Aquatic Pilates, Tai Chi, and Yoga
Many instructors are adapting yoga postures, tai chi movements, and Pilates exercises for use in the pool. Water and air temperature must be appropriate to prevent chilling and achieve optimal benefits. Focus is on breathing techniques, core strength, muscle activation, body alignment, and flexibility.
Pilates is a nonimpact program of strengthening and stretching exercises that involve precise muscle initiation and breath control. Developed by Joseph Pilates, this format targets the torso, referred to as the powerhouse, and every movement is precise and performed with a purpose.
Tai chi is typically classified as a form of traditional Chinese martial arts. With its flowing and graceful movement patterns, tai chi transfers well into an aquatic environment, as long as the water and air temperatures are appropriately warm. Benefits of aquatic tai chi include balance, coordination, agility, flexibility, and mental focus.
Yoga programs typically focus on alignment and lengthening of the spine while coordinating movement with breath. There are many styles of yoga, including hatha, iyengar, vinyasa, and astanga. Postures, or asanas, are intended to quiet the mind and enhance focus. Practicing yoga in a warm-water pool increases static strength because isometric contractions are required to maintain postures. The overall goal is to train the body, mind, and spirit simultaneously to restore balance.
Pre- and Postnatal
Aquatic programs are ideal for women during pregnancy and postpartum because of the reduced amount of impact stress during aerobic activity, the cool and comfortable environment, and the continuous resistance created by the water. Water programs can allow women to continue their fitness program throughout pregnancy when land-based workouts become unsafe or uncomfortable. Another option that has become popular is parent-child programs.
In a perinatal class, the focus should be on maintaining the current level of fitness rather than striving to make significant improvements. The warm-up and cool-down should be longer and should have more gradual changes in intensity. Choreography should be kept simple and allow for postural imbalances, and proper nutrition and hydration should be encouraged. A physician’s approval is recommended for all perinatal participants. Caution participants to monitor intensity, limit stretching activities to prepregnancy range of motion, and avoid becoming overheated during exercise. See chapter 11 for additional information.
The Arthritis Foundation has developed an aquatic certification program for instructors wishing to lead specialized arthritis programs. Other instructors choose to mainstream participants with minor arthritis into general programs. Remember that either way the initial focus of participants with arthritis is to regain and maintain range of motion and functional skills. Some participants might also desire to improve aerobic capacity, develop muscular strength, or alter body composition, but these goals must be achieved without compromising safety. Follow the two-hour pain rule. If the participant experiences pain or soreness for more than two hours after a workout, the work intensity or duration was too demanding.
Warm water is more comfortable and allows for lower-intensity activities without becoming chilled. The warm-up is critical and should be longer than typical fitness programs. Limit the number of repetitions performed per muscle group, and try to submerge the afflicted joint during movement. Focus on all muscle groups and fine motor skills, such as movements in the fingers, wrists, ankles, and feet. Safe access into the pool and locker rooms must also be considered. See chapter 11 for additional information.
Aquatic Personal Training and Small-Group Fitness
Aquatic personal training and small-group fitness formats are gaining popularity. There are many applications for these training formats, including the transition from rehabilitation or therapy to group exercise. The following definitions are taken from the Personal Pool Programming course developed by Innovative Aquatics. Personal training is individualized and customized fitness programs designed to meet the needs and goals of a specific client. Sessions are designed to enhance overall health and fitness based on the individual objective of any given client. Small-group fitness is defined as two to five individuals working under the guidance of a fitness professional to achieve optimal health and fitness benefits through a more intimate and personal setting than group exercise. Under the guidance of the fitness professional, optimal results can be achieved and exercise plateaus reduced through this type of setting.
This is an excerpt from Aquatic Fitness Professional Manual, Sixth Edition.