Archive for July, 2017

My Swim Gym – Part 2

I belong to a gym, but I can’t face working with the machines- too boring, too repetitive, too mechanical, and too focused on only one part of the body.

Instead, I have spent the past 9 months working on a pool-based regime of overall health, strength and suppleness. This is a gym workout for the pool, which combines swimming and exercise, and can work most parts of the body.

My full regime in the pool area lasts about an hour, starting with a sauna of 10-12 minutes, followed by a mixture of a swim and exercises for 30 minutes. When I get out of the pool, I do 5 minutes of poolside exercises and finish with a 10 minute steam room stint. It’s not necessary to do the sauna and steam parts, although I find both of them valuable for muscle relaxation and skin cleansing. I also use these sessions to massage my neck and upper arms, and to flex and contract my legs. The heat is beneficial for tenderising the flesh.

In the pool I swim for a number of lengths, and then start to do a series of exercises, which I begin by standing in a shallow area (4-5 feet depth). Here I do 20 slow neck rolls in each direction, followed by holding my arms behind my back to hold onto the pool edge while pushing out my chest, which expands it and strengthens the arms and opens the shoulders. After this I stretch my arms behind my back while holding my hands together and walk through the pool, releasing my arms and re-engaging them every 5-10 counts. Next I bend my left leg behind me and grab my ankle, at the same time pulling the heel to my bum. I then bend my body forward to stretch the thigh which forces me to hop through the water, afterwards repeating this action with the right leg. After this, I grab one ankle, and dropping into the water, grab the other ankle and float while revolving my ankles in both directions. I repeat this again, but instead of turning the ankles, I expand my chest and legs by pulling them away from each other. Finally I sink in the water, grab my toes and stretch my legs and upper body as straight as they can go. This always results in a few spinal vertebrae releases. This is so much more effective on water than on land. Then, taking a position in the corner of the pool, I raise one of my legs to the side of my body and raise it as high as possible. I can raise my feet high enough to get the toes over the pool edge and so raise my foot to rest on the pool edge with the other leg dangling in the water. Then I stretch my upper body along the side of the pool to support myself. By turning my body against the leg that is supporting me, I can do a very good side stretch, which also stretches the arm supporting my upper body. I do this on both legs, in different corners of the pool.

If there is enough space in the pool I twirl in the water, spinning my body around and around horizontally so that my waist turns with the spin and my arms extend and help to sweep me around. I do this in both directions for about 20 spins. I then move to the edge of the pool and lift my body by putting my elbows and arms on the tiles and raise myself up. I keep myself elevated for a while. Then I let my body sink down until I am still held by the elbows and arms, but the weight is felt higher up in my shoulders. Lastly I go to the pool steps, hold on the the bars used to leave the pool, and extend my arms fully, placing my feet on the third step from the bottom, thereby stretching my hamstrings, bum and arms. Before leaving the pool, I take a slow swim, turning gently in the water, trying to feel what a dolphin must feel like playing in the water, or an embryo floating in amniotic fluid. We began life in water, and to return to it in this way brings back a peaceful sensation that can remind us of what it might have felt like in the womb.

At poolside I do a forward bend, a squat, a wide leg squat, a back bend and a Taoist exercise which I can’t describe.

When I was young I was afraid of the water, and I’m so glad I enjoy it now.

 

Advertisements

July 23, 2017 at 9:29 pm Leave a comment

My Swim Gym Can Heal your Spine – Part 1

Nine months ago I joined a gym. I didn’t join to use its machines, but mainly to swim, use the sauna and steam room. However the gym also offered yoga classes, so I have returned to a yoga practice that I abandoned about 10 years ago. The results of this regime have been good. I am certainly stronger and more flexible than when I started. Small bodily complaints, like my left thumb feeling painful (from arthritis ?) and an intermittent twinge in my left knee have both mostly gone away. My body shape has also improved, and a friend of my daughter said I looked younger this year than last. I have more energy and my gait (walking) has improved. My heart feels stronger too. All extremely positive.

This must be down to my regime. Looking into my swimming practice I wanted to understand why swimming is so good for me. Firstly I don’t just swim, but also do various exercises in the water,  many derived from yoga. Because my body is supported by the density of the water I am able to move in more weight-free ways than on the yoga floor. I’ll describe these in detail in another post, but today I want to discuss something different.

I knew vaguely that in evolutionary history we emerged from water to become land-based animals. Doing some Googling I discovered that the creatures that emerged were called Tetrapods (4 legged) and these eventually led to all land-based animals. But I also knew that somehow we derived from fish. But what exactly does that mean? What do we have in common with fish? After all. they live in water and we live in air. We die in water and they die in air, so what is it that we share with fish? The answer is that we share our bony structure with them. The fish gave us a skull, a vertebra (spine or back-bone) and ribs. We are all vertebrates.

The fish’s spine is covered with connective tissue, and their muscles are held in place (to the bones) by this tissue. This enables the fish (not all types, but most) to move its body (or dorsal (rear) fin) in a wavy side to side motion, which is how it swims. Now here is the interesting point. The connective tissue which covers the spine of the fish has evolved and moved in humans to the gel-like substance which is found only in the discs which separate our bony vertebrae. When these discs dry out, they cause problems, such as bulging or being compressed. This is what we refer to as slipped discs. Now I can’t tell you how to keep your discs wet, although I suspect that if you eat well, sleep enough and do some regular exercise (like swimming or yoga) you might be able to keep them in a healthy state.

Here’s where my regime comes in. We are two legged animals, and the weight of our upper body is supported by these discs, piled vertically one on top of the other . When we were four legged, the weight was distributed more evenly on our front and back limbs, and the spine didn’t have to work so hard.  Now when we swim, we take on the posture of fish, and our spine is once more held horizontally and not vertically, which gives the spine great relief. And since our weight is supported in the dense water and we float, the spine and discs are free to move as we swim. In the water it is easy to move our upper body and pelvis from side to side and we can also swim down into the water and up again (I see this as dolphin-like), bending the spine and giving it a great deal of exercise. I believe my swimming, which emphasizes these movements, is one of the keys to my current good health.

One other benefit of being in the water which is more spiritual than physical, is the fact that in embryo, we are surrounded by water not air, and I believe when we swim and submerge in water our subconscious mind (which is body-based) remembers that floating sensation in the womb, which must have been a pleasant one.  What is there not to like ?

 

July 23, 2017 at 5:01 pm Leave a comment


The Blog That Fell From The Sky

Reflections on an age of anxiety.

Categories