I recently attended a Somatic Movement workshop with Eric Wilkinson of Sun Moon Yoga. Eric describes Somatics as ‘a practice of movement, developed by Thomas Hanna (PhD), that enhances awareness of the body, leading to more efficient and pain free movement. It works by training the nervous system to be able to feel and sense the body, which in turn enhances the ability of the nervous system to improve coordination in movement.” I found the exercises in the workshop to be really effective and beneficial with many of the ideas applicable to swimming. Of equal value though, was the method of teaching used by Eric. Because we were lying down to do the movements, it was not possible to easily view a demonstration of each practice, so we had to listen and visualise the movements in our minds before attempting them. In sport, this method of rehearsal is called mental imagery. Elite athletes are encouraged to imagine situations as vividly as possible evoking all of their senses. Quite often, when I am teaching somebody who has a fear of water, it is the overwhelming of their senses that triggers their anxiety and prevents them from doing the things they need to do. The idea of rehearsing a learning situation before physically attempting it is an appealing concept. If you can imagine being immersed in water and the effect it has on your vision, hearing, sense of smell, taste and touch, you can reduce the ‘shock’ to your system caused by the actual event. In addition to this sensual preparation, a series of simple directions can be mentally prepared and repeated as a ‘mantra’ to help self-instruction of physical movements.
These ideas provide help towards the goal of being more present and in the moment when attempting activity in the water.