kinetic, kinaesthetic, movement practices

Finding Flow: The Essence of Moving with the Environment

September 05, 2022

Dr. Stephen Smith, professor in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University, focuses on pedagogical practices in K–12 schooling and in health promotion and health care. He explores phenomenologically the kinetic, kinaesthetic, affective, and energetic dynamics of movement practices such as swimming, martial arts, and equestrian and circus arts. Dr. Smith has written extensively about landscape and waterscape “flow motions” as key to an ecopedagogy of educating physically.  

For Dr. Stephen Smith, becoming educated physically is more than just being well exercised and proficient in health-enhancing activities. Exploring movement sensations during swimming, Dr. Smith shows how being aware of flow motion—in this case, the passage of a swimmer through water—potentially brings an ecological dimension to bear on individualistic preoccupations with health and wellness.

In his paper “Swimming in Flow Motion: An Ecopedagogy for Health and Physical Education,” Dr. Smith posits that the kinaesthetic and tactile experience of connecting to the water through which a swimmer moves is fundamental to appreciating our relatedness to the more-than-human world. Describing water as our origin and the “medium of our most fundamental enchantment with the world,” Dr. Smith suggests that humans are naturally connected with and attracted to water. Expending further, he compares the flow of water and its natural currents with the flow of our own emotions.

In a companion piece, “Flow Motion and Kinethic Responsiveness,” Dr. Smith revisits Emilie Conrad Da’Oud’s “oceanic memories” and asks if flow motions reflect our primary origins. In doing so, evoking a species of evolutionary memory, he posits that becoming attuned to natural flow motions such as tides, waves, rainfall, and so on might be necessary for us to respond kinaesthetically to water on our planet and behave kinethically toward this precious natural resource.

The paper “Swimming in Flow Motion” further expands on this attunement to water, not only as a means of fuller environmental immersion but also as a way to improve physical activity itself. Dr. Smith introduces swimming as a manner of interacting with water, whereby bodily motions are cultivated in situ; swimming is a somaesthetic practice of ecological responsiveness.

He notes that focusing on the sensation of the water as the swimmer moves through it and noticing the currents formed helps stroke development and can thus improve technique. In other words, awareness of flow motion can help not only to connect the swimmer more closely with the natural environment but inform skill acquisition through heightened somatic sensibility. As Dr. Smith states, “Attentiveness to kinetic functions, aesthetic forms and kinaesthetic feelings can enhance the likelihood of experiencing energetic and synergistic flows.” In other words, he suggests that simply being more sensorially aware during any movement practice brings benefits to everyday life.

This awareness extends to pedagogical practices. “The pedagogical implications have not only to do with teaching Physical and Health Education but also with teaching across the curriculum,” explains Smith. “In that teaching is itself a practice of relating to others, what we do to enhance our somatic sensitivities and receptivities can contribute substantially to teacher education and development.”  

Circling back to deepening our connections with the external environment, Dr. Smith would like readers to know that “activities done outdoors can tap into the vital forces of nature on a scale that is humanly satisfying and educationally enlightening.” He adds that “swimming in natural waterscapes is just one example.”  


Smith, S. J. (2020). Flow motions and kinethic responsiveness. In I. L. Stefanovic, (Ed.) The wonder of water: Lived experience, policy, and practice (pp. 27–41. University of Toronto Press.

Smith, S. J. (2021). Swimming in flow motion: An ecopedagogy for health and physical education. Sport, Education and Society, 26(4), 417–428,