A kayaking yogi? A yoga kayaker? The terms almost sound like those word combos known as oxymorons, such as jumbo shrimp or wise fool. But in fact, yoga and kayaking meld as smoothly as silk in terms of conditioning for your sessions on the water. As "WaveLength Magazine" explains, "The basic physical aspects of alignment, flexibility and core strength that a yoga practitioner develops can also serve the kayaker." Kayaking can be tough on your shoulders, hips, back and obliques. Yoga exercises and strengthens those areas. As a result, you'll be able to perform rescues more quickly, prevent injuries and kayak longer distances with more ease and comfort.
If you are new to yoga, you might want to start with beginning yoga poses, such as those offered at the Girls at Play website, which is devoted to water sports. The exercises stretch muscles that are easily stressed and strained during kayaking. They include Sun Salutations, Child's pose, Downward Dog and lunges. You're advised to be gentle with yourself and not strain to attain uncomfortable positions.
You can find somewhat more advanced yoga poses for kayakers at "Coast and Kayak Magazine." Instructor April Link recommends Standing Forward Bends, also known as Uttanasanas, to help maintain good posture and prevent back or leg injuries when paddling. Seated twists will strengthen your core torso muscles, which are more important than your arms in powering your stroke. Tortoise poses and Half Moon salutations increase your flexibility and loosen up your hips.
For a competitive kayaker, the demanding yoga poses suggested at "Outside Magazine" will increase your endurance and efficiency on the water. A Downward Dog with a Twist requires you to assume the Downward Dog position and then bring your right hand to the outside of your left ankle -- and visa versa -- leaving your head facing the side of your body. The pose twists and lengthens the entire side of your body to improve your posture on the water. A Nirvana Twist strengthens the oblique muscles to maximize stability. The Ardha Navasana pose, in which you are on your back on the mat with head, arms and legs just inches above it, blasts the core, and a Revolving Utkatasana opens up the hip area.
Don't adopt a "No Pain, No Gain" motto when it comes to yoga, cautions April Link. Respect your current level of conditioning and your limitations. Yoga poses should be adapted to your fitness level -- if you feel pain or strain, back off. Consult your doctor before starting an exercise routine, especially if you have any health conditions that might prevent you from participating in a yoga program.
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.