Today I’d like to introduce you to a sport discipline. This would be completely irrelevant for this blog if not the fact that if you wanna freedive there’s one thing you must make sure you do – drop the tension.
Is freediving free?
“A diving course for free?!” was the answer I heard practically every time I was telling someone I was about to take a freediving course. Well, that free word is not about money, although coincidentally freediving doesn’t require renting any special equipment or paying for servicing – you just go to a spot and dive. How is that possible?
Well, freediving is basically diving without oxygen bottles. You take a deep breath, submerge and submit yourself to the wonderful spectacle of underwater life – it’s almost like exploring a different planet. What about breathing? Just forget about it. It appears the capabilities of human bodies are beyond our imagination.
Crossing the limits
In 1960’s, when freediving was emerging as a sport (people simply competing for how deep they can dive holding their breath), the doctors were saying if you dive deeper than a critical depth at about 40 metres – you’ll die. Standard diving certificates today finish their most advanced courses at the depth of 40 metres, diving deeper is reserved for welders at oil platforms who wear space-like suits.
And freedivers? Well, they did dive below the critical depth, and… nothing happened! Thanks to that, scientists discovered something called Mammalian Diving Reflex where the same thing that happens to diving dolphins could also happen to a cow if it only held its breath and went deep enough. As you know, humans are also mammals and if we dive below the critical depth, our whole blood circulation system transforms, lungs squeeze into a size of an orange, oxygen is transmitted only to the organs that sustain our life and consciousness. And off we go deeper.
Submerging into one of the world’s deepest blue holes
Today, we approach if not cross the critical depth at the second level of the course. The world record in freediving is below 200 metres. Just imagine the depth of 200 metres. In most of the Baltic Sea, you’d hit the bottom.
It’s all in your head
Of course you can’t just jump in the water and dive to 40, or even 10 metres. Most people would just say “No, I can’t do it”, and submerge. That’s what we also do in many other spheres of life. We say “No, I can’t do it”, not realising it’s enough to unlock just one thing in your brain and yes – you can do it.
Take a freediving course. It will teach you how to breathe to slow down your heart rate and oxygenate your body well (and, first of all, it’ll teach you how to do it safe – don’t do it at home…), it’ll teach you Pranayama Yoga techniques that will help you also in your everyday breathing, it will teach you that forgetting about all the life on Earth’s surface and just meditative watching the amazing underwater life will make you forget about breathing. It will teach you to…
Drop the tension
The atmosphere at the course was amazing. All the instructors were completely relaxed, always smiling, positive as if they were high. Well, they were – high on the beauty of underwater world, hight on the feeling of continuously expanding your limits and having full control over your body, high on the meditative nature of freediving, high on breathing properly, a skill so few of us have. Atmosphere of a Berlin techno party, no drugs involved.
During our dry-land breathing preps (8 breaths take about 5 minutes) the instructors where saying relax your neck… relax your shoulders… make sure there’s absolutely no tension in your body… imagine warm light beaming from the centre of your body in every direction…
While we were making our first day 12-metre dives and second day 20-metres, the instructors’ relaxed condition was stunning. You were finally getting to the depth at xth attempt, thinking cool, I did it, now let’s get the hell back to the air! But then the instructor was approaching you and with a big smile and body language as chilled out as if they were sitting on a sofa and smoking a sheesha, giving you high five as if saying duuude, you made it, congrats! Then with folded arms calmly resting on their chest, suggesting don’t rush, have a look around, see how damn amazing it is down here! You can stay here for 5 minutes if you only want to!
What they were doing from the surface perspective was also quite impressive. They’d be explaining something to you while another student was diving (there was 1 instructor per 2 students) and when he dove deep enough they’d say wait a minute and just take a breath in and go to these 20 metres, hang out there for a while, come back and continue talking.
Just have a read about our snorkelling experience in Komodo National Park here and imagine what it would be to submerge into this beautiful world without any straining equipment you have to focus on, being able to join all these amazing creatures for a little swim. Imagine the feeling of freedom like flying enabling you to forget about everything and delight yourself in observing the beauty of the world around you.
Freedivers of Adventurous Sumbawa
Then, imagine incorporating it into your everyday life, breathing properly, realising that everything is possible and our bodies and minds are capable of doing things beyond our imagination. Remembering to stop for a moment, make sure there’s no tension in your body, forget about all your problems and focus on the miracle of life.
There’s a masterpiece film about freediving. I watched is as a little child, it got stuck in my head and I guess that’s why I eventually did the course (Koh Tao in Thailand is a good place to do it, there’s lots of schools around the world though). The film is called The Big Blue, just remember to watch the European (or best director’s cut Version Longue), not the American version as the latter is completely spoiled for the needs of American market. Happy diving!