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Breath Work: Are you breathing properly?

Welcome to my short Breath Work Series discussing breathing practices and how they apply to multiple aspects of diving and our everyday life.


So today I want you to ask yourself, are you breathing properly? Right now, as you are reading this, are you aware of your breathing? And I’m not asking this like some kind of yogi telling you to connect your breathing to your body or a physical therapist trying to help you reduce your stress, although I will talk more about breathing techniques, relaxation, and stress in another article.


What I am asking is if you monitor your breathing. Not just during diving, you should monitor it anytime you think about, and you should think about it as often as you can; but you should especially think about during diving.


Now, I know we all monitor our gas consumption to some extent and try to stretch our air out as long as possible on a dive. But do you practice how to breathe, how much to breathe, and when to breathe? If not, you should be.



Breathing & SCUBA:

Breathing is something we do naturally, so naturally we don’t put a lot of thought into it, until it becomes a limited resource. Now if you are a SCUBA Diver you know that when you are neutral you breathe in to create a small rise or ascent and when you exhale you create a small drop or descent.


Additionally, when you begin your descent if you exhale as you vent the air from your BC, this will aide you in your initial descent below the surface. Likewise, when you begin to ascend you exhale again, although in a more controlled manner, to control the expansion of air in your lungs.



Buoyancy Exercise:

Let’s take this a step further and try a little exercise; this is great for newer divers learning to achieve neutral buoyancy. Next time you are descending, as you approach the bottom or the depth you want to achieve neutral, take a deep breath and hold it in. Then add enough air into your BC to achieve neutral buoyancy.


Now when you exhale you should begin to sink again. Then take a breath back in and you should find yourself closer to neutral. Add air to your BC as necessary but try to fine tune your buoyancy with your breathing. Big breaths create big changes, small breaths create small changes. And don’t forget there is a short delay between the rise and fall of your buoyancy as you breathe.


Personally, I find it helpful to be slightly negative as I like to take deeper fuller breaths. Also, don’t take big gulps of air, but sip the air in through your regulator. Nice and slow. As one of our favorite instructors likes to say, “Sippy. Sippy.”


[Full Disclosure: You should not hold your breath when ascending due to the risk of an over expansion injury. I am in no way advocating breath holds on compressed gas when ascending or rising in the water column. If you are not consciously aware of your breathing when diving or don’t have a solid grasp on your buoyancy, then you should not practice this without an instructor. Don’t be dumb.]



The Benefits:

Having a better grasp on your buoyancy through breathing is going to help improve your air consumption. The more you think and practice your breathing the more conscious you will become of how heavily you are breathing. You’ll become more aware of when you need to adjust your buoyancy. You’ll stop using your hands and legs as much to maintain your dive position and you’ll become the envy of all your friends; even that one buddy who seems to breathe air back into their tank like some kind of mermaid. We all know who you are! Hahaha!


The biggest benefit you’ll find, is the more you do this the faster it becomes a habit, and a good one at that. You’ll find yourself thinking about it during the day, when you’re stressed, anxious, excited, tired, etc. etc. The more relaxed and calm you are by controlling your breathing the better equipped you will be for whatever it is you’re doing.


I’m not going to talk about all the benefits of breathing for everyday life, because there are plenty of other articles out there which already cover that subject and I’m not a “doctor”. The point is if you want to become more comfortable with neutral buoyancy and all the benefits listed above; think about your breathing. The everyday benefits are nice too ;)



As always, this Brian (owner of Bamboo Reef) your fearless leader. I’m always lost, but happy to share the journey with you.

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