By Carol Argo

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					Water Yogai
 By Carol Argo ii
      Yoga is the number-one group activity among      with joint problems (specifically in the back, hips
consumers today (IDEA Source July-August               and knees) and persons with chronic pain. As
2002). Yoga and other mind-body classes are in         water depth increased, the force of gravity decrea-
high demand as people seek not only a fitter body,     ses and body weight is reduced. In chest-deep
but also a peaceful harmonious mind. The more          water, a body bears only about 25 to 35 percent of
stressful and unsettling life becomes, the more        its weight and joint compression is minimal.
mind-body classes are valued. This same trend is       Water Yoga is best performed at mid-chest depth
reflected in the aquatic exercise industry. We are     for maximum comfort, control of movement and
seeing the growth and popularity of programs such      optimum toning benefits.
as Water Yoga, Tai Chi,                                                 Resistance. The water's resistive
Pilates, and Ai Chi. The                                           qualities add challenge to movement
soothing, healing environ-                                         while providing support and comfort
ment of the water will                                             to the body. This unique combination
naturally calm the mind and                                        makes water exercise appealing to a
relax the body and is ideal                                        range of populations, from fit athletes
for these practices!                                               to the deconditioned. Water provides
     This article is about                                         at least 12 times more resistance than
bringing yoga into the pool.                                       air making each movement in the pool
An aquatic yoga class is a                                         more challenging to the muscles. The
unique workout that strengthens, stretches and         principle of resistance is ideal since it will
centers the mind and body. Yoga poses or asanas        naturally lend to the slower fluid movement of
are adapted for the water and include a continuum      flow-style yoga. The water's multi-dimensional
of flowing and static poses. Yoga stretches are        support all around the body will facilitate one-leg
more comfortable and more easily perfected with-       balance poses.
out the forces of gravity. The class can accommo-           Cooling Effect. While exercising in the
date participants at all fitness levels, including     water, (he body is able to eliminate excess heat
individuals who cannot participate in land-based       more effectively than it can on land. Because
yoga.                                                  water cools the body quickly, it is imperative that
TRANSITIONING     FROM   LAND   TO   WATER             you begin every aquatic workout with a "thermal
                                                       warm-up" to elevate core temperature, warm the
     Transferring yoga from land to pool requires
                                                       muscles and stimulate the joints. For the Water
some forethought and creativity, since practicing
this discipline is different in water than it is on    Yoga warm-up consider striding movements for-
                                                       ward, backward and laterally. The ideal water
land. In successfully bringing yoga to the pool,
                                                       temperature for Water Yoga is 86 - 88. To keep
you must carefully consider how the principles of
water exercise and yoga can come together to           body temperature elevated, choose a combination
                                                       of flowing movement and yoga poses. Another
create a safe, effective and enjoyable form of exer-
                                                       possibility is to combine traditional aquatic
cise. The following principles of aquatic fitness
                                                       strength training with yoga. For example, perform
will alter the way yoga is performed in the water:
                                                       hip abduction/ adduction followed by the Tree
PRINCIPLES   OF   AQUATIC FITNESS                      Pose.
     Buoyancy. Buoyancy is the magic ingredient              The water principles - buoyancy, resistance
that makes water exercise comfortable and pos-         and the cooling effect - dynamically support, yet
sible for numerous special populations, including      alter, the practice of yoga.
overweight persons, arthritis sufferers, individuals
Mind*Body Disciplines                                                                            Water Yoga

