I woke up this morning from a dream about swimming. I don’t often go to the pool these days (apart from the one we teach in at Croft Farm). But there’s nothing quite like a quiet lane in a deck level pool. In my dream I was swimming breaststroke in one of these, keeping my head underwater for four strokes then coming out of the water and letting air in very slowly through my nose.
I’ve been interested in the Buteyko Method since reading Patrick McKeown’s Oxygen Advantage. He says towards the end of the book that the key message readers should take away is, get used to experiencing ‘air hunger’. Instead of being too greedy for oxygen we need to allow more carbon dioxide to build up. To practise this, let air come in through the nose slowly and silently, as if you don’t want your nasal hairs to move, so that you’re not getting as much air in as you feel you’d like. Natural, calm, deep breathing takes over. I find this particularly useful for getting back off to sleep when awake in the night. But what about in the water?
You may like the idea of stopping gasping and breathing calmly through your nose but understand that this isn’t conventional when swimming because it takes too long. But if you can swim slowly enough, swimming is a great way to practise what Buteyko (and Alexander Technique) teachers advocate. I had a vivid experience of this in my dream this morning.
But I wanted to go for an actual swim, today, for more experience of air hunger. Cheryl said she’d join me, and we booked and paid for two spaces in the slow lane at 8pm.
As the evening got darker and wetter we began to wonder if we could really be bothered to drive the 40 mile round trip in the rain. But guided by my dream we made our way into the night.
We passed three Road Closed Ahead signs as we splashed along the A487 for 19 miles but it didn’t occur to us this meant we couldn’t actually get to the pool. Just outside Fishguard, about a mile from the pool, the road was actually closed and the diversion turned us round and took us all the way back along the A487 to Cardigan, back home. If we had continued with the diversion, we’d have arrived at the pool an hour after it closed.
Somehow this evening, driving in the November rain for an hour, without the swim, being diverted back home from a mile away from the pool, was more like a dream than the dream of the swim, the message of which was clear.
Slow down, stop gasping. Breathe in slowly, softly, through your nose, less than you feel you need. Allow air hunger. Read signs.