Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Meditative Power of Swimming

dolphin meditationArticle contributed by Laura.
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When I was 25, I went on holiday with my boyfriend to Cinque Terre, a protected marine reserve on the Italian Riviera. The relationship was not a good one, and the holiday was not a seamless week of intimacy. However, one memory will always stay with me. We were on the beach, arguing about some triviality, and my parting shot was to walk away in a huff and dive into the sea. A couple of minutes later, my mood had changed completely.
Treading water in a clear, azure Mediterranean, craggy cliffs surrounding me, I felt a wonderful sense of wellbeing. As I swam further out and immersed myself in the salty water, this sense of contentment got stronger. By the time I returned to the beach, I couldn’t remember what the argument was about – let alone care who had won.
My experience was, I have subsequently learned, far from unique. Triathlete and personal trainer Daniel Parnwell ranks swimming in outdoor lakes and rivers as one of life’s most pleasurable experiences. One of the highlights of his next triathlon will be the 2km swim in Lake Verney in the Swiss Alps.
‘To prepare, we swim in the Thames at dawn,’ says Parnwell. ‘There is nothing like swimming up a mist-covered river, as the sun comes up. The light is amazing and you feel totally connected to nature.’
Swimming’s therapeutic qualities aren’t limited to the sense of wellbeing that comes from being outdoors, either. Despite the chlorine, there’s a certain feel-good factor that comes from swimming in a pool. For Anna Goldrein, an online travel journalist from London, it’s all about what she describes as the meditative quality of swimming.
‘It’s a very peaceful form of exercise,’ she says. ‘I have a busy job, surrounded by people all day long. Going for a swim enables me to switch off from everything. I’m not being told what to do, like in an aerobics class, and I’m not being bombarded by stimulation as I am for the rest of my day. It’s just me and my mind moving through the water, which is very liberating, and because swimming is so rhythmical, it’s like doing yoga in water.’
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