I recently had the honor of working with some courageous adults who had decided to face their fear of water.
All had serious reasons to be afraid of water and almost all hadn’t had an early childhood aquatic education.
What I soon realized was that they all had a picture in their head of swimming being something you do in a certain way and that it mainly involves moving up and down in a straight line.
I saw how swimming in strokes was born out of a need for efficiency, linearity, strength, competition and even left brain thinking. Freestyle, backstroke, butterfly are all superimposed techniques to swim in water as a sport.
With every previous attempt of dealing with their restriction in water, they had been met with a swimming mentality that said, push. For them, this had created the opposite to the desired effect.
I saw this as an opportunity to introduce them to the water as if for the first time and redefining what swimming might look like for them.
When we accept that we all have unique ways of expressing ourselves we can allow us the pleasure of exploring a whole new relationship to water.
Swimming became standing in water, walking, sitting, floating, wriggling, flying, being, sensing, feeling, pleasuring, releasing, cleansing, meditating.
Movement in water became organic, primal, fetal, sensual, liberating.
When approaching water like this, they were able to get in touch with themselves in a new way and to experience all the emotions that lay beneath their long term fear of water at a pace that suited them.
Their bodies released and became open to the experience of being in water. They had momentarily returned to a state of flow.
Release came in tears, in laughter and in joy. A thousand and one aha moments in an hour’s time in water.
Swimming in pools as an adult doesn’t have to mean swimming in lengths, it can be moving in shallow water, floating in warm water, exercising in water and so forth.
When swimming with children on the autism spectrum I again witness how their bodies experience moving in water in a different way.
Different minds, body shapes and nervous systems swim differently. We should be developing new ways in aquatic aquatic education that leave room for these other ways of swimming that aren’t about sport.
The term Baby Swimming is particularly misleading as it cultivates a mindset of preset expectations which are way beyond the developmental stage of babies and young children.
Perhaps aquatic or watering might me more appropriate than swimming here?
The #waterhappy approach says LOVE WATER and you will find your own way.
Have you been witnessing the same? I’d love to know more about the ways you work in water.