Swimmers know that the streamline position is fundamental. So is breathing. I have known this but everything seemed to click after my return from California. Sam and I have worked hard on improving my stroke for months – extending, leading with my hip, tucking my head, and pulling water. It was coming together and my swims were improving but I often still found myself gasping for air as I swam, or at least feeling like I was doing so. I was also over thinking and Sam can usually tell when I am doing that and reminds me not to think so much.
I have already written about the marvelous massages I had after Barb’s Race. The thing is that Douglas Canier didn’t just give me a massage; he talked me through breathing and had me paying attention to how I was breathing. There are times when I feel like I am forgetting to breath but it is just the way my body is responding to breath. There are times when I feel like I am gasping for air when I swim, run or cycle. What I have discovered since coming home is that if I think about my breath then it slows and becomes regular. I don’t find myself gasping in the pool or open water. (Or not as much. I don’t have this perfected yet.) Breath brings a calmness to my body and activity. When my breath is right, the other elements of my stroke start to fall in place because I am not over thinking or struggling to get it right.
The other piece we talked about was alignment. This is certainly something Sam has talked to me about many times with my swim but, again, it finally clicked as Douglas talked to me and I have started thinking about aligning my spine perfectly which improves my extension. Aligning and leading with my hip is helping me propel through the water faster. I am still a slower swimmer than many others but I took five minutes off my mile time by adding these thoughts and practices to my repertoire. Last weekend I swam my fastest 1.2 mile time in the Savannah River (32 minutes). The current helped, as always, but so did adding thinking about alignment and breath. Alignment helps everything else I have worked on fall perfectly into place.
I have also started thinking about these elements as I run and cycle. Being conscious in my breath has been helping me reduce the anxiety I sometimes feel about speed (or lack of it) and is helping me focus and gain energy. Alignment also contributes to better form and being more relaxed through the movements.
What I am finding one more time is that with gentle reminders and the right timing, I am bringing together years of practice in many areas into my present life and activities. My musical education taught me how to breath and sit and stand straight. James tells us to breath in the space as we sing and rehearse. I have to notice where the spaces are for breath, however. Carolyn Heines taught me to stack the bones in my spine in her amazing yoga classes. Alexander Technique and voice lessons with Charlotte Anderson made me aware of my body in totally different ways than any other practices had.
The appropriate end for this post seems to be Namaste for all who have helped me this far on my journey.