Incorporating the principles of aqua yoga into any aqua aerobics class is possible with a little planning. I was supposed to be presenting on aqua yoga and how you can add it to your aquatics programming at the International Aquatics Fitness Conference before the COVID-19 outbreak. This is an excerpt of an article I wrote for AEA in support of my aqua yoga session. I’m still looking forward to the opportunity next year and encourage you to try these ideas in your personal practice and professional programming.
The chief difference between aqua yoga and other aquatic disciplines is its grounding yoga philosophy. Yoga has 8 limbs. You probably know the most about the first limb, the poses. If you add principles from all the limbs into your existing aquatic workouts, you can increase the benefits for your students.
Starting with the limb you know best, the asanas or poses, think about when people first get in the pool and they’re a cold. They usually tiptoe instead of using the full of their foot. In aqua yoga we encourage ankle dorsiflexion, or toes to noes in most of the poses. As an example, performing ankle dorsiflexion with a leg lifted off the ground stabilizes the lifted leg in the water through muscle engagement. You can apply this to any one-legged activity. Ask people to bring the toes on the lifted leg towards the sky, instead of keeping the ankle passive. Seniors especially need dorsiflexion as it reduces fall risk[i]. Practicing this activity in the pool helps them build neural networks and strengthens muscles for when they’re out of the pool and it really matters.
I’m sure you’ve seen students in your class hold their breath without realizing it. An easy way to introduce some yoga breathwork into your classes is to add breath cues or pranayama, another limb of yoga. You literally cue people when to inhale and when to exhale. To drill down deeper, switch the breath cue and ask people to see what they notice. Was it easier/harder, did their tempo change, etc.?
These experiential type questions are a reflection of yoga philosophy. I’m sure you’ve had students who always push, or students who always seem to be dialing it in. Yoga has two dual principles; Ahimsa (non-harming) and Tapas (right effort). It’s common sense; everyone should put in the perfect amount of effort so they get the appropriate, injury free workout. Since it rarely works out that way, asking people to become more self-aware encourages them to work at the level they need, not just want.
You can read the full AKWA article about adding aqua yoga in aqua aerobics classes in the April/May 2020 issue, Vol 33 #5 on the AEA website for free if you’re an AEA member.
Read more aqua yoga for pros articles:
Aqua Yoga for Arthritis for the Aquatic Therapy and Rehab Institute