We all know how important breathing is, it is why we live. In fact, we often classify living things like things that can breathe. After all, if we don’t breathe, we die. You take a breath around 20,000 times every single day, it is safe to say it is a big part of your life. This is necessary to deliver oxygen to every single cell in your body. This allows your cells to perform properly. So in the roughly 7.3 million times a year that you are taking a breath, how many of them are deep, calming breaths?
The importance of oxygen in our body is why we cannot dive below the ocean surface for extended periods of time without coming up for air. Taking a breath is an innate reflex that doesn’t require conscious thought, that is why it is so hard for many new divers to feel comfortable breathing underwater even with their gear. Once a diver becomes more comfortable they often try to take shallow breaths to conserve the oxygen, but did you know that taking deep breaths is actually good for you?
Why Focus On Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is something we recommend practicing every single day. If you think about it when you exercise you begin to breathe deeply, thus expanding your lungs. This powerful tool is easy to do and it actually lengthens your lifespan. More than just a well-known stress reliever, taking a couple of deep breaths will actually give you energy. In our everyday lives, we get busy and it is easy to begin to take very shallow breaths instead. Incorporating some deep breathing exercises before bed and when you wake up can build great habits that will actually have you conserving air on your next dive.
Once you begin to get in the habit it will become a bigger part of your day. This can lead to a much healthier and less stressful life. If that doesn’t convince you, do it as a way to promote smooth circulation, lower your blood pressure, or improve your strength and endurance.
Rather than worry about conserving air while underwater, during your dive is a great time to practice deep breathing. This is especially recommended when on a dive vacation as you will be in unfamiliar water. Being underwater allows you to take a deep inhalation and exhalation much deeper than on land. There you have it, scuba diving is good for your health. Taking a slow and deep breath while underwater will actually use less of your tank than more frequent shallow breaths. This will allow you to spend more time underwater, something we all want more of. Most divers are trained to cycle a deeper breath while underwater for precisely this reason. You will check your gauge and be happy with how much more oxygen you have. As breathing is the single most important thing you do all day, it is important to be good at it.
Deep Breathing Techniques
Now that we know how beneficial this easy task is, all that is left is to do it. Something that may seem easy enough on dry land, but doing so underwater can prove more challenging. Believe it or not, it is wise to use different techniques during the descend, throughout your dive, and on your ascend.
As you lower into the water, we recommend taking a slow, whistle-like, exhale as you begin to deflate your BCD. You want to keep your breathing in a slow fluid-like motion rather than an erratic holding of your breath and a deep blowing exhale. Continue to exhale slowly until your head is roughly 50 cm below the water’s surface. Once you have hit this depth stop deflating your BCD regardless of how full it is. Inhale naturally ensuring you continue your slow and relaxed mannerism. Continue the cycle of exhaling during descent and stopping as you inhale. This should not feel as though you are falling, you should gracefully float your way deeper into the water. In addition to the deep breathing benefits you will have from this experience, you will also get the chance to properly equalize your mask and ears. This slow movement will save you air by using less oxygen during the descent of your dive.
During the Dive
While being blown away by the world around you, enjoy the silence by focusing on your breath. We recommend adopting a 4-2-4 breathing cycle. Slowly inhale for four seconds followed by a brief two-second pause and a final four-second exhale. If you are having trouble with this, try glancing down at your dive watch and counting the seconds as you breathe to give you an idea of how long you should be taking. Taking deep breaths during your dive will fill and fully saturate your lungs with as much oxygen as possible.
When making your way back to the surface, switch up your breathing once again. You will not want to hold your breath at this point in your dive. Rather adopt a 3-4 cycle. This involves you taking a quicker three-second to inhale and immediately follow with a long four-second exhale. During this time, ensure you are expelling your lungs completely. Do this without pausing as this fluid motion should help to decrease the chances of any sickness you may feel.
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Many people do not practice and improve this incredibly important life skill. Something as important to your vitality as breathing should be taken seriously and incorporating some deep breathing into your daily routine will greatly improve your life. Especially as a scuba diver this simple habit can ensure your dive is much more safe and enjoyable. While breathing into your regulator may not seem like the ideal time to take a deep breath, it is actually one of the best times.
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