Find your Zen, Find your Happy Dives
Ever wondered how divers find that nice neutral buoyancy state? You know, staying off the bottom and floating effortlessly through the water (which makes for lovely photos as as it turns out. It also makes happier and easier dives) and being able to stay underwater as long as possible. As it turns out, it's all about breath control. How often do you think about your breathing? If you're not yet a diver or maybe even a new diver, chances are you don't think to much about the breath going into and out of your lungs. We take for granted the involuntary response our bodies take control of when we need that precious air that keeps us alive. Divers on the other hand, are constantly aware of the frequency and depth of each breath (or they should be).
One of the most frequent questions I get as an instructor, is how do I control my buoyancy and how do I stay down longer? The answer, my friends, is breath control. Ok here's the deal, when you as a diver have let enough air out of your BCD (Buoyancy Control Device. The jacket you wear which attaches your air tank to your body) you sink to the bottom, you are "negatively buoyant". Once you are negatively buoyant, wonderful technology exists that allows you add a little air to your BCD to make yourself neutrally buoyant. This means that when you take a big breath in you move up in the water and when you let a big breath out you go down in the water. Once you get to that point, you can then use your breath to let you move through the water column effortlessly and allowing you to enjoy every moment of your underwater experience. It also keeps you from flailing around like a big goof. Neutral buoyancy is the goal. It keeps you from 1) popping up and falling down in the water in an uncontrolled manner 2) flailing around like a goof which then knocks into marine life and makes life pretty darn uncomfortable for everyone and 3) it keeps your breathing rate nice and even. Thus maximizing air use.
So this is our goal right? But, how do you figure out how to get there? Ok this is the most important advice you'll ever get in diving.....prepare yourself....KEEP DIVING! Experience is the Numero Uno way you will figure out how to get comfortable in the water and make the experience so very enjoyable. Take a buoyancy class, take advice from dive professionals but, most importantly keep diving! Practice makes perfect after all.
But, here's something else you may not think is even remotely related. Meditation can help you in diving. What the what!? Ok skeptics keep reading, tolerate me just a bit longer. There have been countless articles written on the benefits of meditation (here are some fun articles for all of you researchers out there: https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/02/09/7-ways-meditation-can-actually-change-the-brain/#48e932111465, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation#section4) and the evidence is clear. Meditation reduces anxiety, assists with brain function and reduces overall stress and memory loss and more. This is one of those things where there is literally no bad. Here's how it relates to diving.....One of the first things you learn in meditation is to become aware of your breathing. Breath in for a count of five, breath out for a count of 9. Or any variety of breathing numbers. This awareness of your breath triggers a response to your parasympathetic nervous system (you know the fight or flight system) causing a reduction in heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure (https://eocinstitute.org/meditation/meditation-relaxes-your-nervous-system/) thereby maximizing your air use. When it comes to diving this is HUGELY helpful and can help you be that diver that can stay underwater "forever" and enjoy all of the sites without the unnecessary flailing :). The more you practice, the easier it is to carry that awareness to your dive adventures and your buoyancy control. Because remember, it's all about breath control and maximizing your air use.
Now I'm no#t saying you have to go all Tibetan Monk and meditate for twelve hours a day. A simple 5 - 10 minutes a day is a great way to become mindful of your breath and see results (FYI stay tuned because you're going to be hearing that word "mindful" a lot in the next coming days). The most important thing is to just start a meditation practice if you don't have one already. Personally, I meditate every morning before the sun comes up. I find immense joy in being up before everyone else. Before the questions and the whining and the incessant need for snacks start. But, you do you. Do what works best for you. And if you're a big nerd, like myself, you may also track your breathing efficiency during diving, before and after you've started your meditation practice.
All in all, meditation has a ridiculous amount of physiological and psychological benefits. Undeniable. It creates a more mindful state of being and makes for nicer people. Nicer people make for happier people and we could all use that social domino affect. #amiright It also helps with your breath efficiency, awareness of breath and in turn, your buoyancy control underwater as a diver. So go on my friends! Find your zen state!