; crucial to breaststroke.
    Denaj recently posted..Are You Afraid of the Last 50 Meters?My Profile

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