Swimming milestone: one minute of treading water!

Hey guess what?  You know I did in swimming yesterday?  I treaded water, in the deep end, for a whole minute!  You swimmers may think a minute isn’t long, but for me it was ages!

Treading water is essentially the thing that makes you sink or swim, so being able to do it feels like a pretty big deal.  I’m definitely still trying to get the hang of breathing properly while swimming freestyle – I keep lifting my head up rather than turning my head to the side – but what I feel best about is not panicking while treading in deep water.

The philosophical concept from my yoga practice that I have been thinking about as I’ve worked on treading water is

tapas: the willingness to pursue intensity for the sake of transformation

What is learning to swim as an adult if not tapas?  The key word for me here is willingness; this is a project I took on of my own volition and with the hope that by the end of the summer I would have undergone some sort of transformation.

There was a moment, soon after I first made it back and forth across the pool in deep water, where I realized that I could no longer say “I can’t swim.”  That sounds great, right?  If I’m honest, though, I have to acknowledge that there was a small, brief moment where I panicked at that thought.  Because in some ways we cling to our afflictions, don’t we?  Saying “I can’t swim” is something I’ve been doing for, you know, the better part of three decades.  So it’s kind of a crazy to have to let go of that, and swim out into unknown territory.

There is one other phrase I hear my teachers say often in yoga.  It’s a companion to tapas, and it’s one I take deep comfort in:

all moments of intensity eventually end

Look at me swimming!

In swimming lessons on Tuesday, a crazy thing happened: I swam!  In deep water!  And not only did I swim in deep water, I treaded water, in the middle of the pool, far away from the safety of the wall!

One of the women in my class asked the teacher if we could practice in deep water that day.  The rest of us looked at her like she was nuts.  But as it turns out, we had been swimming back and forth across the pool successfully for the last several weeks, so what difference did it make when the water was deep?  It reminded me a bit of first learning to ride a bike – you’re a bit wobbly at first, but before you know it, you’re off riding down the street with the other kids.

At the end of the lesson, I had a strong urge to shout “look at me swimming!” to anyone who would listen.  That’s a quote from Piglet, of course, in Chapter 8 of Winnie-the-Pooh:

Look at me swimming!

“Look at me swimming!” squeaked Roo from the middle of his pool…  ”Did you see me swimming?” squeaked Roo excitedly, while Kanga scolded him and rubbed him down.

“Pooh, did you see me swimming? That’s called swimming, what I was doing. Rabbit, did you see what I was doing? Swimming. Hallo, Piglet! I say, Piglet! What do you think I was doing! Swimming! Christopher Robin, did you see me–”

I think I need to repeat this performance at least once before I get too confident, but still!  Swimming!

Conquering a fear: adult swimming lessons begin

Yesterday I did something I’ve been meaning to do for a good long while: I took the first step in learning how to swim.  Though I had some lessons at the lake near my house growing up, I never got very far.  (Due to my water-logged swim shoes, I couldn’t kick my feet hard enough to propel myself forward.  The reason I was wearing the swim shoes to begin with?  I didn’t want to get my feet dirty from the bottom of the lake, of course.)  At some point I stopped taking lessons and my summers were consumed by other activities.  Now, at 27, I feel like I ought to make an effort.

I have some incentive.  You may know that Guy and I are getting married next April (hooray!).  We are planning to go to Australia for our honeymoon, and I would love to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef.  I don’t think panicking in deep water is going to serve that goal.  So this summer, I’ve decided that my Personal Improvement Project is learning to swim.

I’m taking an adult immersion swim class at Asphalt Green which is designed to make non-swimmers independent in deep water.  It meets Tuesdays and Thursdays through the end of August – 15 sessions in all.  I am pleased to report that I did not drown during my first class, so I can only assume it will be onward and upward from here!

I’m already finding some parallels between my yoga teacher training and swimming, and I hope to share more of those thoughts with you as the summer progresses.  For now, I can say that although I definitely have some fear and aversion (two of the klesas, or obstacles, if you’re following along in Sanskrit), learning to swim is something I know I can do.  It may be challenging, but most worthwhile goals are.  Like a wise teacher once told me, all moments of intensity eventually end.  We just don’t always know how long the moment will be.