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  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • March 2018
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The inner and outer benefits of water yoga

Most yoga practices consist of physical exercises and poses combined with breathing techniques, and it seems like everywhere you turn, there is a new way to participate: yoga and beer, yoga with cats and even yoga with goats. While these are fun and different ways to get people involved in yoga, they don’t really add to the benefits of a regular practice. For those with joint or chronic pain who are searching for a beneficial exercise program, yoga and water can be the right pairing.

While water yoga is not an entirely new concept, the trend is building momentum especially among those living with chronic pain, joint stiffness, muscle tightness/tone, stress and other concerns. This is because yoga and water combine the best of both worlds: fluid movements and poses completed in supportive and buoyant warm water (no shivering allowed!). Exercises of this nature can be very beneficial, as it provides a low impact method of improving strength, flexibility and range of motion.

Improving flexibility

It’s important to move joints through their full range of motion (ROM) every day to maintain flexibility. Completing yoga poses in water can provide an opportunity to gently stretch the muscles in a gravity-reduced environment. In shoulder deep water, about 90 percent of the body’s weight is removed from the joints, making poses feel easier, yet still remain challenging.

Improving strength

Water yoga provides an opportunity to improve core strength by achieving and holding poses that are challenged by water’s buoyancy and test your balance and coordination. Your core includes the muscles in your stomach and back, which support your spine, keeping your body stable. In addition, water offers gradable amounts of resistance to arm and leg musculature in all planes of movement. So, although you may feel challenged, being in the water also supports your movement and allows for more response time. This allows you to move a bit slower, but still benefit from the exercise.

Improving wellness

Practicing yoga in a quiet warm water setting helps calm the mind. A quiet mind helps soothe stress. The combination of slowly controlled motions, stretching poses and encompassing warmth from the water can help reduce anxiety and depression as well. Water yoga can also help to improve circulation of blood (oxygen) and glucose (fuel) to the brain boosting cognitive function. This can help the brain stay healthier for the long term and can lead to life out of the water being more mindful, peaceful and centered.

In addition, the improved circulation of blood and lymph fluids can help balance our physiology as well. Improved blood chemistries, immunity and lower blood pressure could be a result of regular water yoga practice, which means an overall healthier you!

Who should try water yoga

While water yoga can greatly benefit those with joint and chronic pain, really, anyone can benefit with consistent practice. Those recovering from a knee replacement or other surgery, those who have anxiety or depression, those looking for a supportive program in addition to their current exercise regimen and even pre- and post-natal women are all great candidates for water yoga.

If you are wondering if water yoga is right for you, the best advice is to search for a class in your area and give it a try. I think you’ll find, with practice, the benefits can last a lifetime. May wellness be with you!

Betty Spear

Betty Spear is a Physical Therapist Assistant who has worked at CP for 25 years. She has served as a PTA in out-patient Physical Therapy and currently works as an instructor at CP’s Aquatic Center. For more information, visit or call 920-337-1122.


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