Swimming benefits for body and mind
Swimming - so much more than a sport
To reap the greatest swimming benefits, we need to realise that being in the water is a holistic activity for total well-being of body and psyche, and not just a physical "sport".
Read more about the physical health benefits of swimming
Swimming as Art
If we can come to see swimming as an art, then this can open a whole new world of exploration and discovery of ourselves.
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And at the same time we can enjoy a whole range of perhaps unexpected swimming benefits.
But first we must pose this question:
"Why am I swimming?"
When we examine our motivation for swimming, many people realise that their reason for being in the water is focused almost entirely on an outcome or a result that they want to "achieve" or "get to".
For instance: "I am swimming ... so I can get fit, lose weight, improve my body shape, lose that midlife belly fat" etc ...
Read more about motivation to exercise & midlife women - click
Our motivation for swimming has a huge impact on our attitude when we are in the water.
When the motivation for our swimming is focused on an outcome, we are inevitably setting out to achieve.
If we want to cultivate the art of swimming we need to shift our attitude away from this focus on achievement, towards an attitude of simply being in the water.
If we can learn simply to be in the water, then some magical swimming benefits can be ours:
Learning to simply BE in the water
We live in a society of rush, rush, rush, go, go, go, get, get, get....
It is often very difficult to say STOP. Time to stop doing. Time to stop worrying about the future or fretting about the past.
It's time to simply be.
To simply be - in the present.
This is the key to mindful meditation.
If we practise this mental attitude in our approach to how we are in the water, then we can really come to understand the way swimming benefits our state of mind.
Floating - the first step on the road to finding balance and poise in the water
Lie on your back in the water with your head back and relax.
This may seem difficult at first, especially if you are not a confident swimmer. You need to learn to trust that the body will hold you up - it will - if you relax and allow it to support your weight.
Let go of your inhibitions and breathe deeply as you enjoy the sensation of weightlessness. An experience that you can only enjoy in the water - unless of course you’re into space travel!
By learning to enjoy floating, you can start to develop a sense of body awareness. And importantly, this body awareness is a WHOLE BODY awareness.
The benefits of swimming as art, is promoted in a book entitled: "The Art of Swimming". In this book Steven Shaw and co-author Armand D'Angour suggest that if we change our mind-sets about how we approach swimming this can lead to us finding (or re-discovering) the natural joy of swimming.
Shaw and D'Angour apply the Alexander technique to swimming and argue that if we focus on total body awareness as we move through the water, we can develop our mind body connection and enjoy an uplifting and relaxing sense of wellbeing.
This change of focus from competition to body mind awareness can help us enjoy many swimming benefits.
It's a way of having a mindful and calming experience rather than stressful fight through the water as we mindlessly plough up and down our prescribed 30, 40 or 50 lengths.
Read about how mindfulness can help hot flashes
Swimming as meditation
This pure appreciation of our physical body in water – weightless and unrestricted - is unlike any other experience. And if we focus our attention, that can help us enter a meditative state.
By becoming mindful of our breath as we move through the water, by concentrating on our body's rhythmic rocking as we swim the crawl, or on the intake and expulsion of our breath in breast stroke, we can enter a mindful, meditative state as we swim our laps.
Mindful meditation can be a powerful antidote to anxiety and menopause malaise.
And if we enjoy swimming then this can be a great two in one, mind body intervention that can lead to a great sense of physical and psychological wellbeing, help us overcome our midlife insomnia and promote inner harmony.
Enjoy the fun of swimming and get fit - read more
Help for insomnia and the menopause - read more
Swimming benefits for breathing
Breath is life. Perhaps a hackneyed expression, but no less true for being hackneyed.
Our breath is the key to a harmonious and balanced connection between body and mind. How we breathe, the quality and quantity of each of our inspirations and expirations, are directly affected both by how we feel emotionally and by our state of health as well as our condition and activity level in the present moment.
Swimming benefits on breathing are considerable, because to swim well is to understand and become intuitively in tune with your breath.
To find the poise and grace of an expert swimmer we need to be able to combine our breathing in perfect harmony with the rolling and movement of our head, trunk and limbs - with our whole body.
This means working on our stroke until we have found its inner symmetry, and become aware of our relationship with the water as it simultaneously resists and gives way to our movement through it.
Learning to swim and breathe in a complete and holistic way can be one of the most healing and restorative activities you can undertake. By controlling the breath, and entering a meditative, reflective, body aware state, we can find relief from anxiety.
Not for nothing has water been used since ancient times, as healing force and as a spiritual symbol of change and renewal.
If you have difficulty or are not confident in the water, it really is worth seeking out a coach.
Improve your swimming confidence - read more
Or perhaps take some time out and visit a health spa, to enjoy the healing qualities of water.
And if you are interested in learning more about the way swimming benefits the mind body connection I highly recommend the book on the art of swimming by Shaw and D’Angour.
"Learn to be alive to the sound, sight and feel of water in all its natural, invigorating and life-enhancing wholeness. Become aware in the water of the inner rhythms of your body. Listen in the silence to your heartbeat as you float motionless."
Steven Shaw & Armand D'Angour.
The Art of Swimming. Ashgrove Publishing, Bath, UK, 1997.
Published July 9th 2011 .
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