Being a scuba diving instructor and yoga teacher, a lot of people have suggested that I would enjoy free diving, and my response would normally be something on the lines of “I’m not interested in extreme sports and why bother when I can use scuba and spend an hour down there?!” However, in February I was asked to give yoga classes as part of a freediving course and so I decided to join as a student also – which I enjoyed far more than I had expected and in turn gave me experiential understanding of how yoga and free diving compliment each other and the parallels between the two.
On a physical level the postures remove tensions and gives us strength and flexibility, which helps us us with fluid and less wasteful movement in the water and higher comfort levels. Through chest opening asanas we can increase lung capacity.
During breath holding exercises we learnt how the urge to breathe comes primarily from rising levels of carbon dioxide in the blood, with these higher levels of carbon dioxide, the body stimulates us to breathe and can lead to a diaphragm contractions, which is simply the movement of the diaphragm, this can be a mild flutter to a strong movement. The ability to consciously disengage muscles, an important part of asana practice, means less Co2 production, and meditation can help us manage these effects of Co2 by staying relaxed and disciplining our mind to ignore them.
Everything that we experience in life starts with a thought. If our thoughts are not directed, disciplined or focused, not only our dives, but our whole life, is at play of a mind often more directed by fear and negativity, than any clear, positive conscious plan. Meditation is an important tool to help bring your mind back under your control, so you can have the experiences you want – including deep, relaxed, fun, blissful dives – when you want them.
Heading down the line past 15m the noise takes over…”I’m scared, I don’t want to, I can’t do it” so I turn around and reach the top barely even out of breath and knowing I could have easily made it much further if I hadn’t let the mind take over! On my next dive I consciously keep my awareness inwards and focussed, I noted the tensions in the body and was able to relax the muscles and smoothly made it down to 20m, without thinking I hung there for a few seconds enjoying the silence and peace of the oceans depth before making my way up the line to the surface with a huge smile on my face.
Yoga and freediving together access a deeper space inside of you, letting go of your mental constructs of limitations and diving through your soul, which is infinite.