Learning to Swim in a Different Way
I learnt to swim breaststroke at school and always enjoyed swimming but I knew that my style wasn’t very good. I always kept my head out of the water to keep my hair dry and the family used to laugh at my lopsided leg kick. When I married in 1958 the newspaper reporter must have been desperate for some human interest and wrote, “The honeymoon will be spent in Italy, both are keen swimmers.”
After one holiday in the 1970’s, when I swam more than usual to get fit, I had a bad neckache when I returned home. I went to see my G.P. and she straight away asked if I swam with my head out of the water. When I admitted that I did, she said, “No more breaststroke any more.” So I taught myself a form of backstroke but it was very inconvenient in a public pool.
I have a curvature of the spine and over the years have had physiotherapy and been given exercises to do so I started to do those in the pool, but it wasn’t nearly such fun or good exercise as swimming.
When I was 70, I discovered the Alexander Technique to help my back and learnt for the first time that there is a way of swimming using the Technique, which will not harm your back. There are very few Shaw method teachers in the country but I was very lucky that Stephanie was teaching in my local pool, so I asked her for lessons.
I started all over again from the beginning with understanding breath control, floating and gliding and then very slowly learnt to do the arm movements for breaststroke and then the leg movements. I never thought I would be able to coordinate the two, but suddenly with Stephanie’s patient help, it came. I am able now to do the breaststroke in a leisurely manner without any strain on my back. I love the feeling that I can take my time doing the strokes and there is no pressure to rush.
I thoroughly enjoy my lessons and practicing in the pool on my own. There are so many different strokes and exercises to do, so it is never tedious. I have since learnt back crawl and am working on front crawl as well as trying to do butterfly.
Before my lesson Stephanie gives me a Water Shiatsu so that my body is completely relaxed when I start swimming. Water Shiatsu is the wonderful experience of floating and stretching and is blissfully relaxing. Stephanie firmly supports my body in the water and I just relax. I let her move my limbs around exercising all the joints in turn. I feel that my spine is gently stretched and lengthened and I just lie back and enjoy the feeling.
During the past three years I have become fitter, healthier and physically have more energy than I’ve had in a long time. Even at the age of 73 there are still so many things I still want to do, and places I want to see, so it’s important I need to keep active.
– aged 73