Just in time to cool off during the hottest summer days, we're taking yoga into the water. Aqua yoga is a terrific activity to perform after a high-intensity workout, as a cool-down stretch, or any time of the day on its own.
The following yoga positions are modified for the water – to keep your head above the surface. Ideal water depth is nipple-high. If the water is too shallow, crouch down a little and keep your knees slightly bent. Katharine Brown, WaterART™ trainer and service-provider consultant for the Canadian Centre for Sports in Ontario, recommends the following exercises.
Warrior I (as seen in image above, right)
Strengthens: Quads, glutes, and upper body
Stretches: Lats, hip flexors
Place feet leg-length apart, and lunge one leg forward. When your shoulder comes out of the water, slowly lift arms to the sky – to avoid stress on the shoulder. The toes of your forward-positioned foot should point straight ahead, and the toes of your rear-positioned foot should turn slightly inwards.
Sink your lower body into the water, while lifting the upper body (stretching out, at the ribs). Your arms should be straight (avoid locking the elbow joint). Ensure the outer edge of the back foot is pressed into the floor, and then square the hips and shoulders, making sure they're facing forward. Squeeze the shoulder blades together and lift chest up and forward. Tuck your pelvis in and push your tailbone towards the pool bottom, keeping your feet in alignment and avoid moving your knee past your ankle. Ensure that your arms are beside your ears. Hold for 10 seconds to one minute, depending on your comfort level. Switch sides and hold for the same amount of time.
Strengthens: Quads, glutes
Stretches: Chest, adductors
Place feet leg-length apart, and lunge one leg forward. Slowly, extend arms to shoulder height.
Your arms should be straight (avoid locking the elbow joint). Ensure the outer edge of your back-positioned foot is pressed into the floor, and then square your hips and shoulders, facing forwards. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift chest up and forward. Push your tailbone to the pool bottom, keep your feet in the alignment and avoid moving the knee past the ankle. Hold for 10 seconds to one minute, depending on your comfort level. Switch sides and hold for the same amount of time.
Page 1 of 2 – Discover three more yoga poses to try in the pool on page 2.
Strengthens: Quads, glutes
Stretches: Adductors, lats
While balancing on one leg, bring the opposite foot on the side of your standing ankle (level 1), inner calf (level 2), or inner thigh (level 3). For beginners join your hands, in a prayer position, at chest height; advanced position is with the arms extended straight above the head. People with knee problems should use caution.
Draw your energy up towards the sky while ‘planting' the standing foot. Contract your abs and lift – envision your energy rising from the standing leg, into the sky. Hold for 10 seconds to one minute, depending on your comfort level. Switch sides and hold for same length of time.
Strengthens: Obliques, adductors
From a wide stance, raise one leg (sideways) to hip height and follow through with your torso so it's parallel to the pool bottom. Stretch one arm out so that it is directly under the shoulder and fingertips are pointing towards the pool bottom. Bring your other hand to your hip or, if comfortable, lift that arm towards the sky. When balanced, look up towards the sky. Hold for 10 seconds to one minute, depending on your comfort level. Switch sides and hold for same length of time.
Lie on your back, using a noodle behind your back or foam dumbbells under your armpits. Allow your arms and legs to relax and be supported by the water.
Photos of yoga poses courtesy of Body Check Inc.
Michele Drake is a Toronto-based fitness consultant. She is certified with a long list of associations including the Canadian Personal Trainers Network, CanFitPro and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. She is also the president of BLAST®, a sport training program for adults and kids alike.
Page 2 of 2