I’ve been an experienced swimmer since childhood. The swim team I belonged to swam its way to the state championships thanks to a fiercely competitive mindset and commitment to rigorous training. When I joined that team, there was a very muscular, very skinny kid that was half my size and a tenth of my weight, and when he hit the water he swam like a fish. I, on the other hand, was a sloth by comparison and, according to Johnny, didn’t belong there. I showed neither team spirit nor competitive spirit, and the day he called me out in front of everyone he drew a line that distinguished 100% from everything else. Either I was there to swim for the team, to train as a team, or I was a hindrance to the team. Commitment had no wiggle room. I was in or I was out.
Once I had chosen to commit to the team my swimming changed. Suddenly, I was conscious of finding ways to tailor my body for movement inside the world of water, and “the sloth” morphed into a competitive swimmer. Ten days later, I actually beat Johnny in a 25-yard sprint by one stroke, and we became inseparable friends. Years later, my passion for swimming infused with my professional expertise and natural curiosity would submerge me in another extraordinary and serendipitous experiencing.
When I was pregnant, swimming became my sport of choice. A mile a day was good for my body and great for the baby. Some days, swimming laps grew boring so I started toying around with variations on some of the cutting edge theories in human potential to keep things interesting. Knowing that the human body has multiple types of intelligence, that structure influences function, and that correct alignment makes peak performance possible, laps quickly became learning labs. Something as simple as seeing how many strokes I could take with a single breath led me to discover the correlations between the number of strokes I’d make and different, subtle body tensions that would either tighten my throat and congest my breath or let the breath move deeper into my body and last longer. Since each stroke had its specific breathing style and rhythm I started paying attention to the way my breath and strokes modified my alignment, my energy levels, and my psychological states. Bringing in my theater training, I began infusing my movements with sound, playing with the influence of emotions, and responding to the gestalt. It made for very exciting – and informative -swims.
One day I decided to let the ventricles inside my brain swim me. Throughout my study of cranial-sacral osteopathy the ventricles always held a certain fascination for me, and I had dubbed them sea horses of the brain. Focusing on the two large, lateral ventricles, I sought a direct connection with their motion and let them lead my swim. Within seconds, I felt the top of my skull morphing into what I perceived as the human equivalent to a fish head. The scary part was realizing this metamorphosis was beyond my conscious control.
As the front of my head elongated, my eyes and orbital cavities tucked up and inward behind my nose. A laser-like energy traversed my body from coccyx to crown and suddenly, I was streaming through the water faster than I’d ever gone before, completely entrained by a force field that literally carried me down the lane. My arms could not keep up with the speed my body was moving through the water, and once it impossible to inhale enough air I had to break out of the force field and get my feet underneath me. I felt disoriented and exhilarated, the way you do when you’ve been tumbled by an ocean wave, and all I could think was ‘ what just happened to me?’
‘You just swam like a fish!’ my inner voice cheered as I walked back to the edge of the pool, still dazed by the experience. All jokes aside, that is what it felt like. The elongated body, the lightening speed, effortlessness and ease, and the sense of seamlessness were all qualities I’d use to describe a fish in water. Until now, I’d always been a land animal that had conquered water, a visitor, or guest, but this time I felt amphibian.
Is such a thing even possible? Maybe. Could we still have the physiological memory and predisposition of our amphibian ancestry? Perhaps. And, wouldn’t that be a game changer! To find out, I took heart and returned to the water to retrace my steps as I remembered them. If I could tap into that energetic field again then it was real. To my delight, within a minute I was reconnected with this magnetic flow and finding it much easier to accommodate the speed, perhaps because expectation had eliminated the element of surprise and allowed me to accept without fear or the need for conscious control. Instead, I could follow the microscopic shifts taking place from head to toe as the morphing took place, and this time, notice more about the subtle realignment of my spine and internal organs as they readied for entrance into the streamline. This time I entrusted my arms and legs to know what to do to correspond with the rhythms of the water and as I gained proficiency another remarkable detail appeared: the proficiency of my flutter kick lay in the fact my legs and feet were energetically focused away from the direction I was going. Yes, my head led me forward and my feet, although propelling me forward, were actually heading in the opposite direction! This tensional line was critical to my ability to remain aligned with the streamline.
After the swim, I sat on the ledge of the pool enjoying the expansive state of physiological delight my body was experiencing, utterly amazed that I felt no fatigue.
A young man came over and said, “How did you do that? It looked like you were going faster and faster the longer you swam!”
“Not exactly sure,” I answered, shrugging my shoulders, “but it feels amazing.”
“It looked amazing so let me know if you figure it out,” he said with a smile. I nodded.
Every day thereafter, I continued exploring this new alignment of swimming like a fish. The more I practiced, the more certain I became that this ‘streamline’ was indeed the secret to peak performance swimming. This magnetism was, in my experience, the equivalent of being aligned with the Gravity on land because there is a similar experience of levity and effortlessness in movement.
