DEEP BLUE ZEN

Combine the positive aspects of mindfulness and the healing effect of water and you get mindful swimming. This has the potential for significant healing on physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual planes. You start off with all your everyday worries and emerge with a feeling of happiness and freedom. Nicola Joubert is a firm advocate of mindful swimming, she even teaches it in Cape Town. 'Consciously appreciate the transcendent power of water and air, mentally capture the transition from land to water and you can take it home with you and tap into it at a later date', she says. We asked her for some of the wellness concepts and tips behind this movement practice.

Swimming with mindfulness

Bringing mindfulness practice to water has the potential for significant healing on physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual levels.

1- Identify the muscles actually needed when swimming.  Try gliding more, and actively deactivating muscle groups, then bring mindful awareness to each area of your body.  How much tension are you holding in your hands, your arms and your neck? Is it necessary?  Allow your body to relax and be held by the water and notice the difference.

2 - Smile while you are swimming and you will completely change your experience in the water. Try it to see the difference it makes.

3 - Every time you push off the pool wall for a new length create a new intention and focus fully on a single intention.  This could be a technical aspect of your stroke or simply a decision to smile, or to glide as freely as possible.

4 - Become aware of how your body moves and your entire experience will change. First comes awareness, then a sense of being truly present, then change comes. This is our own unique path to mastery.

5 - Be free from judgement, be completely intrigued by your body and how it relates to the water.  Minds caught up in stressful thought patterns, or on autopilot, prevent skilfull responses whereas a calm mind will move the body with intuitive grace.

6 - Drop the need to fight the water or thrash your way through it. We can re-think what we define as 'powerful swimming' by stepping back, relaxing, breathing and identifying the core. This is our true and ultimate power source. We can swim far longer and smoother from the core than using the arms and legs to pull or drag us through the water.

7 - Think of how you present yourself to the water physically and mentally. Bring, playful, mindful attention to your stroke.   Rather than using the mind to criticise, berate, or plan the next weeks shop begin simply by noticing and identifying what needs to become easier. Then bring that mindfulness to every stroke and every length.

Whatever our goals, whether using water for its delicious healing qualities, enjoying the wonder of the ocean or competing in a triathlon or open water race - bringing mindful attention to swimming is beneficial.  Of course technique is vitally important and needs focus, but mindfulness improves technique more efficiently.  When we become aware of what we are doing, we become more powerful - with awareness come the ability to change.

We salute Diana Nyad who says you are 'never too old to chase your dreams' after swimming106 kilometres over 53 hours between Florida and Cuba at age 64.

Nicola runs swimming and yoga workshops and private consultations in Cape Town and from Bocshendal Wine Estate. Contact her at [email protected], www.lana.co.za. She is also the Total Immersion Swim Coach for the Western Cape, contact www.totalimmersionsa.co.za