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Yoga for Young Athletes – Swimmers

Chaik By Anne Chaikowsky

Athletes at all levels are beginning to see the benefits of incorporating yoga into their training, realizing that it’s about more than just “the stretch.” Swimming is one sport in particular that benefits greatly from yoga. One local coach says, “Yoga and swimming, unlike many other sports and activities, are life-long.” People can do them well into their twilight years.
So how do the two fit together so well?
In “Yoga for Swimmers,” co-authors Baron Baptiste and Kathleen Finn Mendola describe the critical relationship between yoga and swimming, noting that the biggest drawback to an exclusively water-based workout is that the body needs gravity to build strength in muscle and bone.
Leslie Sims, former national swim coach, agrees and points out that body alignment is often thrown “off kilter” in swimmers, attributing this to the nature of three of the four competitive strokes that tend toward an overdevelopment of the front body. The fourth stroke, backstroke, is the only one to provide any kind of counteraction, but it’s not enough as she states, “Learning proper alignment through a consistent yoga practice can help tremendously… (postures) utilize body weight as a powerful source of resistance. Outside of the water, gravity helps to build strength and muscle. In addition, postures take the body through a full range of motion, encouraging flexible, supple muscles that are less prone to injury…And extended muscles are physiologically necessary for a swimmer.”
Shoulder blades, hips and ankles are key points of concentration in a yoga practice for swimmers in order to help realign the body. For young swimmers, this is especially important as their bodies are still growing and developing. Between ages 10 to 13, they have varied issues with growth spurts, including severe pain in bones, muscles and joints as well as cramping or aching muscles.
Finally, regular breath control practice, builds lung capacity in young swimmers. They also learn to focus and to sustain that focus by creating their own pre-workout/pre-meet meditation, visualizing the stroke (or dive) they are about to perform and seeing it to completion, making it easier to “dial in” during competition.
For more information, go to www.atomyogapittsburgh.com or contact Anne at atomyogapittsburgh@gmail.com.

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