Yoga is believed to have originated between the fifth and sixth centuries BCE in India. It is an umbrella term for a variety of mental, physical, and spiritual practices with a wide net of goals that may include peace, balance, or an overall sense of well-being. Aqua yoga, also called water yoga, is a low-impact form of exercise that adapts yoga postures for the water. This requires some degree of breath control, and if you enjoy aqua yoga but struggle with breath control, there are steps you can take to improve.
Overcome your Fear of the Water
A beginner water yoga class is usually conducted in the shallow end of the pool, with your feet firmly planted on the pool floor. However, bending into a pose can bring your face close to the water. It is natural to be frightened of having your face in the water, and plenty of adults still carry this sense of unease. This is especially true if you never learned to swim, and deep water is foreign to you. To gain confidence, go to the pool and practice putting your face in the water. There is a trick to breathing properly: you want to constantly exhale when your face is submerged, and turn your head to inhale when you are through exhaling. Plenty of beginners have a habit of holding their breath underwater. This causes you to tense up as carbon dioxide saturates your blood stream. As you practice and learn to breathe continuously in the water, any residual fear of the water should abate.
Control Your Exhalation
Once you're completely comfortable breathing in the water, you can start with controlling your exhalation. At first, you'll exhale very strongly. Over time, you can perfect a slow, controlled exhale in time with your postures. As you become more and more comfortable in the water and having your face submerged, you will learn to time your breathing with your poses. Focus on constant breathing. Never hold your breath, as this will cause you to tense up. Constant breathing will allow your body to remain oxygenated and relaxed throughout your yoga practice.
Work on Lung Capacity
If you want to learn to exhale slowly and consistently, you will eventually wish your lungs could hold more volume. While lung capacity is limited by biology, you can learn to use all the space in your lungs effectively. Swimming lessons are excellent low-impact cardio activities that can help you to utilize all your lung capacity. Let your instructor know your goals involve relaxed, efficient breathing. The vast majority of swim coaches understand that tight, labored breathing leads to inefficient movement and body tension, so you should have no issue finding help in this area. You can find available classes for New York City swimming lessons at SwimJim to help you get started.
Focus on Breathing from All Directions
Many novices to water sports develop a bad habit of always breathing to one side. This not only throws off a swimming stroke, it can strain your neck and put pressure on the eardrum opposite the side you favor. As you become more and more confident, concentrate on breathing from all directions in your yoga poses. While swimmers choose left or right during most strokes and breathe with their head straight during the motion of a breast stroke, yoga practitioners approach the surface from all angles. Pay attention to the sensation of the water on your face and move slowly until you are comfortable taking air in any direction. Learning to control your breathing in the water during aqua yoga takes practice, especially if you have an apprehension or fear of the water. By following this progressive training schedule, you can get comfortable with deep, relaxed, effective breathing at all stages of your poses.
Featured Image: Hugo André