What exactly is aqua yoga or water yoga? At its simplest, aqua yoga is moving your yoga practice into the water. But by taking advantage of the medium of water, it can be so much more than that.

In land yoga, your poses are confined to the mat, and your movements happen parallel to the mat’s edges. In the pool, 360º of movement are available. Warrior I can become a curtsy, providing valuable proprioceptive feedback by crossing the midline behind you. Balance postures can include movement on the water’s surface in the transverse plane, which gets neglected on the mat.

Being in the water can transform how you think about applying yoga philosophy to your practice. The properties of water can flip how you feel about ahimsa and tapas, for example. In the water, simply standing in mountain pose is hard because of the movement of the water around you. Yet the water supports you. When standing at the ideal water depth for aqua yoga, mid-chest height, you offload approximately 70% of your weight. That makes Warrior III pose less tiring for your legs.

If you want to recreate the tapas element of Warrior III, you can use the viscosity of the water. Water is denser than air. It’s not like you’re doing yoga in a vat of honey, but moving any limb dynamically through the water in a posture is harder than moving the limb on land. If, while in Warrior III, you move your arms straight down to flank your standing leg, then rotate your palms face up and bring your arms back to the water’s surface, it’s a challenge. Doing it with straight arms is more challenging than bending your elbows.

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