There is a belief in the yoga world that each of us is assigned a certain number of breaths during our lifetime, and the only way to live a long life is to make each breath as long as possible.
Just like a diver that relies on the tank of oxygen strapped to his back while submerged under water – some 20 to 100 feet below the surface, the only way a diver will be able to take full advantage of his diving experience is to take long breaths – otherwise the tank empties quickly and it’s time to surface again.
Since I first began diving in 2003, the number of times that I’ve gone out with my husband (who does not practice yogic breathing) I am always down at least another 30 minutes longer because of my slow, deep and comfortable breath. He, on the other hand, has a faster and shallower breath which uses more oxygen, faster.
So, just like that yogic thought of longer breaths for a longer life, we can consider longer breaths for a longer dive, too.
Yoga For Divers - Regulating the Breath
When I was first learning to dive, my instructor first asked me if I was familiar with yogic breathing or meditation, and said, “Just think of breathing through your regulator in the same way,” – and it worked.
Perhaps it’s not an accident that the mouthpiece connected to an oxygen tank used by divers is called a regulator.
Before taking my first diver under the water, I remembered my first experience using a snorkel and mask, and how I hyperventilated trying to breathe through the small tube – and that it only worked when I relaxed and stopped thinking about my face being in the water. The awkwardness of breathing through a foreign object only went away when I realized the fear and tension was all in my head. As I relax my mind, concentrate on slowing the breath to an equal inhale and exhale, I can transform from human to fish in an instant.
Healthy Breathing = Healthy Body
According to medical professionals, shallow breath, and constant pause in the breath (such as sleep apnea) can upset the nervous system, slow blood circulation and cause hypertension, affect muscle movement and digestion, and even cause anxiety, stress and depression – it’s almost like the body is suffocating…because it’s deprived of oxygen.
Essential Tips for Better Breathing
The golden rule in diving is “never stop breathing,” – although that’s a pretty good rule for life in general. However, when we notice our breath, the quality of the breath, we can adjust it for a healthier, longer life, and a longer dive.
Here are a few tips for improving the quality of breath which can be practiced under water, driving a car, or sitting in front of your computer.
- Notice your breath. What is the quality of your breath? Is it deep? Shallow? Quivering? Are you holding your breath? Just take a moment to really notice.
- Relax your breath, and start to count your breath to an even inhale and exhale, so, if you breathe in 4 seconds, you breathe out for 4 seconds.
- Place once hand on your chest and the other on your abdominal area. Practice consciously inflating the lungs on the inhale, and letting the naval lower towards the spine on the exhale. Just the act of inflating the lungs during exhale to maximum capacity helps to increase lung capacity, endurance during aerobic activities, increases blood flow in the body, as well as massages the surrounding organs.
- Notice where you feel tension around the body – where you are holding muscle tension and can relax the body, and let go. Notice your thoughts, are they creating tension? If so, bring your awareness to the breath and let go.
So, just the simple act of taking more consciously deep breaths to calm the body, mind and improve body functions can vastly improve our health – whether we’re on land or under water.