What if we taught competitive swimmers to find their amphibian alignment in water? Aligned with the kinetics of water the swimmer’s weight, breathing pattern, and performance style would radically shift and they would be lighter, faster, and effortless in distance swims. Could we use the intelligence of water – our water – to access and partner with the intelligence and consciousness of Water? Years later, when I graduated from a pool to the open sea, I found new challenges, the pull of the moon, winds, undercurrents, weather conditions, and rapid temperature changes challenged my ability to remain in the streamline. You really find out how alive and commanding water can be. At times I simply abandoned myself to the tossing and jostling of the waves and wind, consciously addressing my fears of depth and disorientation so my body would lose its fear of depth and disorientation, and trust her –the Sea – to teach me to reallocate amidst disparate waves and currents. Once, I remember finding myself swimming in place, my strokes taking me nowhere and my partners gaining distance, so I tried swimming harder, kicking with more force, but the more I fought the more enervated I became so I gave up, rolled onto my back and wallowed in the buoyancy of the water, waiting for some clue that would free me from this strange defiance. What do fish do, I wondered. I assumed they used those moments to rest, or to digest; they’d know because they were fish. So, I focused on the water, its buoyancy, the density of its darkness, the sense of security I felt on my back compared to the vulnerability I felt on my belly, and I began rolling from my back to my belly, splashing my arms, following whatever cues my body gave as I waited for insight, and then, out of the blue I felt a strange adjustment switch in my lower abdomen and I was off again, back in the streamline. To this day, I have no logical explanation, no way to connect the dots and create a repeatable pattern but the intelligence is there, and so is my respect and trust with Water.
This experience triggered a waterfall of questions about the ways we’ve been accustomed to think about sports, training, and the concept of exercise. Terms like, to need exercise, working out, building endurance, getting in shape, hitting the wall, breaking through the wall, finding our second wind, and to work up an appetite, sweat off the sweets, burn off the calories, and whip our bodies into shape, bully and abuse the privilege of innate, biological intelligence and add stress rather than reduce it. How much of that rush we feel after a good workout is based on the adrenal exhilaration from working up a manly sweat, or driving ourselves to the next level or limit? That six-pack isn’t doing our internal organs any favors. Wherever we’ve got extra thick, dense, and overly developed muscles we’ve set the stage for hypertension, limited range of motion, improper alignment and dysfunction. No other animal ignores the intrinsic intelligence in its strategic design. Why must we effort so? Let us begin to look at how our beliefs and habits curb the natural potential of our bodies to perform at peak levels, and doing so let us discover what might we be otherwise capable of.
Man & Gravity
The sketch on the left shows the human body in misalignment with Gravity while the sketch on the right shows the dynamic resilience of the human body in alignment with Gravity. Can there be any doubt that the constraints of our ill-suited, social habits and habitat have led us to become misaligned?
Fish, on the other hand, don’t suffer our environmental challenges. They don’t use chairs and cars, or eat unhealthy foods. They don’t slouch, whine, wear uncomfortable clothes, or need vacations. Nor do they follow laws that make them lose tissue quality, tone, organ health, and suppleness. And, they don’t have false beliefs and secondary habits that curtail them. Big or small, they embody the essence of lightness and ease, and from a complete standstill (without warming up) mobilize in the blink of an eye – because they are the ergonomics of their constitution. Isn’t the same true for us? Aren’t these skills encrypted in the engineering of our structural design? How many times do we turn instinctively inward when our dependence on logic and reason has failed us? Every time. An organism is the living trust of that biological engineering and without it they lose sustainability. As we have. Unfortunately, our social system hasn’t preserved the ecology of our self-evidence and, consequently, we find ourselves in an endless loop of learning and unlearning while we strive to recover that seamlessness and continuity promised by our functional design.
Thanks to the mutability and regenerative capacity of our living intelligence these compromises are not yet irreversible, however we must redesign our social systems to compliment our structural integrity and compatibility with Gravity, and this kind of transition demands we refocus our existential premise from supremacy and dominance to resonance, affinity, and alliance.
Look at the image below.
The sketch transposes the core rhythmic pattern of a goldfish onto the human body. Forty years of research has demonstrated that this wave frequency helps realign and revitalize the structural integrity of the human body. The sketch illustrates how this vibration liberates those skeletal, muscular, and nervous system tensions that prevent us from experiencing the natural ease our bodies are engineered for. If only we didn’t become dependent on machines to induce the changes we are so readily, so instinctively capable of on our own.
Becoming insiders of the streamline let’s us become brokers of effortless motion and that seamless and reflexive alliance between our selves and our environment. Zero strain. Effortlessness. Flow. Discovering that our exercise refreshes and recycles our energies rather than spending us into exhaustion.
It’s not so hard. We modify our diets, change our pace of life, our clothes, learn new languages and embrace new lifestyles all the time, and we do so earnestly. We are looking for the perfect fit to enhance and elevate our wellbeing and thriving. In fact, that’s what I was doing, finding ways to overcome the boredom of mindless routine and feel alive throughout my swims. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to morph into a human amphibian or discover a streamline that would change my swimming – and my life – forever but I did. Everything I learned in water I have infused in all other aspects of my life and still only touched the surface of what we are truly capable of.
It is imperative we change our perceptions and appreciation of our selves and harness the ecological sustainability of our innate intelligence to become the living, sustainable environments we actually are. Anything less and we remain our own worst enemy, and the real threat to our existential survival.