Life in the city offers few opportunities to become your unself-conscious, five-year-old self. Swimming has become a very precious one for me.
Firstly, you are close to anonymous in the water as the majority of your body is submerged. Unlike in the gym or on the mat, there is no concern for how the movement makes you appear. And as much as I have overcome my bashful nature here, it’s still impossible to completely zone out from those around you as you compete for machinery and space.
Secondly, it’s a sensory extravaganza. We need only to think of the untempered reaction of a baby or toddler upon a dip in the pool. The feeling of water around the entire body is, to me, both calming and luxurious.
I also find the sound of water incredibly therapeutic, compared with the pounding of a playlist in the gym. This is apparently due to the brain interpreting the background sound of water as a non-threat which it uses to block out other, more alarming noises. The calming water sounds of a sleep-track work on this idea, creating non-threatening sounds that gradually vary in volume to prevent startling a person awake.
Swimming is also a gift to your joints. Since the human body is only slightly less dense than water, water supports the weight of the body as you swim. As a result, swimming is low-impact compared to land activities like running. So it’s a great way to build up strength and muscle endurance without putting stress on the joints.
I also want to note its impact on my creativity, some of my best ideas have come to me mid-length. I imagine this works in the same way as walking, in that it requires the simultaneous use of multiple parts of the brain.
For those looking to escape the intensity of city life, or to complement a Yoga practice with a regular cardiovascular/aerobic exercise, I couldn’t recommend it more.