May 8-14 is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, spearheaded by www.mentalhealth.org.uk
A lot has already been written about the health benefits of swimming – not only for our physical, but also our mental wellbeing.
Here we’ll help you to find new ways of getting the most – mentally – out of your time in the pool.
Today’s hectic lifestyles and pressures can make it hard to escape all the hustle and bustle, to find a place of calm and peace. Sometimes the world can feel like it’s rushing by at break-neck speed and we’re barely able to keep up. As minimally-evolved humans, we’re just not designed to keep up the crazy pace of modern life so relentlessly.
Evolution is not that fast-paced, and we are getting more and more stressed-out as a result.
It’s unlikely that the march of progress will take a backwards turn any time soon, unless you take yourself away to live in a cave somewhere. One thing is for sure though – we all need to find a way to deal with it.
Taking inspiration from the ancient art and teachings of yoga, here are some ways you can help calm your over-wrought mind the next time you’re in the pool:
Yoga is all about teaching 3 basic skills:
- Pranayama – breath control
- Pratyahara – withdrawing the senses from the outside world
- Dharana – concentration.
Here’s how you can use each skill in turn to switch down the ‘noise’ of life and find a calm place:
1. Breath control
Kind of essential stuff when it comes to swimming! If you can learn to breathe properly in coordination with your movements, this will help you to relax and will also feel like much less of an effort. This is really the key to finding a sense of calm when you swim – you want to be gliding through the water as effortlessly, as possible, rather than fighting against it – not very relaxing at all! It’s worth taking some time and perhaps some lessons to get your technique up to par so that you can make the most of the meditative qualities of the swim breath. Once you have the breathing technique sorted, you will naturally find the space to become more mindful in your swim session.
2. Withdrawing the senses
This is quite easily done before you even get in the pool. Pull on a snugly-fitting swim hat, a pair of goggles and you’ve pretty much started the process of shutting down the outside world. It’s quite hard to hear what’s going on from under a silicone hat, and your goggles will provide a psychological barrier between you and the environment – especially if you pick mirror ones!Once you’re in the pool it’s really quite hard to hear what’s going on externally. Especially true if you swim freestyle where you spend most of your time with your face firmly pointed towards the black line on the bottom of the pool. The swoosh of your arms, the bubbles of your breath, the kicking of your legs – all of these sounds come together to create a strange world of underwater noises which block out anything else. Your vision will definitely be impaired, because no matter how great your goggles are, they will probably fog up after a period time and you will be pretty much in your own little world out there in the lanes.
Here’s where you can use both meditative techniques and mindfulness to great effect. Swimming is like meditation in motion – as you swim along, try to find a focus – for example the black pool line – and follow it. Or you could dial into the rhythmic, repetitive action of your body as it tilts from side to side (in freestyle). Maybe count your strokes – just try to forget about everything else and be ‘in the moment’, concentrating on your focal point and letting your mind find a sense of calm.
Swimming is a fantastic ‘feel-good’ sport, bringing both mental and physical benefits – the endorphins alone will set you up for a more positive and relaxed day, and it has been proven that swimming 3-4 times a week for half an hour leads to a decreased incidence of depression and anxiety.
So why not use the above techniques next time you’re in the pool to help bring about sense of well-being and balance for your mind, as well as your body.
Originally posted 2017-05-06 21:11:02.