TIPS FOR HEALTHY SEA SWIMMING
There’s no doubt how popular Sea swimming, including the open water of lakes and rivers, has become. A 2020 survey in Outdoor Swimmer magazine revealed
– 87% swimmers are aged over 40 and
– 65% of swimmers are women .
Why is this?
Gyms and swimming pools can be intimidating places for us peri, mid and post menopausal women. They’re often filled with much younger people, complicated equipment and lots of mirrors. But swimming outdoors brings us back to nature, with a gratitude for our bodies, and a camaraderie with other swimmers.
In the water, all bodies become equal
Here I will show you how can you optimise the health benefits of Outdoor swimming using:
- – Food medicine
- – Qi Gong breathing and exercise
- – Acupressure point
We can all agree, because sea swimming is never recommended to do alone, that we benefit from the social aspect of sea swimming, but physically how is it good for you?
In many schools of thought in Chinese medicine, cold and the ‘blood stagnation’ that it can cause, can be considered a very detrimental factor in our health.
A simple way of understanding this is to compare the blood circulation of a newly born baby with that of a 90-year-old. It is very rare to see a bruise on a baby. Even though they are always falling over and knocking themselves, their blood circulation is so good that they heal incredibly quickly.
But if you look at the hands and feet of a 90-year-old they can look blue and bruised, often due to poor circulation.
What happens as we age?
As we age the body can stiffen up, not only in the joints but also in the elasticity of your blood vessels.
Especially during peri, mid or post menopause, low estrogen levels can cause your heart and blood vessels to become stiffer and less elastic.
In response to the cold water your blood vessels constrict but instead of this having a detrimental effect this actually improves the oxygenation of the body, reducing pain and swelling plus improving lymphatic drainage.
In terms of Chinese Medicine this is a great example of the interconnectedness of Yin and Yang.
When something is extremely Yang it becomes Yin and vice versa.
For example, cold is Yin, but when our body experiences extreme cold it begins to shiver and our metabolic rate increases forcing the body to burn more calories and the blood to flow through arteries, keeping things warm. This is Yang.
When, either Yin or Yang, reaches its maximum strength, it transforms into the other.
An extreme example would be war which is Yang, active, noisy, hot, and full of movement, but at its extreme completion, you are left with death, silence and Yin. The cycle of life will keep turning, Yin and Yang will keep intertwining, supporting and transforming into each other, it is the nature of the Dao.
So be aware of the changes in your body as you enter the water. There is a tipping point where coldness transforms to heat. Feel the exhilarating bounce back as the cold Yin water triggers the bodies Yang response and flushes warmth throughout the whole body.
But don’t get too cold. Leave the water when you can still move your fingers and toes. You want to come out of the water looking pink, with a healthy flushed glow of Yang not deathly white, waxy Yin.
From a Chinese Medicine standpoint, too much cold will lead to stagnation which can be the cause of many illnesses.
Many of the metabolic processes of the body such as digestion, immunity and reproduction are seen as coming from types of fire deep inside the body.
Make sure that you have the physical inner strength to activate the body’s internal fires. If you are feeling physically weak or sick, you are more likely to shock the body, to get sick or, in the extreme, hypothermia.
Use the energy of food to work with your body and heat it from the inside out.
What to eat and what not to eat to keep warm
In Chinese Medicine food and drink have various thermal natures and dynamic actions on the body so making sure you have a warming, energizing drink when leaving the water to help stoke the internal fires.
Some helpful ingredients would be cinnamon, ginger, cacao and, of course, Chai with spices such as cardamon, clove, coriander and black pepper.
Things to avoid would be mint, cucumber, lettuce and sub tropical foods such as bananas.
FREE RECIPES FOR WARMING TEAS
Make these teas and bring them in a flask to drink after you have had your swim and after you have got dry and dressed.
Make sure not to stand around shivering after leaving the water
The Qi Gong exercises and we will practice in November specifically strengthen body balance, which can be difficult if you are standing on one leg, on pebbly, uneven ground, shivering, and trying to get your clothes on.
