Working with Breath
Swimming is one of the only sports where you cannot breath at will. For that reason having the ability to work efficiently and effectively with the breath is one of the keys to success.
The time spent on the mat gives you an opportunity to breathe with intention and work with the breath to develop efficiency.
One of the ways you learn to work more efficiently with the breath is by creating an awareness of your natural breathing pattern then manipulating that pattern in different ways. By doing so you learn greater breath control and how to breathe more effectively.
During a swimming-specific yoga practice the breath connects the mind and the body keeping your attention in the present moment. By co-ordinating breath with movement it develops the ability to perform in a more relaxed state.
A phrase commonly used in a yoga practice is effortless effort. This is synonymous with Bill Sweetenham’s concept of easy speed. The legendary Australian swim coach uses this terminology to describe how you need to apply both effort and ease to achieve a peak performance.
Performing in this way and with present moment awareness are key elements in experiencing a flow state or performing in the zone. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the foremost expert on the subject says there is a strong connection between yoga and flow:
The similarities between Yoga and flow are extremely strong; in fact it makes sense to think of Yoga as a very thoroughly planned flow activity. Both try to achieve a joyous, self-forgetful involvement through concentration, which in turn is made possible by a discipline of the body.
A swimming-specific yoga practice gives you the opportunity to practice moving in a state of flow, which in turn gives you a chance to experience the feelings that are part of performing in the zone. As Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant’s meditation teacher George Mumford says developing your present moment awareness allows you to be flow ready. In other words the more you practice this state it gives you the opportunity to be ready to take advantage of the experience of performing in the zone when it presents itself in the water.