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MOVE

Moving beyond the mat: Water Yoga

Yoga, a meditative practice that helps you explore your physical and mental boundaries, has been around in various forms for centuries. Now a new form of yoga is becoming a popular alternative to traditional mat yoga—water yoga.

As a certified aquatic yoga teacher, I describe water yoga as a restorative exercise. Where the water acts like a warm blanket, or a hug, allowing you to move with comfort and confidence. I often hear participants describe water yoga as calming and invigorating.

In water yoga, poses have been redesigned for water depths to your chest or belly button. For example, a common pose on land, downward dog, begins with you on your hands and knees, lifting your hips high in the air, straightening your arms and legs to make an upside down V.

This pose, redesigned for water, is called water dog and the pool wall becomes your mat. With straight arms grasping the wall, your chest sinks into the water and your chin remains out of the water. You pull your hips away from the wall and straighten your legs, aiming for a modified V. Both water and land poses lengthen your spine and open your hamstring muscles. In class, you might stay in this pose for a few breaths or move into a series of sun salutations, where all the moves are redesigned, similar to the water dog.

As a practitioner of traditional mat yoga, I found myself wondering "how could I possibly get as good of a stretch in the pool?" But, as I began to practice and teach water yoga I found myself pleasantly surprised. Where I became fatigued on land, I could excel in the water. For example, on land, poses put stress on my wrists. In the pool, my wrists are supported and angled on the wall creating less joint pressure.

Easing the pressure on joints is a major benefit to water yoga. Warm water pools help to warm the muscles allowing people to relax more fully into poses while releasing stress and tension.

The relaxing nature of water also helps you feel a new kind of awareness about your body. Gravity takes a back seat as the water supports your spine, and movements become comfortable and fluid. Water yoga allows people of all abilities to feel the physical benefits and mentally refocus.

I love yoga, whether on a mat or in the pool. I would encourage everyone to experience the way yoga can free you of the daily stress of the fast-paced world around you. Try a water yoga class to hydrate your body with mindful breathing—it will be a treat for your mind, body and soul.

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