Alexander Technique Swimming

As well as being one of the best all-round forms of exercise, swimming can also be a great stress-buster, hangover cure and mind-clearer.

Many think, however, that because the body is cushioned by water, it is protected against injury. Not so. As with any sport, if not done properly, swimming can cause physical damage. In my case swimming regularly, but badly, caused tension headaches.

I booked a lesson with Steven Shaw, the founder of The Art of Swimming and the "horse whisperer of swimming", according to a quote on his website. His Shaw Method is based on the principles of the Alexander Technique, a complex discipline that improves alignment between the head, neck and back. The technique teaches you to relearn the way you do normal activities in order to prevent tension, injury and illness.

Early one morning, we meet at the CityPoint Club in London's Moorgate. Shaw is shaven-headed, brawny and calm – the epitome of a serious swimmer. He explains to me how he has re-crafted the four main swimming strokes to minimise strain on the joints.

In the pool, he immediately spots my weak spots: in breaststroke, my arm movement is putting strain on my neck, which would explain my headaches – I should be scooping the water gently. My kick could be improved too to propel me smoothly forward into a glide. With Shaw's help, I am soon putting the new stroke together. After an hour, I have halved the number of strokes in a length and can feel benefits to my spine and neck.

By the end of three lessons, my crawl – which was previously non-existent – is starting to feel natural, although my arm muscles will have to catch up. Since learning with Shaw, I haven't had a single headache. A few weeks ago swimming was mere exercise, now it feels like a craft.