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Relaxation and Freediving

What is the draw of freediving? I’ve shared how it gave me greater bodily awareness and taught me about staying in the present. Today, I want to share how it teaches me relaxation. Earlier on in my freediving journey, one of my instructors, Oli Christen, told me, “Each dive is an extension of your relaxation.” So what happens before a dive is that we are to be fully relaxed at the surface at the buoy as we do our “breathe up” or mental and physical preparation, and then what happens subsequently – our entry into the water, making our way down and then back up again, and recovery – are an extension of that same relaxation we experience at the surface of the water.

This sentence that each dive is an extension of my relaxation has been so impactful to me that I have since repeated it before each dive, together with what Oli also told me then, “Never sacrifice relaxation for speed” or for that matter anything at all that I may want to achieve underwater, including buddying and rescuing which I just learnt from my other coach, Patrick Swart. As without this relaxation, we can hardly perform any energy demanding task. In this way, relaxation has been so important for me in my freediving journey. It is probably one of the things I like best about this activity, that it teaches me how to relax and gives me that space to do so. For that one minute or so that I am holding my breath, I am to be as relax as I can possibly be. And it is this relaxation that I wish to extend to all of my life.

I wonder for how many of us life is a constant state of tension that is only interrupted periodically by moments of relaxation? Freediving teaches me that perhaps life is better lived the other way round – where relaxation is the default state to be only periodically interrupted by moments of tension where I need an alert state to problem solve. During freediving, I realized I need my relax mode to be able to perform certain tasks, such as equalizing my ears. When I am tense, I don’t have the mental calm to direct my body to override certain poor habits or to perform certain intricate movements like the gentle pinching of the nose and lifting of the tongue or streamlining of my body. Because my mind is occupied with other concerns.

Isn’t this similar to life? When you are in a state of panic or you sense danger, it is difficult to make reasonable and well-thought out decisions that takes into consideration other things that are also important to you. Anxiety wants you to make a decision that can immediately alleviate your misery, but the outcome of this decision may not be that which you truly want. You may make a flight or fight decision that will quickly resolve the tension within you, but does nothing else, doesn’t help you achieve your goals or isn’t aligned with your values and who you are. Freediving teaches me to do the opposite, to calmly attempt what I want to do, and when I meet with situations that test me along the way, to calmly assess each challenge and obstacle objectively to resolve them, and if not to remember this information to help me with my next dive.

And this is how freediving teaches me about life, challenging me to rethink the way I am living my life. And suggesting to me the possibility of living a completely different kind of life, one that stems from being at ease, having fun, taking it easy, being calm and relaxed; rather than being too on the ball, flighty, anxious, and too ready to take excessive actions.

Maybe life can be lived with much more calm and enjoyment. 🙂

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