Yoga breaths in the pool

If the key to yoga is breathing, isn’t that even more true in swimming?

In swimming, as in yoga, it’s body movement that attract the most attention. Strong, elegant limb placement — or in my case, the lack thereof — is what you notice.

Mountain pose

Mountain pose

But in both cases, breathing seems to be the foundation everything else is based on. In yoga, if you’re not “flowing your breath,” then you’re not really doing mountain pose — you’re just standing there, your mind a quivering mass of quarreling neurons.

You can’t fake it in swimming. Without proper breathing your stroke suffers dramatically. But even in strokes that don‘t require underwater breathing, “flowing your breath” in sync with your body‘s movement can make a huge difference. Case in point: I took more than a minute off my 500-meter sidestroke time this week, just by concentrating on synchronizing my breath with my movements. Granted, there was nowhere to go but up, but I really do think it reduced the flailing factor.

Here’s another reason to try yoga breathing techniques: Studies such as this one in the Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine show that it helps improve lung function in athletes (and presumably nonathletes as well).

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