By TWS resident Freediving Instructor Liv Rose
Freediving, as you may or may not know, demands a greater level of physical performance than your day-to-day snorkeling adventure. That physical performance is made possible via our mindset.
The foundation for successful freediving, in my eyes, is a present, stable, strong mind. As we all know very well, this ‘stable mind’ naturally ebbs and flows from day to day. So remember to be gentle, don’t put pressure on yourself to perform, sometimes it’s just not your day!
Many of you are probably self-taught freedivers, it simply comes hand in hand with the ocean-dwelling lifestyle (I know very well)! Perhaps you can comfortably dive to 20m to check the anchor, or maybe you’re an avid spearfisherman or woman (AMAZING)! Let’s ensure you’re understanding the basics which are vital to your individual safety at depth. This is where we talk about the mindfulness element of freediving. Being aware of changes within our body is key to understanding our personal limits. Our every day realities naturally cause us intricate human beings to overthink. Thoughts can be productive however they can also be destructive. Over time we can lose our ability to be still. To slow down our thoughts, and just be present. Activities or sports require a certain level of mental presence to perform, and in this case, freediving. A sport where our physical performance is matched by our ability to be relaxed. Relaxation demands a slow calm mind, therefore the quicker we can learn to relax, and simply surrender, the more productive our freediving journey will be.
Introduction to the Mind-Body Connection This is where we begin to regain control of our complex mind. One of the easiest ways to introduce this skill is simply directing our thoughts and focus to areas of the body. Here we want to surface an awareness of a certain space that may be tight or tense that we weren’t previously present with. This is a great way to relax, prepare your body for sleep, or more excitingly your dive! Here is a little exercise you can do, wherever you are (you can find great guided body scans on the web too);
Body Scan Exercise:
Whether you're laying on your bed, the sun-drenched deck, or floating on your tummy in the water preparing for a dive, begin to relax here. Bring your awareness to your body. How does it feel? Is it heavy, sore, light, energized?
Envision a bright yellow light hovering at the tip of your crown. Picture this light scanning down your forehead and brow. Releasing every muscle. Feeling the weight of your head increase as the light passes through.
Follow this light down over your eyes, your nose, your cheeks, your lips, and your chin, and your jaw.
Really bringing your attention to each area as the light scans down. Notice how areas of the face relax as you do so.
Repeat slowly down the entire body.. Introduction to Mindful Breathing We can begin to explore the power and strength of our mind through breath work and meditation. Once we’ve established a basic understanding of how to channel our thoughts in particular directions in order to slow down, relax and just be. We can then bring our attention to the performance of our breath. There are endless benefits of breath work and meditation, you just have to try it for yourself! Some benefits include; decreased stress and anxiety, epic endorphin release, improved immunity, digestion regulation, increased energy, creativity, memory, and focus! The list goes on!
Meditation. Mind, body awareness. Developing a perspective that we are not our thoughts. The realization that we can change the way we think and inherently feel, is the basis to empowering self-awareness. Begin your meditations by focusing on how the breath feels, and sounds. Is it short and shallow? Does it feel constricted and tight? Visualize the air circulating in and out of your lungs with each breath. Notice how this present awareness naturally slows down your breathing.
Pranayama. An incredible tool for regaining control of our breath. As simple as it may sound, this exercise ignites so many positive shifts internally, it's pure magic! I start my day with this simple rotation of alternate nostril breathing, here is a little sequence you can try; Using your right hand, place your thumb on your right nostril, your index and middle finger on your third eye, and your ring and pinky finger on your left nostril. We are going to alternate our inhales and exhales through each nostril, at counts of four. To begin, close down the left nostril, inhale through the right nostril for four counts. Close the right nostril and open the left nostril, exhale out the left for four counts, inhale through the left for four counts. Switch nostrils. Exhale through the right nostril for four counts, inhale through the right nostril for four counts. Repeat this exercise for 10min each day and notice how you feel afterward...it's an addictive feeling!
The above exercises are great ways to regain control of your mind and develop a stronger awareness of your body and how it may feel or react to certain situations, this becomes really important when freediving. Those responses in our bodies at depth or as we are surfacing, are indicating where we are physically in our dive or breath-hold. Remember everyone’s physical reactions to high levels of CO2 or low levels of O2, vary greatly between individuals. It is up to you to work out your own limits and physical indicators that may be telling you it’s time to surface for air. Practice safely pushing your limits in a dry environment first, to see where your body is at with contractions. Keep in mind to always train with a buddy, never ever dive alone.
Ways to maintain freedive fitness in and out of the water
Check the anchor! Many of you probably do this already, take the time to make it a relaxed, slow, controlled executed dive. Or maybe the hull needs an inspection or scrub?! Make it your challenge for the day to work on your carbon dioxide build-up. Ensure you do your surface preparation, have a buddy keeping watch, and always communicate your goals to your buddy when freediving!
Dry static holds. This is one of your most accessible forms of freedive training. Create obtainable breath-hold goals for every second day. Over time, slowly building your CO2 tolerance. (More on this in future posts ;)
Yoga! Not only is this activity the perfect connection between mind, body, and breath. Improving ones overall flexibility can aid in your ability to comfortably and completely fill your lungs.
Cardio fitness! See that long empty beach on that uninhabited island, yes that’s yours to run wild and free! Strengthening the respiratory system in any way is always beneficial to your overall freediving fitness. So get out there, get moving, get that blood pumping and that heart rate up!
Freedive! Ultimately, the best way to maintain your freediving fitness is to freedive! The more you adapt your body to depth (pressure), the more your mind realizes that this environment isn’t threatening, the greater your mental and physical improvements will be.
Always dive within your limits and always have a buddy with you in the water :)
Liv is a young ocean enthusiast, Environmental Science graduate, freedive instructor, scuba diver, surfer, and lover of all things from the sea. At twenty-eight years she has spent most of her young adult life exploring and working on the ocean. Following her passion to protect our marine environment, Liv endeavors to inspire others to fall in love and connect back with this blue element via her freedive courses and expeditions.
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