Yoga can be just as vigorous or just as relaxing as you want it to be on dry land, but water yoga (also referred to as aqua yoga or pool yoga) can be an exciting way to shake things up a little in your practice. If you have access to a pool or natural body of water that’s safe to swim in, why not go for it while it’s still summer?
You might be surprised by what you can learn and discover when you take your practice to the pool or to the beach. Here are some of the main benefits to expect just by experimenting with the different sensation of body weight and movement underwater.
Practice Your Balance
It can be frustrating and even downright terrifying to try to master certain balancing poses like garudasana (eagle pose) or ardha chandrasana (half moon pose) when you’re constantly feeling like you could topple over at any moment. Performing poses like these in water is so much easier and can help you build your confidence next time to try it on dry land. It’s also a great way to practice inversions like salami sirsasana (supported headstand) as long as you don’t mind holding your breath for a bit!
Recover From or Relieve Pain
Like most forms of water exercise, water yoga is very low-impact and gentle on the body, making it a great alternative to other types of exercise that put more stress on the muscles and joints. You don’t even have to hold your body weight up when performing certain poses, which can be a huge relief for those who may be recovering from joint pain or injury.
Focus on Alignment
One of the best things about a water yoga practice that takes all the effort out of having to hold up your body weight like you would on land is that you can place your awareness on maintaining proper form and alignment. For example, you may be completely preoccupied with holding yourself up and extending your leg out in virabhadrasana III (warrior III), but in the water, you float, so you can focus on other components of the pose — like hip alignment, core engagement and arms extended behind or in front of you.
Discover New Challenges
While water yoga makes it a lot easier to preform certain poses, it can present new challenges for others. When it comes to poses like vasisthasana (side plank), parsvottonasana (pyramid), or trikoasana (triangle), gravity is typically our friend. Even in shallow water, however, it’s normal to experience trouble staying put in poses like these. You may feel the need to use your hands to tread water a little and engage your core much more than usual to maintain the pose.
Find Peace Underwater
Submerging yourself underwater is a great way to bring stillness to your mind and even meditate for a few moments until you need to come up for air. Take a big breath of air as you allow yourself to sink down deep in a cross-legged position or half lotus pose. Embrace the quiet calmness of being fully submerged as you slowly breathe out the air you’re holding in. Just remember not to force yourself to stay under for longer if it feels uncomfortable.
If you look around or do some research for your local area, you may be able to find water yoga classes that actually show you how to enjoy some of these benefits. Do a Google search or ask your yogi teacher if he or she knows anything about it!