We had three ladies on our residential course this week. All of them were capable of letting go, enjoying the support of the water, finding balance and being calm (in that order). But they needed a lot of work on this at the start of each lesson. And if they didn’t do enough of it, they’d rapidly descend into a panicky, uncoordinated state.
So long as they started with making friends with the water, they’d find the trust, balance and calmness needed for nice swimming. But they all needed lots of persuading about this. They were quick to assume they were relaxed enough to move on and learn new skills (strokes) when in fact nothing was really going to work until they were able to let go.
Sometimes as a teacher, you have to be a bit of a stickler (I think). If you’re too keen to please the pupil who is anxious to move forward and make progress, all hell can break loose and it’ll be you the teacher to blame.
So I repeated, again and again, ‘How smoothly are you regaining your feet after floating? Could it have felt nicer? If it felt a bit unbalanced, if your knees didn’t want to come forward and you got up too quickly, it’s probably because you were tightening your neck, bracing.’
All you have to do is let your head go. Give your head to the water. Enjoy the separateness of your head from the rest of your body. Let it go. When you work on this and it results in a balanced regaining of the feet, you know you’re on the right track.
If you’re nervous about anything in water, the first thing to work on is doing nothing! When you get in, can you give yourself to the shallow water? Instead of doing something to make yourself float, let yourself go, let yourself sink. For women, this might mean your bottom coming up out of the water so you feel like you’re falling forward ( but you won’t). For men, it may mean your feet staying on the floor because your legs sink while your head floats just below the surface.
The job is to do nothing, to capitulate, surrender to the water, let go. You need to ask yourself if you’re really managing this, or are you tightening your neck, bracing, doing something you don’t need to do to make yourself feel safe?
This act of trust in the water, of doing nothing, of letting go, especially for nervous swimmers but actually for everyone, is the best way to start yourself off if you’d like freedom from your own reactions in the water.
Sink or swim?….Try letting yourself sink!