What is aqua yoga?
Aqua yoga is as simple as it sounds. It’s practicing yoga in the water. It’s a complete yoga practice including asana (poses), pranayama (yoga breath work), and meditation (done floating) all informed by yoga philosophy. You can do it with or without equipment.
How do you do it?
Aqua yoga can be doing the exact same pose you do on land, in the water. An example of a pose that would be exactly the same would be Triangle Pose. A posture that would be somewhat the same would be Down Dog pose. In the water you don’t want to put your head under, so the pose is modified for that. Or some poses are totally different such as Locust pose.
I’ve created a database of how-to videos for aqua yoga poses. These are some of the more common postures and you can explore further videos as well:
Get your free aqua yoga starter kit to access the Aqua Yoga Pose Database indexed alphabetically anytime.
What do you wear?
You can wear any clothes you would normally wear in the pool for aqua yoga. Bathing suits, UV swimwear, sunglasses, hats, anything you would normally want for an afternoon in the pool is ok. Look for more on this topic soon.
Where can you practice?
The best place to practice is a pool. Public or private doesn’t matter, whichever you have access to is great. You want to work in the shallow end in chest deep water. Chest deep water offloads about 70% of your weight due to the buoyancy of the water. That makes it both the perfect depth for some pain relief and some challenge.
Other places to practice include your bathtub, you can practice seated yoga postures anytime you want. You can also practice in a hot tub. Depending on the depth, you can do seated or standing postures. Both your bath and a hot tube are great choices for a winter practice or for When You Can’t Make it to the Pool.
The deep end of the pool is also an option but a very different way to practice. For more information on a deep water practice, read my article on Deep Water Yoga.
The beach is another choice. Safety first: make sure you’re practicing with a buddy, have a cell phone on the beach, and you’ll need calm water without waves but still don’t turn your back on the water.
Who can do it?
Simple – Aqua yoga is for everyone!
Different audiences do have different needs however and that’s part of the power of the practice. It’s a challenge for everyone but highly accessible. Everyone can do it and get something out of it.
Seniors benefit from the improvements in balance, strength, and social aspects of classes.
People with arthritis or any other chronic pain condition benefit from exercising in the water. The water offloads weight from sore joints. This is a specialty of mine because I live with multiple arthritic conditions and I’ve written extensively on Aqua Yoga for Arthritis, Aqua Yoga for Arthritis Research and Aqua Yoga for Lupus.
Kids Aqua Yoga needs a practice that’s light, short, and focused on fun.
Pregnant women benefit from the support of the water.
Chronic back pain is a reality for millions of Americans. This practice can be a tool for some pain relief as well as strengthening and stretching your back. Keeping your back strong and healthy with aqua yoga as prevention is a great skillset.
The Science of Self Care – Yoga has been shown to be an effective self care tool and aqua yoga has some unique benefits for a diverse range of self care needs.
What equipment do you need?
You can easily do yoga in the pool with no equipment. I sell a no props aqua yoga sequence that will help you with that. Other props include pool noodles, pool dumbbells, kickboards, inner tubes, yoga belts, deep water float belts, ankle weights or buoyancy cuffs.
Floating meditation in Aqua Yoga
If you would like a free meditation to download and use while you float, go to my How to Have a Vacation Mindset Everyday article.
Aqua yoga compared to other Aquatic Exercise
For a full listing of the benefits backed by yoga philosophy and western research, read my article on the Benefits of Aqua Yoga with 29 benefits.
Aqua yoga compared to land yoga
There are three properties of working in the water that have a big impact on your water yoga practice compared to land: hydrostatic pressure, buoyancy, and viscosity.
- Hydrostatic pressure is that feeling of being enveloped in a wet sock when you get in the water. It’s inward pressure everywhere. It provides some health benefits such as making your kidneys and heart work more efficiently, that yoga on land doesn’t offer.
- Buoyancy is the lift you get from the support of the water. You’re not supporting as much of your weight as on land so it provides some pain relief and some challenges compared to yoga on land.
- Viscosity is the challenge of moving through a thicker substance. Air provides very little resistance when you move through it. Doing yoga in water isn’t like moving through maple syrup but it definitely provides more resistance in all directions than moving through air.
Yoga in the pool is not a rectangular practice. We keep our land yoga practice largely in the sagittal plane and only move front to back. Working in the water is an opportunity to work in 360 degrees.
The novelty of a pool yoga practice, all these different poses and approaches to yoga with different sensory inputs helps increase your neuroplasticity.
If you’re a practicing yogi and looking for simple tips to move your practice into the pool, read my article on Adapting Land Yoga to the Pool.
Aqua yoga safety
Aqua yoga is a very safe practice overall but anytime you’re around water, you should take some extra precautions. Read my article on Aqua Yoga Safety.