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Can bending and stretching make you a better open water swimmer? Yoga can help you improve your swimming both physically and mentally, explains Julie Bradshaw

Yoga is practised by everyone from yummy mummies to Indian gurus. But what are the benefits of yoga therapy in a swimming programme? After three decades of swimming and many miles of butterfly during my marathon swimming exploits, it came as no surprise that two years ago I suffered shoulder problems. At one point I could not even lift my arm above my shoulder let alone swim for 20 minutes! I began a physio rehabilitation programme that included yoga exercises.

Functional yoga improves the biomechanics of the joints, in particular the hips, shoulders and spine. These are very important in swimming and a greater awareness of your body also reduces the likelihood of injury. Yoga is good for reducing stress and physical tension, toning and building muscle strength, correcting breathing habits, increasing energy levels, improving digestion and increasing metabolism, improving circulation (important when in open water, especially with the cold), balancing the nervous system as well as strengthening the immune system and the mind, and improving concentration.

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About Outdoor Swimmer

As spring finally arrives, it is time to start planning your summer swims. We have features on wild swimming in Spain and Florida and full event listings for races in the UK and around the world. Plus, we report from Russia and the UK on the final flurry of the season’s cold water swimming competitions. In this issue’s performance zone, as well as all the usual training and nutrition advice, we teach you how to master easy butterfly. This issue we celebrate a true pioneer of the open water: Mercedes Gleitze, the first British woman to swim the English Channel, was an independent working class woman who promoted open water swimming to a new audience.
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