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  • Writer's pictureBrian

Breath Work: Breath Holds Are For Everyone

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


Today we are going to talk about Breath Holds and how they can benefit your everyday life. If you think about it, when we are dealing with stress or find ourselves under a lot of tension (physically or mentally), we unconsciously hold our breath. Not all the time, but more often than not.




There are a variety of reasons why you hold your breath, but a common reason is because you are trying to focus on the task at hand. Holding your breath when you are trying to focus temporarily stops the unconscious act of breathing and redirects that energy towards your stress response.


So, you might be asking, but Brian why would I want to hold my breath if it’s part of my stress response? Well, that’s because while a short breath hold to focus is ok, prolonged breath holds or holding too often can cause more stress.


This goes back to our last article: Are You Breathing Properly? and becoming aware of your breathing. Well, just like I want you to become more aware of the breath in and out, you should also be aware of when you are holding your breath.


Training your breath holds can increase your focus, reduce the anxiety and/or stress from the buildup of CO2, and raise your awareness of your stress response. Best of all it will improve your air consumption underwater and your buoyancy control, if properly paired with your breath awareness.



Breath Holds:

I want you to start off with something easy. Take a deep breath and then hold. Don’t take in too much air, just enough to get a good breath in. AND! Don’t do this while driving, walking, or any other activity. Sit down and hold your breath. Hold for as long as you comfortably can. Now let the air out in a slow controlled manner and catch your breath. Let your heart rate settle if it came up a little.


How did that feel? Good? Bad? Great? Not So Great?

Doesn’t matter. This was just the warmup.

If you found it easy to hold for a long time, then you already have a good sense of your stress response. I want to trigger a stronger response. That’s right. I want to stress you out while holding your breath.


Let’s do it again. This time as you are holding your breath, DON’T focus on the breath hold. Instead focus on yourself. Where are you holding tension? Try and relax. Let your body ease into the breath hold and relax the body. If the first breath hold was easy try this one on a partial exhale.


Repeat this process every once in a while, or whenever you find yourself in a stress response.

-       Clenching your teeth? Hold your breath and relax.

-       Getting angry or frustrated? Hold your breath and relax.

-       Can’t breathe? Hold your breath and relax.



Breath Awareness:

The more you practice this the more aware you will become aware of when you are stressed and how to de-stress yourself. This is a common practice for Freediver as they must overcome the urge to breathe and stress response by learning to relax when they are 30+ underwater on a single breath.


In a future article I will teach you some basic Freediver techniques for relaxing and improving your breath holds. But for now, just get comfortable with being uncomfortable 😜



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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