World Yoga Day: How yoga helps your swimming performance
February 22nd is World Yoga Day. The idea goes beyond mass participation and increasing the awareness of yoga’s many benefits - it’s also a chance to be charitable. Around the world, yoga teachers and schools are donating their time, space, and money to human rights causes. Not only is it charitable; it may end up contributing to your swimming performance.
Yoga can be a fantastic addition to your training for many reasons. So let’s dive in and see why!
Flexibility and mobility are often overlooked in swimming. Yoga can help you address these issues and boost your performance.
When muscles are stretched regularly over a significant period of time, individual fibres lengthen. This is highly beneficial for swimmers because longer muscle fibres create more force when they contract. In this way, yoga can improve the muscle's ability to pull you through the water.
Increasing the range of motion at a joint even helps create less turbulence as you move through the water. The body creates the biggest cause of turbulence when it moves from side to side as you swim. Yoga develops a greater range of motion in your joints, body awareness, and core strength. With these benefits, it’s easier to localise movement to the joint instead of the whole body. Turbulence is reduced to help you glide through the water.
Having difficulties with the rigorous demands of training is highly likely to affect your performance. On top of everything else in your life, constant stress and lack of sleep will not prepare your body for optimum performance. Any imbalances in the body will also leave us more vulnerable to injuries.
Working through poses while concentrating on the breath activates something called the ‘parasympathetic nervous system’. Basically, this side of the nervous system helps with the recovery and regeneration of a worn out body. Regular yoga practice has been shown to reduce stress, improve sleep and release the muscle tension associated with stress and sleep-related issues.
Where do I start?
There are many styles of yoga. They all have benefits, but some will be even more beneficial depending on what you are looking to develop in your training plan. Don’t worry if the yoga style names confuse you at first. Here are some popular ones with several key benefits for swimmers to consider adding to their training programs:
- Hatha - A great introduction to yoga. It focuses on foundational poses and breathing techniques.
- Hot yoga (Bikram) - Practicing in a hot environment does allow more mobility in the joints but proceed with caution and listen to your body to avoid overstretching and potential injury.
- Therapeutic yoga - Specifically designed to prevent and rehabilitate injuries.
There are many ways yoga can be applied to improve swimming performance and mental fortitude. With increased flexibility and awareness, you’ll have an edge in the pool and be less likely to suffer from injury. So on World Yoga Day, why not take up a new hobby that might see you hit new athletic heights?
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