The human body has unique physical properties in the water. It only weighs 1/10 of its actual body weight because of the water’s buoyancy. The water actually supports the body based on the ratio of body fat to muscle. More fat contributes to more buoyancy; more muscle reduces buoyancy and creates density (producing a sense of gravity in the water). The amount of buoyancy and weight in the water is dependent on the alignment of the body in the water. When the body is vertically aligned and lengthened, there is an increase in density and weight. As the body folds and compresses the body becomes buoyant. The amount of weight and lightness is customized with body type and body position.
The heart is larger in the water because of this weightlessness and actually expands with the breath contraction. It parallels the undulating action, the ebb and flow of water. When the body is immersed in the water, the breath continually lifts the body and lets it go. The body responds well with mindfulness to Yoga poses. Attention and sustained focus on specific body parts centers and virtually grounds the body in the water. Consider the hips the anchor and imagine the groins sinking when in a seated, straight-leg position (Dandasana) in the water. Hips move down, sinking into the water, and then draw back. To add support, cuffs are used on the arms and legs. Many of the postures done on the mat are done on the wall of the pool, such as standing forward bend (Uttanasana). On land the feet are grounded and the body spills forward toward the feet. The spine extends and flows forward with the breath. The release of the tailbone comes from the inner rotation of the legs, the widening of the sitz bones, and the lifting of the lower belly. In the water, standing postures (asanas) treat the wall of the pool like a floor: in Uttanasana, drawing the hips back away from the wall, which corresponds to the upward movement on land. In the water, gently hold on to the wall and walk up towards the surface. Press the feet into the wall and work towards lengthening the limbs. Focus on the hips and draw them back, creating a sense of anchoring in the hip flexors. With the breath (pranayama), the body lifts from the pelvic region and is directed toward the wall. Shoulders are wide and elbows are down. The constant breath undulates the body with a wavelike action into the pose. Mind and body are aligned as they are attuned to the lifting action and to the release.
Therapeutic water works
Fun in the Sun
Flexibility in Life Through Yoga
The physical postures connect with the spiritual teachings of Yoga and enable us to be a better human being.
Forward bends– help us to lean and learn to be kind to our fellow man.
Backbends– Show us how we can make the extra effort to maintain harmony in difficult situations- relationships.
Twists– teach us that the events in our lives may have a different outcome other than what is expected.
Inversions– turn our world upside down giving us a different perspective, other than our own.
After our world turns upside down, we sit quietly, no movement and absorb what is. So too in life, we can nourish ourselves and find that balance between the ups and the downs. Just listen.
Annig Raley – July 2006