The first thing to do is dry your feet and put warm socks and shoes and boots on. Don’t wait until the rest of you is dry before thinking of your feet.
Your feet and ankles are the place to start because in Chinese Medicine there are some major points on the feet that influence the whole body energy, starting with Kidney 1 and Kidney 3.
The Kidney energetic system governs the core energy of the body – both Yin and Yang. It governs our reproductive energy. This energy isn’t just about making babies, it’s about regenerating our bodies at a cellular level; hair cells, skin cells, bone cells, blood cells. in Western Medicine we could liken it to our DNA
Every part of our body is constantly regenerating, the rate at which it regenerates slows as we age so it is essential to conserve this Kidney energy.
The Kidney energy governs our skeleton, our hormones, our brain, our very bone marrow.
Kidney Yin is in charge of nurturing the functions of the body. It is the rest and restore aspect of the nervous system, moisturizing and lubricating.
When out of balance we can suffer:
- – hormonal imbalance and extreme menopausal symptoms
- – dizziness or vertigo.
- – night sweats.
- – thirst and dry mouth, especially at night.
- – constipation.
- – ringing in the ears/tinnitus.
- – poor memory.
- – hearing loss.
- – sore back
- – Internal dryness.
Kidney Yang lights the fires of the body, digestive, protective and reproductive.
Poor Kidney Yang means
- – Chronic illness
- – Premature ageing
- – Impotence, low libido
- – Cold lower back and limbs
- – Excessive urination
Use the following points to improve both Kidney Yin and Yang
KIDNEY 1 – BUBBLING SPRING
Descends the Chi, brings the energy down.
Found on the sole of the foot between the 2nd and 3rd metatarsal bones. Flex the toes upward and find the depression for the thumb to press.
The bubbling spring point is our grounding point. We draw energy up from the earth through this point so if it becomes solid cold and blocked so too does our energy. Kidney 1’s downward energy invites calm, grounded being which is what we need if we want to get the most from our outdoor swimming.
KIDNEY 3 – GREAT RAVINE
Invigorates Kidney Yin and Yang, regulating hormones, menstruation and mood swings.
Find the point on the inside of the foot between the ankle bone and Achille’s Tendon.
These points are so important that I would recommend wearing booties to swim in especially in the winter.
Think of what happens to water when it gets too cold. It becomes ice, which doesn’t flow and doesn’t move. It creaks and cracks. This can happen to our energy.
How we enter the cold water is essential
Just like the Wim Hoff method, Qi Gong uses breathing exercises, focus training and controlled easy movements to improve our range of movement plus management of pain and stress. The release of endorphins during the breathing practice combined with the entry into the cold water can help with all manner of depression, anxiety and trauma.
Another crucial benefit this activity offers is for our emotional and mental well being.
Using Qi Gong breathing techniques, you can master breath control which can help you remain in the water for longer. The controlled breathing can also be used to stoke the internal fires, keeping the core of the body warm and circulation flowing.
The movement meditation of the Qi Gong practice will help you remain more focused in the water. You can get in the “zone” mastering your mind and body so that the two become one and you return to your true nature and feel at one with the water, the air and the people around you.
Use the Qi Gong Food Medicine and Acupressure to support your sea swimming, maintaining those feelings of post swim high right through the day and into the night.
Remember Chi Flow with Jo is a great community filled with women just like you
There’s discussion and camaraderie because we are live every morning, so just like a sea swim you can begin your day right, pointing your mind and body in the direction of health, wealth, community and happiness.
Cold water swimming does not suit everybody. If someone has been diagnosed with arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure or other cardiovascular diseases, it will not be suitable for him or her to start cold water swimming. This is because sudden cold stimulation will raise blood pressure, and can increase the chance of heart attack and brain stroke. Sometimes it can even cause sudden death. For patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, joint pain might get worse after cold water stimulation. For ladies who have period pain, winter swimming is also not advisable. For epilepsy patients, any kind of swimming is contraindicated.