Health and fitness expert Shirley Archer adapts yoga postures for the water in her article “Modifying Yoga for Aquatic Exercise”. Archer’s sequences are designed for active recovery as well as after-training relaxation and restoration to improve circulation, flexibility, body awareness and water massage. Some of the moves are done from a standing position, but aquatic yoga can be performed as floating postures with the help of a flotation device. Breathing is an important aspect of yoga and other mind/body styles of exercise and you should frequently focus on your breath. Breathe in and out through the nose. The hydrostatic pressure of water surrounding a submerged chest will challenge and condition breathing muscles, resulting in improved ease of breathing on land. Hold each pose up to five breath cycles as skill and water temperature permit. If the water is cool, do not hold the poses, but rather proceed directly from one move into the next.
- Sway Side to Side – This swaying pattern is not highly choreographed. You bend your knees, submerge your shoulders, sway from side to side and allow your arms to flow naturally. It is difficult to do this incorrectly and it feels good.
- Mountain Pose – Stand tall, face the front with your arms at your sides, chest open, shoulders down and relaxed, chin level. Breathe deeply and fluidly.
- Standing Tree Pose – Stand tall, focus on a single point. Shift your weight to one leg, stabilise your pelvis by tightening your abdominal muscles and buttocks. Lift your other leg and put the sole of your foot against your inner thigh of standing leg. For balance, scull with your arms out to sides or rest your arms on water’s surface. When stable, clasp your hands in prayer position in the centre of your chest. For more challenge, extend your arms overhead. Breathe deeply and return to Mountain Pose.
- Standing Calf Stretch – Step back into a dynamic standing calf stretch with both feet pointing forward. With your palms up, scoop water upwards to create downward pressure to assist with the calf stretch as you rhythmically lift the back heel up and press down. Remember, move arms vigorously to warm the body and create soothing currents. Relax arms at your sides.
- Modified Warrior I – Angle your back foot outward and align the arch with the heel of the front foot. The pelvis should be facing forwards. Open your chest and back wide and relax your shoulders down. Instead of raising your arms overhead as in the traditional Warrior I, stretch your arms forward, palms together and rest your arms on water’s surface. Keep your abdominals tight and your spine long. Feel strong and stable in the lunge position.
- Modified Warrior III – Bend forward at the hip, maintaining length through your spine. You will not be completely parallel to the ground, because if you do so, your face will be submerged. Keep a long forward angle, nearly parallel to ground. Open your arms out wide, resting on the water as you maintain your forward lean. If you need help balancing, scull with your hands. Use scooping motions as you lean back and place your back foot on ground.
- Modified Warrior II – Return to the strong, stable lunge position of Modified Warrior I as you reach one arm forward and other arm back. Circle your back arm forward, up and around towards the back, as you lengthen the other arm forward to front. Follow your back arm with your gaze to stretch your neck. For thermal regulation and to develop dynamic flexibility, you can add additional arm circles and hold on the fourth cycle. Return to face front. The pose is similar to Warrior I, except one arm reaches forward and other arm reaches back.
- Triangle – From the Modified Warrior II position, lengthen both legs and lift yourself tall. Place your forward arm on top of your thigh or shin depending on flexibility and water depth, as you extend your other arm upward. Look up at your opposite thumb.
- Hamstring Stretch – Stand up and sit back into a dynamic hamstring stretch for the back leg. Inhale, float upward, exhale, sink back and scoop water vigorously with hands to assist stretch. Allow your body to rise up and sit back to warm muscles and increase stretch.
- Sway side to side once again and then repeat the sequence on the other side.
Source:Shirley Archer, Modifying Yoga for Aquatic Exercise, June 2003, http://www.ptonthenet.com