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March 2017
Fitness and sport
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WOGA: YOGA IN WATER

WOGA


Doing physical activities in water has become very fashionable in the last few years. Swimming pools have become gyms where you can carry out all kinds of exercises which are normally carried out on the ground. The first activities to be involved in this process were classic disciplines like aerobics and spinning, which consequently gave rise to aqua gym and hydro bike, and then the holistic disciplines, such as Pilates and Yoga, were adapted. There are two main reasons that led to these disciplines being adapted to water: one is purely commercial and the other is of a sports medicine nature. Modern needs force the fitness sector to continually search for new activities that are innovative and which encourage as many people and possible to take part in physical activity and guarantee people sign up to sports centres. However, on the other hand, it must be said that being in water has undeniable advantages from articulation, functional and motivational points of view.

Like many innovative disciplines, Woga also comes from the USA, or, more precisely, from the homeland of fitness and well-being that is California. This discipline was invented approximately 10 years ago by an American therapist, Harold Dull, who was the first of many to understand that being in water was one of the best environments to carry out various activities, including Yoga.
The term Woga is a compound noun made up of the words water and yoga. Perhaps it is because of the total absence of gravity in water, or because it reminds us of being in the womb or because a large percentage of our body is made of water that this vital liquid is the perfect environment for carrying out many types of fitness disciplines. Legend tells us one of the first Yogi was called Matsyendra, better known as the man-fish. It is said that Shiva taught the techniques of Yoga to his wife, Goddess Parvati, on the seashore, however she was not very interested, quite the opposite to a fish that watched the exercises curiously. Shiva noticed how interested the fish was in Yoga and he decided to spray him with water, giving it an immediate divine appearance, and he named it Matsyendra, Lord of the Fish (matsya meaning fish and Indra meaning lord).
Aside from myths and legends though, Yoga practised in water is perhaps one of the natural and simple things that exists. The positions and principles of Hatha Yoga are perfectly suited to a watery environment. Together with Asana (static positions) there is also Pranayama which is the control and regulation of breathing. Water makes movements gentler, unblocks joints, lengthens and stretches muscles, provides us with the right psycho-physical balance and improves our ability to concentrate. Working is water is also useful because it frees us of negative tension and prevents stress, insomnia and anxiety. There are no prerequisites for working out in water and it is not 100% necessary to know how to swim either because the exercises are carried out standing up, sitting on the bottom of the pool or even floating using special floats. In fact, it is even possible to overcome the fear of water through Woga.
The temperature of the swimming pool should be around 30°C because the majority of exercises carried out are static, therefore the participants must keep warm.

Advantages of doing activities in water

  • Almost no stress on joints.
  • Possibility of getting into positions which would be impossible on the ground, especially Asana which is difficult even for more expert athletes.
  • Water helps you to stay in positions because it has a higher density than air.
  • Water reminds us of prenatal thoughts and sensations when we were wrapped up and looked after by this vital fluid.
  • A large part of the human body is made up of water, which is why it is a natural working environment.
  • Sounds are attenuated in water so participants can savour the silence and the rippling noise that movements make. All of this helps to relax the mind and rediscover the right psycho-physical balance. A relaxed and concentrated mind is able to command muscles better, even during apparently difficult movements.

Yoga positions

Yoga represents a way for many people to embark on a personal journey in search of a deeper knowledge of themselves. Respiring, concentrating and relaxing ensures that participants rediscover their internal balance and are able to control the physical component better. Yoga is definitely more suited to water than Hatha Yoga. Each Asana, or position, is held in water for at least 30 seconds; a shorter time would not be sufficient to reach the right level of concentration. The transition from one position to another must be fluid and controlled, and the higher the density of the water, the more body control the participants will have.
Woga adds some interesting variants to the classic positions of Yoga. It is done standing up in water that comes up to the waist or shoulders, and many movements performed sitting down are done in the shallow end of the pool, whilst the majority of stretching positions are performed floating in water with the help of special equipment (water noodles and floating cushions, dumbbells and neck cushions). Music, like in all solo activities, is a useful background tool for reaching the right level of concentration. Those who practise Yoga on the ground are certainly more at an advantage when doing Woga, however this does not mean that you cannot go straight from nothing to Woga.
A class is usually made up of 3-7 people and a lesson normally lasts 30-45 minutes and the first part, usually 5-10 minutes, consists of doing specific breathing exercises in order to prepare the body and mind for the positions which will follow. Some of the most common positions of Hatha Yoga in water as the eagle and the tree.

Who can do Woga

Basically everyone, but it is particularly good for:

  • pregnant women: it helps future mums to relax and prevents the typical spinal column fatigue that occurs during the nine months. It is also good for the foetus because it improves the transportation of oxygen, and the water performs a general massage on all the body and helps blood circulation. During pregnancy, women’s ability to balance is reduced slightly, therefore some positions must be avoided on the ground, but in the water they can be carried out without any problems. What is more, this activity can prepare the women for a water birth;
  • elderly people: the relief on joints means that even elderly people can perform positions which would usually be impossible on the ground. It also reduces all those joint discomforts that occur over the years, such as arthritis and rheumatics;
  • people who have undergone traumas or surgeries and who need to do rehabilitation: Woga is a great activity to do following a bone fracture or a long period of inactivity;
  • people who are slightly or a lot overweight: often, obese people find it difficult to carry out physical activity on the ground because of their excessive body weight and the excessive pressure this puts on their muscular-skeletal system. Water reduces joint strain which means that everyone can do physical activity properly. In these cases it is a good idea to do Woga together with an aerobic activity on the ground which specifically helps you lose fatty tissues.

Floating supports

Standing up positions

Floating positions

WOGA

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