Monthly Archives: September 2014

Guest blog: What do you cast aside when you go swimming? By Colin

ImageSome weeks ago, Richard wrote about shedding constrictions {link to} when swimming. He talked about an occasion when he went swimming just wearing his swimming trunks instead of the wet-suit that he normally wears when teaching. He described how unconstrained that felt and went on to consider the parallel loss of constraints mentally and emotionally that can be experienced when swimming. The free movement of the body in the water can only encourage the mind to feel free too.
That blog post really spoke to me, as I fully understood what Richard was getting at, on both the physical and mental level. What I would like to talk about now is becoming even less constrained – casting aside all clothing when swimming.
I should say up front that I am not suggesting that you show up at your local municipal swimming pool and emerge from the changing room in your “natural state”. By all means give that a try, but please do not hold me [or my friends at Swim with Ease] responsible for the consequences! More seriously, there are various situations when skinny dipping is possible without danger of finding fame in the local newspaper.
Many people, like myself, feel no shame or shyness about their own body, but understand that there is the possibility of others being offended or maybe just surprised by its unexpected exposure. I feel strongly that other people’s feelings should be respected, even when they seem illogical or irrational. Also, I am sure also that there are many people, who are rather shy about the idea of public nudity. There are skinny dipping opportunities whatever your level of modesty.
There are numerous naturist clubs around the country, many of which have swimming pools. These are obviously ideal places to go, but are really for people committed to this “lifestyle” and have not appealed to me. However, there are countless clothing optional beaches – both official and “tolerated”. Obviously, if you are shy, you may be worried about being seen by others, but some beaches are so large that privacy is a possibility. In other countries, notably Spain, Portugal, France and Greece, such beaches are even easier to locate. If you live far from the sea, as I do, visits to the beach only happen during holidays. So another possibility is to look at rivers. Our country is criss-crossed by lots of rivers, many of which offer safe and comfortable bathing and also seclusion.
Of course, if you want to swim regularly, unless you happen to live on the coast in a place with a year round mild climate, you will often need to use an inside swimming pool. Many naturist groups hire public pools, for an evening typically, on a regular basis, to offer clothing optional swimming sessions. If there is no such offering near you or you just do not fancy that, a last option is a private pool. Many pool owners are keen to have their pools used more and allow friends and family to do so. In my case, I found just such a place. The owners allow folks to book one-hour slots, in exchange for a charitable donation, during which time they have exclusive access to the pool. I go there a couple of times a week and, as I am accompanied by my wife or a friend, there is nobody to offend and swim-wear seems superfluous.
If you have never tried swimming nude, I urge you to give it a try sometime – even if it is just the once. I will wager that you find you like it. But I have to issue a warning: shedding constrictions [in many walks of life] can be rather addictive …

Aquatic Senses

Why does the thought of being underwater evoke such varied reactions from people? I’ve mentioned breathing and buoyancy a lot in my blogs but not so much about senses. When I’m enjoying a meditative swim, I feel as though being submerged is helping to reduce the flow of information to my brain from most of my senses (smell,hearing,vision and taste) allowing me to feel the water more. If you are not entirely comfortable in the water the changes to your senses can be quite disorientating.

On land we rely mostly on sight and touch for spatial awareness. We are constantly aware of some part of our body touching a solid surface at all times and use our eyes to know where these solid surfaces are. In the water if we put our faces in and allow our feet to be lifted up, so that we are floating face down, what are our reference points for our position in the water?

We can feel if we are close to the surface as part of our body may be exposed to the air. We can see the pool side and pool bottom but they are undefined and visually distorted ( and that’s with goggles on). We can hear if we are close to the surface as our ears can detect the sound of our bodies breaking the surface even when our head is submerged.

What our ears and nasal/ sinus cavities also do is act as a kind of barometer, providing us with an ‘aquatic sense’ of how deep we are in the water. To someone not comfortable in the water this can add unwanted stimulus and add to anxiety. As we become more comfortable in the water our brains use this additional information to help guide our bodies through the water.