Introspective Side of Freediving
So why explore this underwater world on one breath?
Some free divers will mention the calm mental quality that it fosters, the greater awareness of the body, breath and mind. There is a relaxing quality to feeling buoyant and weightless while defending in the ocean, especially when one goes past their buoyancy and starts to experience the sensation of free fall. It also allows for a quiet way to interact with aquatic life around you. A new world to discover, within and without.
As in pranayama, or breath work, when exploring the nature of breathing, in freediving you want to have the body feeling as relaxed and effortlessly supported as possible. Being in water allows you to identify different areas of your body that may be unnecessarily tense. You may begin to have another level of awareness to your response to a breath-hold, to your ability to dive and feel at ease, to use the minimum about effort and oxygen possible in any movements, to become more familiar with your diaphragm, in particular tuning into its flexibility and contractions and overall breathing mechanics. Diving down a simple line to different depths lets you experience your body in a new way, and opens you to a new underwater world. And yet, familiar patterns, habits, thoughts, and fears may start to rise in this new context, which can give insights into your mind’s inner workings. But more than anything, exploring breath, either in or out of the water, encourages a focused mental state, where you can watch and fully tune in and be present to the moment you are in. In this experience, you have to confront the danger of distraction, it surrounds you and is unavoidable.
Increased Breath Awareness
This heightened state of presence can last throughout the day. Back on land, you can appreciate the nourishing quality of breath on another level. Taking time to tune into your breath and simply slow it down has many parasympathetic, relaxing, effects on your body. If you notice your breath becomes short, shallow or rushed, at any point, simply taking in a slow, deeper inhale and exhale can provide an immediate change to your system.
Slowing down to a rate of six breaths per minute, may trigger the body to widen blood vessels and calm the heart rate. A long, slow exhalation also stimulates the vagus nerve, which links your brain to your lungs, heart, digestive tract and internal organs, and subconsciously soothes you down after a stressful, fearful or dangerous event. The more toned your vagus nerve response, the more readily you may enter into a parasympathetic (rest, feed and breed) state then stay in a triggered sympathetic (fight or flight) response. When you breathe slowly, the nerves inside your nose fire signals in a slower rhythm, and parts of your brain are prompted to do the same. Recent research is showing that slowing your breath to the low rate of three breaths per minute can increase theta brainwaves, which mimics a state of deep, slow-wave sleep. Being in this state may leave you feeling more introspective, at ease, calm, and ready to respond to the full, beautiful life events in front of you.
Breath is such a vital function. So taking a few moments to regain yourself, relax, slow down, tune in, readjust and center, is well worth it, whether on land, or when you are about to dive deep.