YOGA    IS   DIFFERENT   IN THE   POOL                 yoga. The poses are kept active through the
                                                       continual expanding and condensing of the breath.
     Yoga produces remarkable gains in flexibility
                                                       The breath connects the mind with the body,
and can bring balance to a traditional cardio-
                                                       increases relaxation and enables you to stretch
vascular/strength workout. The same gains can be
                                                       more deeply. Teach breathing through the nose
achieved in the pool, however the practice is quite
                                                       with the mouth closed. Here are some examples of
different. Basic yoga postures, such as forward
                                                       instructional cues for breathing:
bends, back bends and twists, all require a firm
base of support for stability. In chest-deep water,    •   "Breathe into tight areas of your body."
it may be difficult to keep stable, grounded and       •   "With each exhale, move more deeply into the
centered.                                                  stretch."
     To gain stability during standing poses,          •   "Let's hold the pose for four rounds of breath."
counteract the effects of buoyancy by holding onto     •   "Inhale, lengthen the spine and exhale, drop
the pool wall or bracing the side of one foot              the shoulders."
against the wall. Be sure the side of the pool has a        Instructional cues will remind participants
comfortable ledge to hold onto. (Some partici-         how important it is to keep breathing throughout a
pants may prefer moving to more shallow water to       pose. Breathing naturally slows when you are
perform standing poses.) You can practice other        doing yoga in the water.
postures, such as forward-bending poses, by shif-
ting planes, to avoid submerging the head. The               Radiating From the Center. Yoga moves
wall of the pool then serves as the "floor" and the    originate from the center of the body and radiate
head remains above the water.                          outward, like a flower blossoming.           When
                                                       stretching, feel the inner alignment and connection
GREATER RANGE OF MOTION                                between the navel and the head, and then work on
CAN BE OBTAINED IN THE POOL                            the connection of the extremities to the core.
      Lessened gravity means less gravitational pull   Buoyancy may affect the body's ability to move
on the joint. Participants with joint problems can     from the center. Proper water depth and a stable
comfortably attain a range of motion that would be     core will help with centering.
difficult on dry land. For example, in the Down-             Alignment. The first step in alignment is
ward Dog, while holding onto the edge of the pool      finding the correct relationships among the various
the feet are positioned on the wall with straight      parts of the body within each pose. This can be as
knees. Now visualize the same pose with the            simple as realigning the foot to the knee or the
hands and feet flat on the floor. (see photo) The      chin to the neck. The second step is actively
benefits are the same, however in the water the        stretching the limbs to create a feeling of space
body position is supported. Additionally, the          and length within the body. Achieving proper
spine, hamstrings and calves elongate against          alignment is more difficult in the water than on
minimal gravity. The same principles apply to the      land. To actively engage alignment in the pool,
Cobra (see photo). Visualize the hands and tops        yield and push against a supporting surface.
of the feet on the floor. The water safely and         During standing poses, for example, brace the side
comfortably supports the back extension position.      of one foot against the pool wall to distribute
PRINCIPLES     OF   YOGA                               weight equally in both legs. When necessary, shift
                                                       planes and use the wall as the "floor".
     To successfully integrate yoga concepts into
an aquatic environment, you need to understand         LET'S GET STARTED!
the basic principles of yoga. These principles               It's fun to update and add a new dimension to
include breathing, radiating from the center and       your aquatic classes. Your students will enjoy
alignment.                                             stretching their body, mind and spirit in a whole
      Breathing. The breath is the pranayama, or       new way. While a yoga background is not
life force, a major component of the practice of       necessary, knowledge gained through books,

Water Yoga                                                                                       page 2 of 3
Mind*Body Disciplines                                                                           Water Yoga

videos or land-based classes is highly recom-          Child's Pose:
mended.     Begin by integrating several yoga          relaxes back (sequence after
stretches to your class ... preferably during the      Downward Facing Dog)
cool-down. The wall is a great place to start and      • Position knees and tops
will enable your students to stretch their bodies in       of feet on wall
positions that would be impossible on land.            • Lean back, drop shoul-
Experiment and practice in the water before                ders back,
introducing new exercises to your participants.        • Optional: lift sternum and gently look up
YOGA STRETCHES                                         • Bend elbows while bringing forehead to pool
•   Hold each asana for 2 - 4 cycles of breath.
    One cycle = 1 inhale & 1 exhale.                   Warrior I:
•   Think of each limb as an active line of energy.    stretches latissimus dorsi, spine, hips
                                                       • Brace lateral edge of right foot against pool
Half-Moon:                                                 wall.
stretches torso, spine, hips                           • Step left leg to front &
• Turn sideways with                                       bend knee to right angle
    your left shoulder                                 • Stay equally strong in
    facing toward the wall                                 both legs with maximum
• Hold the wall with                                       stretch in hips
    your left hand and                                 • Raise arms upward with biceps facing ears &
    place your feet where                                  thumbs back
    the bottom of the pool and the wall meet
                                                       • Square shoulders & hips to center of pool
• Keeping your left arm straight, lean toward the
    middle of the pool, creating a half-moon shape     Warrior II
• Extend your right arm up above your head,            • Rotate     upper     body
    alongside your ear                                   squaring shoulders &
                                                         hips to right
Cobra:                                                 • Extend arms out strong-
helps correct rounded
                                                         ly forming a horizontal
shoulders, stretches frontal
                                                       • Lift up through crown of head & gaze at
• Position both hands at
                                                         middle finger of left hand
    wall shoulder distance
• Extend legs back and position on tops of feet.
• Elongate frontal body: hips, abdomen, chest.             1
                                                               AKWA - October / November 2002
• Focus on lifting chest, clavicles open, abs to       1
    spine, shoulder blades down                          Carol Argo is an AEA Training Specialist and
                                                       recently received the 2002 AEA Global Aquatic
Downward Facing Dog:                                   Fitness Professional of the Year Award. Carol is
stretches shoulders, spine,                            known for her innovative mind-body videos and
hamstrings, calves                                     workshops including Water Yoga, Water Pilates
• Position both hands at                               and Water Tai Chi. She travels worldwide to help
    wall shoulder distance                             instructors gain knowledge in aquatics and mind-
    apart                                              body fitness. In Palos Verdes, California she
                                                       teaches aquatics, yoga, Pilates and Nia. Contact
• Hop both feet onto                                   Carol at or visit
    wall, straighten legs & press heels to wall
• Repeat with legs in wide straddle

Water Yoga                                                                                      page 3 of 3

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