The Ultimate Guide to Aqua Yoga

woman doing tree pose in the pool

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 (aqua yoga poses), pranayama (yoga breathwork), and meditation (done floating) all informed by yoga philosophy. You can do it with or without equipment.

How to do aqua yoga

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.

Five easy ways to Start an Aqua Yoga practice

I’m creating a database of how-to videos for aqua yoga poses. These are some of the more common aqua yoga poses and you can explore further videos as well:

Down Dog

Leg Lifts in the Pool

Sun Salutations

You can also access the full Aqua Yoga Pose Database indexed alphabetically anytime.

What do you wear for aqua yoga

Woman on the pool deck showing what to wear for aqua yoga

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. My What to Wear for Aqua Yoga covers this more extensively and will come out soon.

Where can you do aqua yoga

The best place to practice aqua yoga 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 bath tub, you can practice seated yoga postures anytime you want. You can 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 aqua yoga 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 aqua yoga.  As someone who also teaches deep water aerobics, I think the deep end of the pool is a great place to practice yoga as well.  Read my article on Deep Water Yoga for lots more info specific to the deep end of the pool.

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 is aqua yoga for

Simple – Aqua yoga is for everyone!

Different audiences do have different needs however and that’s part of the power of aqua yoga. It’s a challenge for everyone but highly accessible. Everyone can do it and get something out of it.

Seniors benefit from the improves 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. An aqua yoga 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 yoga as prevention is a great skillset.

The Science of Self Care and Aqua Yoga gives you science backed data on some of the benefits of aqua yoga.

What equipment do you need for aqua yoga

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 aqua yoga 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

infographic showing five benefits of practicing with women doing aqua yoga poses

For a full listing of the benefits of aqua yoga 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 challenge 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. Continue reading next month for a full set of Aqua Yoga safety tips.

woman holding a shell

Connect with Christa


I'm a yoga teacher who specializes in making yoga accessible for those with chronic health conditions in the pool and on land. My teaching style is engaging, responsive and fun. 

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