Taking Yoga to the Deep End

Sunday, February 06 2022

Incorporating yoga into your aquatic fitness classes is an ideal way to help your class participants discover the benefits of yoga without the fear of falling over or pulling a muscle while trying to get into a scary pretzel position.  Join Jackie for a 45-minute deep water yoga practice that utilizes a noodle and flotation belt to deliver an incredible core challenge. 

Deep water yoga combines two of Jackie’s passions.  A self-described water baby, her father enrolled her in Baby & Me swim lessons before she could even walk.  “I grew up competing on various swim teams, teaching swim lessons, life guarding and playing water polo,” says Jackie. She started teaching aquatic fitness classes in high school and got certified with the Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA) in college.  She is now an AEA Training Specialist and provides education and certification to others.  After graduating from Virginia Tech with a degree in Exercise & Health Promotion, Jackie pursued a career in fitness and quickly began racking up certifications, including 200-hours as a Registered Yoga Teacher through the school of YogaFit.  Jackie is currently the senior fitness director at the University of Virginia (UVA).

Although she has taught aqua yoga for 10 years, Jackie avoided deep water due to the challenge of being able to adequately adapt the yoga postures.  “I had never taught it in deep water, nor had I experienced it in the deep end as a participant, but I was intrigued by the thought of recreating a traditional studio yoga practice in deep water,” says Jackie. As a passionate yogi, she wanted to bring the many benefits of yoga to her deep-water class participants.  “My first challenge was to find a way to ground the poses because in traditional studio yoga, the exercises are performed on the floor.”  Using a noodle, Jackie discovered a variety of ways to transition traditional yoga exercises in to the water. In doing so, she also discovered an amazing core challenge. 

Grounding Poses:  Standing on a Noodle
Standing on a noodle with both feet or with one foot is an ideal way to ground traditional yoga poses and create an incredible balance and core challenge.  Standing on a noodle in the pool is not easy and remaining upright requires a great deal of core stabilization. As she designed this workout, Jackie discovered that two-footed and one-footed postures provided a great deal of yoga exercise variety, as well as core training and so she named the workout, Deep Water Yoga Core Workout. 

Grounding Poses:  Neutral Buoyancy
A pool noodle also provides neutral buoyant support when placed in front of the body under the upper arms.  This position allows the legs to be freed up so that they can perform traditional yoga exercises. The noodle can also be placed behind the back to perform yoga postures that are executed in supine position on a mat.  Typically, this position is performed as modified supine or v-sit on the noodle so that the participants don’t have to lay their head in the water and get their hair wet (God forbid!).  The noodle can also be straddled like a horse for additional exercise possibilities. 

Grounding Pose:  Planking
Planking on the noodle provides another opportunity to ground yoga exercises in deep water.  For example, Jackie demonstrates a “Balanced Half Moon Posture” by performing a side plank on the noodle, which is incredibly challenging.  Jackie also utilizes front plank position in a Vinyasa flow of moves that is repeated throughout the workout. 
Watch Jackie talk more about this yoga-inspired deep- water workout

Flotation Belt
In addition to the support provided by the noodle, a flotation belt is also worn in this workout. The flotation belt provides neutral buoyancy so that your arms and legs can be freed up to perform the exercises more efficiently.  Otherwise, class participants would just end up sculling with their arms and performing egg beaters with their legs in order to stay in alignment and afloat.  A flotation belt really does allow participants to exercise more vigorously in a deep-water class.  If you need help selling this to your students, WATCH the video below.   

Vertical Recovery
It is almost a given that some of your students will come off the noodle during this deep water yoga practice.  For this reason, Jackie devotes an entire segment of the video to practicing vertical recovery.  The recovery exercises are an intense core challenge as the body struggles to return to center from a variety of positions. Core musculature is the predominant force behind the vertical recovery.    

Water Temperature
Moving the body in a variety of directions and using core strength to do so also helps the body maintain thermal warm.  Obviously, a yoga workout is performed at a slower pace and not exactly ideal for cool pools.  If you teach in a chilly pool, you would want to modify this workout by including some vigorous movement to keep the participants warm.   

Music used in Video
The music used in this video was Power Chilled 9, available at Power Music, and the bpm was 95.  This playlist can be downloaded for $14.95. 

Stay tuned, there will be TWO yoga videos posting with Jackie this week.  Up next on Fitmotivation, Jackie leads a 30-minute chair yoga workout. As always, Fitmotivation extends a big THANKS to Jackie for sharing her passion and talents with subscribers. 

Author: Mark Grevelding is the founder of Fitmotivation. He is also a training specialist and consultant with the Aquatic Exercise Association’s (AEA). Mark has been active in the fitness industry for 22 years as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, international presenter and a continuing education provider for AEA, AFAA & ACE.