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See also Freediving and awareness
Breathing like a YOGI
- the key to greater depths in freediving.
Not really. Newcomers that wants to get serious in competitive freediving get very stuck up by the idea that there is something wrong with their breathing, and that they must learn some secret special kind of breathing in order to develop. And some instructors are happy to endorse this fallacy. Usually referring to some ancient yoga technique or world champion behavior.
That´s the thing, we never feel ready to go. Holding our breath diving into depth is such a un-natural thing to do. There will always deep down be reluctance to stop breathing.
So you must use mind games to convince yourself - yes now I am ready. Using your breathing to boost your confidence. And in the end the only major thing you are doing in 90% in all these "techniques" is lowering your natural CO2 (hyperventilation) and get contractions later.
Top level freedivers have spent a decade or more trying out different preparations before a deep dive. They have come to chose a preparation that suits their bodies, their metabolism, their fitness level, their muscles, their choice of equipment, their choice of temperature, their choice of speed and their mental temperament.
The gullible beginner chooses the champion that is deepest or most serious and pays close attention thinking he should copy this champion. Thinking that there is ONE ultimate way of preparing for a dive.
- In every stage of your freediving career you will have to try different things in order evolve and to become aware of your body and its reactions to breathing and apnea. Trying to find the ultimate breathing or just copying a champion is... well, it could be counter productive. During your freediving career your body will change, and so must your training and preparation methods.
- Every new day of diving is a unique situation. Temperature, your current metabolism, tiredness, suit, surface conditions, your squeeze depth, wind e t c, it is all part of an equation that could demand a different breathing approach related to the circumstances.
- You are not normal, nobody is normal. Your body looks as different on the inside as on the outside compared to the next guy. Some people don´t get contractions, some people have naturally high metabolism (burning of O2 in the cells), some people have (or get) more acidic blood than others, some people have lower base-tension in the body e t c.
Bottom line: there is no ultimate breathing preparation.
What can I do with my breath?
You can reduce heart rate. Just stop breathing or focus on slow exhales (preferably by blocking slightly at the epiglottis). But remember heart rate is not only decided by your body's need for oxygen (your metabolism). It is also regulated by your stress levels (hormones released in the blood and neurotransmitters firing of in the brain), and your health status, and more.
And having access to more O2 in the body is not the same as having access to more O2 in the brain. http://freediving.biz/education/O2.html
Just as a curiosity I have an intuitive idea that a few packing sessions before the max attempt, stretches out the inside of your lungs and "opens up" the alveoli and O2 uptake can be slightly more efficient. This is just a hypothesis.
What makes you breathe
Breathing is not just about oxygen or CO2. Breathing can be used to calm your self, the heart, the nervous system, the blood pressure. A way to reach homeostasis in an aroused body. Yoga uses several breathing techniques to manipulate physical and mental states. One easy way is to block your air at the epiglottis, controlling the flow of air into a steadier calmer flow. Slowly in and out in a calm and erect body position. This is the basic breathing technique in parts of yoga mediation: psychic breathing.
Fact is, your normal breathing is seldom steady in the sense that it has a steady flow. The breathing described above can create this even flow that regulates among other, blood pressure.
You can also switch to a slightly swifter inhale and instead prolonging the exhale with the blocking, thus calming heart and slightly increasing oxygen saturation pressure in lung and maybe increasing blood pressure slightly.
Yoga breathing is basically about controlling prana - life energy. Or if you are skeptical to that notion - it is about maintaining health and energy levels. Kapalabati, Nadi Shodan, fire breathing, psychic breathing can be used to learn to control your breathing apparatus. And while controlling breathing, you are increasing mental control at the same time, since the mind is involved in all motoric activities.
The fact that ancient yoga describes the breath as the "body conditioner" and that buddhist monks refer to the breath as the "body" of breath indicates that there is more to it than just shuffling oxygene and carbon dioxide back and forth in a mechanical way.
The buddhist basic meditation technique (Anapanasati) uses focus on the breathing process as a mental mantra. Thus calming the mind and after a lot of training - one-pointing the mind. And reducing brain activity (remember brain uses 20-30% of your O2). But remember: controlling the content of your mind is much harder than controlling your motoric skills (movements). Setting a national record in freediving is easier than becoming a master of meditation.
In the end its all about CO2
However you breath, in what volumes, intervals, purges, sub dominal e t c the only interesting thing is: how much CO2 do you want to have when you leave the surface.
Diving with high levels of CO2 is not applicable for beginners. Tolerance to CO2 is a slow process.
When talking about CO2 tolerance one must acknowledge that we are most likely talking about a mental tolerance. There might be such a thing as slowly pushing your reaction levels, a grey zone between mind and body.
In the long run, deeper and longer dives will have to be based on less breathing. But one would be unwise not to do 2-3 full breathe outs (down to almost RV) before a deep dive since just a few breaths can increase total O2 volumes by 5%. And here sub-neutral breathing is the fastest way. Breathing between FRC and (almost) RV as effortless as possible..
Worth mentioning is that there is a reason why yoga breathing techniques always involves breathing through nose. Your blood gets more oxygenated if you breath from the nose. In our sinuses lives a nitric bacteria that follows our inhale down to the lungs. This bacteria acts as a signal for the blood to find the new air in the lungs. New air is the most oxygen rich. Breathing through the nose also cleans and warms the air as it passes through the sinuses.
Sebastian studies Sport Psychology, yoga and meditation. He runs a freediving school in Sweden, competes in World Championships and has had several National Records. He has written two books about freediving.