One of the best things about yoga is that it can be practiced anywhere. From airplane seats to slacklines, paddleboards and aerial silks, the beauty of yoga is in its adaptability. And while some yogis have taken #yogaeverywhere as a challenge to push the limits of creativity, sometimes the most appealing options are the simplest.
Enter aqua yoga, a new trend that takes this ancient practice back to basics. Although aqua yoga might follow the rhythm of a usual studio class, practicing yoga in a pool has the added benefit of weightlessness along with new challenges for balance and breath. Plus, how often do you get the chance to be a floating lotus?
Benefits of Aqua Yoga
Aqua yoga is not only a way to switch up your land practice; it brings with it the many benefits of practicing in water. For one, it can also help you get in and out of difficult poses without the fear of falling. But twisting yourself up into a beautiful Dhanurasana isn’t the only plus. For many years, water has played a vital part in physical therapy, muscle recovery, and joint pain reduction. Water lessens stress on bones and tissues, helps increase circulation, and soothes the body. Interestingly enough, when submerged chest deep, the body is actually 80 percent weightless. This anti-gravity sensation can increase flexibility and deepen stretches.
Aside from being a healthy way to exercise, aqua yoga also opens the doors for people to practice who might not necessarily be drawn to the mat—specifically, people who are elderly or differently abled. Aqua yoga is low impact, so there is less stress on bones and joints, semi-private once you’re in the water, and welcoming to all ages, weights, genders, and body types.
6 Yoga Poses to Try in the Pool
To get you started, here are a few poses to take you through the basics.
Upward Facing Dog
Using two pool noodles for balance, place your hands in front of you while standing straight. Slowly push the noodle away from you, while arching your back and rising up onto your ties. Stay in this pose for a few breaths before drawing your arms and noodles back towards your body, strengthening your core.
Floating or Sinking Lotus
Depending on your level of comfort in the water, either use a pool noodle to float or embrace the quiet solitude that a moment submerged under the surface will give you. Stand with one foot on either side of a pool noodle, slowly drawing one leg and then the other up into a crossed position. Draw your knees up, then flatten and rest your hands with palms facing towards the sky. Balance carefully, using your abs to remain afloat. If you feel inclined, let go of the noodle and sink slowly toward the pool floor for one breath, taking in the awareness of your senses and coming up for air shortly after.
Using the side of the pool as your anchor, stand about two feet away and grab on with your hands. Leaning forward, move until your forearms rest against the tile and slowly begin to arch your back. Tilt your forehead backward, lift your gaze, and stretch your belly towards the wall. Come up onto the tips of your toes for three breaths and release.
A challenging pose on land that gets surprisingly easier in the water. If you are comfortable holding your breath, start neck deep in the pool and swim towards the bottom, placing your hands flat while pushing your feet towards the sky. Without the added pressure of gravity, it’s sometime easier to find your correct alignment. As your confidence increases, move into shallower water for more of a challenge.
Balancing Half Moon
In waist deep water, take a wide stance and raise one leg to hip height, leaning down so your torso is parallel to the floor of the pool. Stretch one arm down until it is directly under the shoulder with fingertips pointing down. Take the other and lift it towards the sky. Lift your gaze to follow your arm and enjoy the stretch in your hamstrings. While this pose may be difficult on land, the prospect of falling out of it is greatly reduced in water.
With or without the use of floaty pool noodles, Savasana is the ultimate form of surrender and relaxation. Find a tranquil corner of the pool without too many waves and lie back. Close your eyes and puff up your chest, lengthening your spine and stretching out your arms. Feel how the water both supports and moves around you. For those who want a little extra buoyancy, place a noodle under both knees and another under your arms and upper back. Smile, breathe, and embrace the sensation of weightlessness.
Next time you’re in a pool, try a few poses and see how they compare to the sensation on land. Take the weight, the stillness, and the flow with you wherever you go and embrace the qualities that only yoga in water can give you.
Have you tried aqua yoga? Let us know in the comments below.
Nicole McLaughlin is a freelance writer living and working in San Diego. She focuses on healthy living, recipe development and exploring the role mindfulness plays in leading a balanced life. Sea salt and chocolate are her weaknesses, as is the promise of a good time. For more of her musing on life, the universe and everything creative, follow her on Instagram.