The influence of yoga on scuba diving
Author: Roxanne Mann
“As I try to grasp for air, I realize I am in trouble as I look at my gauge and notice my air consumption level is low. I have to surface 30 minutes earlier than the group, my anxiety under water has affected my breathing and made me hyperventilate, using 180 bar in a short space of time. I race to let the dive master know I have to surface. I surface with no memory of any creatures or beautiful corals I have been around, all I remember and all I feel is panic!”
The perfect scuba dive would be a stress free and tranquil dive, which leaves your body and mind relaxed and a tank with left over air when you surface. Sounds easy enough, but to have a perfect dive, you need to learn to breathe and control your mind to avoid any circumstances going wrong. The best, most thorough way to achieve this is through yoga.
Yoga is realising your full potential with the harmonious union of the body, mind and spirit. There are numerous similarities between yoga and scuba diving; in fact they complement each other and work together to create a confident scuba diver. Both yoga and scuba diving are meditative (require a silent mouth and mind), both have a connection with nature, both leave you feeling weightless, both have healing qualities and both have a central concentration on the breathe. There are emotional yoga values that are related to scuba diving, such as AHIMSA which is a Sanskrit word for non-violence, being kind to living beings and yourself. Another common word is SATYA which is a Sanskrit word for truthfulness, knowing your limits and accepting when enough is enough.
Yoga practice with relation to scuba diving can be divided into two sections. The first section is Pranayama (breathing techniques), which is a method of expanding your life force using the breath. The second section is Asanas, which is another term for yoga poses. In order to get the full benefit, a combination of pranayama and asanas needs to be practiced by a scuba diver to improve what matters when diving such as low air consumption, longer bottom dive time, calmer mind, smoother breathing, relaxed body and swimming at ease.
Yoga asanas (poses) will strengthen, lengthen and stretch the muscles that are important such as the upper and lower body, torso and chest cavity. Less tension in the chest and a lengthened spine will allow your lungs to inflate to a much greater expansion. Practicing yoga asanas will help you move effortlessly in the water without tightening in the calves from the fins, muscle cramping or over exhaustion from swimming or other movements. Asanas for a scuba diver will include different poses to open the heart, strengthen the quads and arms, as well as lengthening of the spine.
Pranayama (breathing techniques) should be taught to every beginner to make a calmer, relaxed diver, especially in the first few open dives, as it can be very intimidating and stressful. There are many breathing techniques that will be beneficial before and after a scuba dive. When scuba diving it is important to exhale fully to clear the carbon dioxide. The build-up of carbon dioxide creates the feeling to breath rapidly, and this feeling is even more intense than low oxygen in a breath. Breathing slowly and deeply keeps your blood gases normal. Pranayama is even able to completely cure asthma in most situations. One of the many breathing exercises that would benefit scuba divers is ‘Ujjayi’ breathing (often called ocean breathe) which will expand your lung capacity and improve the overall respiratory function. There are many pranayama techniques that can be practiced, but all need to be guided by a professional.
When scuba diving the automatic response in a tricky situation is to hold your breath, the number one rule in scuba diving is to never hold your breathe. Therefore the importance of training your mind to breathe is vital. Night dives, cave diving, wreck diving and diving in difficult conditions have added elements of stress. Whilst scuba diving, floating in a horizontal position with perfect buoyancy, simply breathing can lift you up or drop you down, this shows the importance of knowing how to breathe correctly.
It is important to manage your breathing without panic – always breathe. When you are under water you have no option but to be aware of your breath, so make sure you have the correct tools to make this an easy exercise for you.
Yoga and scuba diving goes hand in hand. Practicing yoga will no doubt improve your dives and make you a lot more confident in the water. If you are a scuba diver and you are reading this, make the move and give yoga a try.
“The beauty before me almost takes my breathe away, I never realized how amazingly peaceful the ocean can be. I am breathing and I feel so calm and relaxed as I swim next to thousands of beautiful creatures. As I feel the current against my body I am reminded of a time when I never allowed myself to truly experience this magnificent underwater world. A shark passes by me and I am content and grateful to have seen this incredible animal. I am calm, I am breathing, I am happy. I feel a tap on my shoulder from the dive master to let me know that it is time to surface. I have 100 bar left in my tank because I am calm, I am breathing, I am happy. I am all of this because of yoga!”