Freediving may look challenging, intimidating and a dangerous sport but when it’s done in a safe and responsible manner, it will take your breath away both literally and metaphorically.
What is freediving?
Freediving is the practice of holding your breath when diving without using any breathing equipment. It is one of the oldest form of diving, as old as 6,000 years! You can be a recreational freediver or a competitive freediver.
In freediving, unlike Scuba diving, you do not carry any gear when diving. As such, moving in water is much easier. Nothing can compare to the feeling of unrestrictive movements you will experience in a what feels like a gravity-free environment.
Moreover, freediving allows you to have a closer and more intimate experience with sea creatures because you aren’t scaring wildlife away by blowing bubbles out of a tank (which makes fish keep a cautious distance from you). Scuba divers are limited in their vertical movements as they can’t go chasing after wildlife that swim too far above or below them because of the excess nitrogen they breathe in from the compressed gas tanks. However, a freediver does not have such restrictions and is able to swim for as long as one is able to hold one’s breath.
Now, let me tell you why freediving is good for you while breaking it down into 3 factors:
The physical & physiological aspect
Best part is that you can still freedive even when you are in your later years. Without having to lug around heavy gas tanks and additional weights, free diving is much easier on your body as you age. You will only need a pair of fins, snorkel and a mask. Interestingly, because one’s metabolism slows down when we get older and demands of oxygen is lessened, those who are older may find themselves able to hold their breaths for a much longer period of time.
As you train, you will increase your body’s ability to swim further, deeper and faster than before. With time, one will see improved muscle tone, expanded lung capacity and the ability to perform at a higher level of fitness. Those who experience aches and pains in their joints may find this a suitable form of exercise as the water supports the body while still providing resistance to train those muscles.
The psychological aspect
Physical fitness is important but so is your mental health. The more you train in freediving, the better you get to know your body and its limits. I’ve learnt that my body is capable of doing much more than I ever thought possible. Slowly but surely, you will learn how to master your mind as well by constantly pushing past your limits gently.
The most important factor of freediving is learning how to breathe as mastering the breathing technique allows one to dive longer and deeper. Similar to meditation, learning those breathing technique helps in decreasing stress. This is because when you breathe with intention, it sends a message to your brain to calm down, to relax your muscles and lower your heart rate. When our brains detect stress, our sympathetic nervous system engages: our heart speeds up, metabolism increases, and more oxygen is consumed.
You will learn to control your breathing which means using less air in order dive longer. In freediving, efficiency is key. Learning better body awareness and hydrodynamics enables you to move more efficiently through the water. You will be surprised how freediving is able to teach you how to overcome any fear or anxiety by simply using your breath and body. As such, learning to freedive has helped me build confidence in the water and doing any water activities or sports is now more relaxing.
Mindfulness encompasses awareness, relaxation, and acceptance – all of which are essential parts of freediving. I too do not keep mindfulness in just freediving and am slowly extending it out beyond the water. For example, I’m more mindful of what I’m eating compared to a year ago precisely due to freediving. One has to be aware of what one can or cannot eat before a dive because if you eat foods that produces high mucus, it may mess up your breathing or if you overeat, it may be detrimental to your dive as your body will channel more energy into digesting your food.
A large part of freediving is also learning how to control your mind. When freediving, one must enter into a trance-like state (aka “the zone”) in the water. In that state of calmness, the diver is then able to reach depths that most would think impossible. You need to be in tune with your body, thoughts, and feelings in order to stay in the present moment and maintain concentration. Your thoughts will be the loudest that they’ve ever been when you go deeper, but they will be even clearer than ever. Dwelling on any issue will remove any relaxation you’ve already established and send your mind spinning in a negative loop, which will impact your mood and your dive. By learning to control your mind, you control your body which also teaches you how to deal with stressful situations in a calmer manner. And this mindfulness can also be practised in everyday situations on land!
My personal favourite experience from freediving is getting a sense of inner peace like no other. It’s just you and the seemingly endless depth below, but you feel immense clarity of thought. The desire to stay underwater longer comes from an overwhelming sense of peace and tranquillity every time I dive into the ocean. While diving, there is a profound silence unparalleled to anywhere on Earth, and a sense of calmness envelopes you as soon as you immerse yourself into the blue, bringing a wave of pure happiness.
How to start freediving
As mentioned, freediving should not be done without first seeking professional coaching. I’m glad that I found Apnea42 Freedive and after training with them for 3 months, I’ve gone from someone who cannot hold her breath longer than a minute to holding it for 2 minutes and 30 seconds; could not swim past 5 metres without taking another breath to now swimming 75 metres in a breath! It’s a milestone!
It is through this whole experience that not only have I gained a new skill of freediving, I have actually taken a deep dive (pun intended) into learning more about myself and my mind and gained achievements in the three aspects that I’ve mentioned above. That is why, I say with much pride that deepdiving has helped me to become a much happier person than I was a year ago!
To find out more about freediving in Singapore, please visit their website at https://www.apnea42.com
Images: Apnea42 Freedive and Envato (header)