For many non-swimmers or swimming novices, swimming can look like a daunting task — especially when we see some swimmers plowing effortlessly up and down in the fast lane, others standing there shivering in the shallow end, and others attempting a tentative breaststroke while keeping their head well above the water line.
However, according to Steven Shaw, creator of the Shaw Method of Swimming, the water is actually a very natural habitat for us humans. His mission is to help us find pleasure in swimming by learning how to use the body in a more natural and less harmful way when in the water. For example, Shaw notes that: ‘Swimming with your head pulled back out of the water puts undue stress on the neck and spine’, and so his method seeks to prevent this by giving swimmers a more natural movement.
So what does the Shaw Method of Swimming involve?
Shaw uses the principles of the Alexander Technique to underpin his specialised method of swimming. One of the most important principles in the Shaw Method is the avoidance of ‘end gaining’ — a process which, Shaw explains, ‘Is all about focusing on the result and paying no attention to the process.’ In other words, end gaining is about getting to the end of your set number of lengths or achieving another swimming target, no matter how much stress and strain is being put on your body. The Shaw Method seeks to avoid this by focusing on the process of swimming instead.
The real challenge of the Shaw Method is not so much learning it, but unlearning the bad habits we’ve been practicing for years.
The real challenge of the Shaw Method is not so much learning it, but unlearning the bad habits we’ve been practicing for years. In order to go forward, we have to go right back to basics — and indeed, you’ll spend a lot of time in a Shaw Method lesson just breathing, walking and gliding in the water, rather than swimming.
‘The feel of water against your skin improves your body awareness and sense of self,’ believes Shaw. Each different type of swimming stroke is broken down into stages, and then drills are used to help you experience and master each stage before the different elements are put back together.
Patience produces results
If you can be patient enough to ‘deconstruct’ your swimming through using the Shaw Method, the rewards can be fantastic. Not only will swimming feel effortless and more comfortable, you will also be more graceful and efficient. And because you won’t be fighting against the water, you will be able to swim for longer, too. So, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced swimmer, why not try out this pleasurable way of swimming?