Archive for September 2nd, 2011

Pranayama for Swimmers

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

yoga teacher trainingBy Kimaya Singh 

Some people take to swimming like a fish to water, literally. Others find that they enjoy breathing a lot more than they previously realized. For those who find themselves gasping for breath after each stroke, or those seeking to improve their speed and stamina in the water, pranayama for swimmers is an effective way to increase lung capacity.

The level of oxygen available to the body determines energy levels and performance of swimmers. If one suffers from excessive fatigue while swimming, it’s probably due to a lack of oxygen in the system.

Individuals with especially poor breathing habits will find swimming difficult because it brings those unconscious breathing patterns to the surface. Chronic shallow breathing means lower lung function when the entire capacity of the lung is needed.

Pranayama is often seen as a small limb of the Yogic tree, but it is also a large science that can stand by itself.  Pranayama teaches individuals that it is possible to control the flow of breath, rather than being controlled by their need for respiration. It also teaches the body how to breathe in a deeper manner that delivers more oxygen to the body per breath than typical breathing. It is possible to learn new breathing techniques in the water, but there are some unique advantages to practicing better breathing habits on dry land.

First, pranayama may be practiced anywhere, even when a pool isn’t easily accessible. This means that the lungs may be kept in top shape even in the dead of winter; this is particularly advantageous in colder climates where the winters are harsh.

Second, pranayama is more approachable than practicing breath control in the water. With pranayama, there is a feeling of safety because a breath could be drawn at any moment. This enables those with anxiety about being without air for prolonged periods underwater to gain stamina and confidence.

Lastly, in addition to increasing lung capacity, pranayama also teaches practitioners more about their lungs. With pranayama practice, individuals begin to understand their limits in terms of how long they can go without taking a breath. People usually underestimate how long they can go without breathing, and fear sets in as a result of this lack of knowledge. When panic rises, vision narrows and dark spots dance on the vision, further enhancing the illusion that the swimmer is about to pass out from lack of oxygen. In reality, most of this is the result of the fight-or-flight response becoming active in the brain. Gaining a better understanding of lung capacity outside of the pool prevents this from happening.

Pranayama practice gives poor swimmers the opportunity to become great swimmers, and takes great swimmers to the next level in terms of stamina, strength and endurance. All pranayama techniques yield great benefit for swimmers, so the main concern is finding the style of pranayama that suits the practitioner best. When it comes to building up the body, frequency of practice is the most important thing. Finding a pranayama practice that one is comfortable with and happy doing will make the habit of performing it on a daily basis easier.

© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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