Swim yourself happy! Panel Expert Sally Dunford talks about swimming using the Shaw Method.

Learn to swim efficiently, effectively and gracefully!

For many people, swimming is a form of exercise in which they’ve never received much tuition (if any at all). Simply making it from one side of the pool to the other, without sinking, is often considered sufficient mastery of the skill, and swimming from then on is often self-taught, to varying degrees of success.

Unless you go on to train with a squad or club, you may never receive any advice on how best to swim – both in terms of actually enjoying your time in the water and in terms of working with the water in order to be effective and efficient as you swim.

Learning to feel the water and the support that it gives us - if we allow it to! - is key to swimming with ease and it’s a wonderful feeling that all of us should have the pleasure of experiencing.

The Shaw Method is a truly holistic approach to swimming and focuses on efficiently moving through the water with your head, neck and back in good alignment, minimising the risk of strain or injury. Steven Shaw, an ex-competitive breaststroke swimmer developed the method after spraining his neck and upper back through long hours of training in the pool. Having to quit the sport as a result, he learnt to relieve his neck and back pain through the Alexander Technique and, as a result, decided to undertake the full Alexander Technique teacher-training programme.

During his time studying, he began to experiment in the water to see if he could work out a healthier approach to swimming. Taking the principles of the Alexander Technique into the water, he developed the Shaw Method - a technique which is not only beneficial to the mind and body, but means swimming can be enjoyed throughout one’s life, right into old age.

The Shaw Method is a wonderful technique which I have been teaching for 7 years now. I too swam competitively as a child, but returning to the pool as an adult, found that I would get a very achy neck and shoulders after a long swim. It was only when I came across the Shaw Method that I was finally able to relieve this – I was so impressed with the technique that I quit my career as a chartered accountant to become a teacher.

The Shaw Method is appropriate for all levels – from those with a fear of water, to complete beginners, experienced swimmers and triathletes. All four strokes are broken down into a series of exercises which can be practised both on land and in the water. These then come together to create the full stroke, resulting in a far deeper understanding of each stroke and how best to work with the water to become efficient and effective as you swim. The focus is on enjoyment too, swimming should feel good and be fun!

I’ve taught many people over the years and take immense delight in seeing them either simply enjoy water for the first time or feel the benefit of the technique at whatever level they currently swim.

I can teach people with access to their own pools in the Surrey area, and now that swimming pools will be opening I hope to be able to teach in these again soon too.

I look forward to meeting you in the pool soon!

To get in touch with Sally you can email her at and you can find out more about her swimming coaching and workshops here.