Do · Freedive · freediving

The Value of a Coach

Not many people realise that the issues they struggle with can actually get better through finding the right coaches.

Coaching costs money, so some people may hesitate to give it a try.

But one would not need continuous coaching.

The time you need a coach most is when you have a goal but you’re stuck – at a certain depth or with a certain issue – that’s the time when a coach can help you over your hurdle.

A student once asked me whether coaching is easy for me because I only go to shallow depths when I coach beginners, after all I am a 50m diver. I told him not at all. Coaching takes as much out of me as my own dives for myself, in fact way more.

When I dive for myself, I close my eyes and only care about myself, blocking out everything around me. But when I am coaching, I am fully engaging all of my senses to observe someone, to think for that person, to strategize ways to help the person overcome his or her issues and at the same time I am creating an atmosphere that the person needs to feel comfortable to make changes to his or her dive. I am plotting which is the most important feedback I must give to make the maximum improvement to the person’s next dive. I cannot be superfluous with my feedback as a student can only absorb and apply so much. Sometimes, I intentionally hide certain information so that my student won’t know what I am trying to do so that my student can achieve what I am intending him or her to do.

On top of these, I am watching out for dangers – strong currents, exhausted students, any hard objects at the bottom that my students may potentially knock their heads into. Or a discouraged student who may no longer be in the curious or playful mood that is often so needed for learning something new.

To me, doing all these, are carbon dioxide producing. They are more effortful than me closing my eyes and doing my own thing, only caring for myself and my safety.

When I tried to explain this to the student, he understood and gave me a beautiful analogy. He told me it was like a tour guide taking a group of tourists out compared to the tour guide being a tourist himself. Exactly! As a coach or instructor, one is looking out for many things, relying upon his or her years of experience, years of studying and thinking, to create an experience that is rewarding and enjoyable for another person. There is a certain responsibility upon that coach. This is different from when you are a student and you trust that the coach will take care of most things for you, including your safety and progress.

This is perhaps what you pay your coach for. To carry that responsibility for you for that dive session, someone to partner with you to help you do the thinking, diagnose your problems, provide solutions to them, and give you guidance to learn new things.

I had many coaches and instructors over the course of my freediving journey. I learned different things from each one. Each one helped me with different issues. Over time, I also learned to self-coach myself. I learned to use each dive to collect information to analyze between dives so that I can use the subsequent dive to diagnose issues or solve problems. I am grateful for my coaches who dedicated their dive sessions towards my progress, safety and enjoyment.

As a new coach, I am learning and the multi-tasking involved is still effortful and not yet second nature as it appears to be for seasoned coaches. But my wish is that with more practice and experience, I will develop greater calm, confidence and capability to guide others towards their personal goals.

To all students who had chosen me as their coach at Apnea 42, thank you for giving me that chance and honour to have been your guide. 🙂

And thank you Mark for trusting and entrusting me with your students.

Photo by Yael Eisner, taken at Freedive Utila of Mattie and me.
Do · Freedive · freediving

Is freediving dangerous? Three reasons why freediving is more than a safe sports

A recent report of death from snorkeling in Singapore caused many people to be hyper-alert and concerned about people they see freediving out in the open waters off Lazarus island. I wrote this post to emphasize how safe a sport freediving is, as freedivers are trained to avoid accidents and incidents threatening to their lives. I would even encourage people who like the ocean to sign up for an introductory freediving course to pick up some basic water skills and develop their water confidence.

Freedivers are identifiable by their big red or yellow buoys in the ocean. If you recognize us out in the waters, don’t be afraid to say “hello”! 🙂

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Photo of a freediving buoy and freedivers in the ocean by Yael Eisner.

Here are three reasons why freediving is more than a safe sports:

  1. All basic level freediving courses teach safety skills
    To earn your first level freediving certification, you must first be able to safety and rescue your buddy. The number one rule in freediving is that “you never dive alone.” In every dive, you will have a buddy who meets you as you ascend during your dive. Your instructor will teach you what you need to do to ensure your buddy’s safety and what to do in a case of emergency when your buddy is low on oxygen or has blacked out. A freediver who cannot demonstrably show that he or she can securely safety and rescue his or her buddy will not pass the course. This means that any beginner freediver already has more knowledge about how to help a person in need in the water than a person who has not taken a freediving course.

  2. You will learn knowledge about human physiology and how to understand and listen to your body
    What happens during a breath-hold? What happens to your body when you have a build-up of carbon dioxide or a drop in oxygen levels? You will learn the various stages one undergoes during a breath-hold and what happens physiologically in one’s body. You will learn to read these signals in your own body and learn how to respond to them. You will learn what signs indicate a desire for breath and that there are different stages of “air hunger” that you will go through and at which point you should end your dive. You will also learn how to observe your buddy for signs of distress and how to help him or her.

  3. You will learn water skills and how to protect yourself in open waters
    As part of the course, we also impart knowledge about water safety in open waters. Such knowledge includes developing a mindset of healthy fear and respect of the ocean, making oneself visible to boats in the sea, choosing a freediving spot that is safe, away from boat traffic, strong currents, and venomous sea creatures. When we dive on a buoy, the buoy is attached to a long rope that is hung down from it by a heavy weight and we are attached to this rope using a lanyard. This guide line ensures that the freediver does not get lost but always know his or her position in relation to the buoy, which is the starting and end point of each dive.

See the lanyard attached to the freediver. It is a safety feature that allows the diver not to get lost during the descent and ascent. Photo by Kohei Ueno.

We freedivers understand that there are risks to freediving. We more than overcompensate in our education and preparation before and during our dives to avoid these risks. In fact, any freediver who has gone through an introductory freediving course has more water safety skills and knowledge about the risks and danger of breath-hold and the ocean than those who have not taken any freediving course.

Freedivers are not daredevils. Like others who enjoy water sports like scuba diving, open water swimming, sailing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, wake surfing, etc., we understand the risks involved in our activities. And we take precautions to ensure our safety. We have a solid education structure and a safety system to ensure that everyone who wants to experience the joy of holding their breaths underwater can do it safely without endangering their lives.

Perhaps you can join us one day for a freediving course if you would also like to experience this joy of holding your breath and learn some of these necessary water and safety skills!

Freedive · freediving

What Three Months of Freediving in Útila Taught Me

At the beginning of the year, I spent three months on the island of Útila, one of the Bay Islands of Honduras. I landed on the island on the 1st of January 2020 to be a Masters student at Freedive Utila, and thereafter an Instructor trainee. Let me share what I have learned from devoting three months to the freediving practice!

Artwork by Kimberley Jackson. The different dive sites we have access to from Freedive Utila.

1 The Danger of Pressure and Expectations

I started freediving in 2017. Freediving appeals to me because it is a way to relax and get in touch with myself. Holding your breath brings your awareness to bodily sensations and your inner world. It teaches you to create your own safe space right where you are and leaves you with inexplicable feelings. I usually try to protect this sacred quiet space within me. Still, sometimes it is threatened by concerns about how others view me and my competitiveness and desire to outdo myself. 

This year was the first time I found droplets of blood in my spit after a dive. Freedivers who push their depth ­­limits are susceptible to barotrauma (injuries to tissues caused by changes in pressure). These injuries are usually avoidable when one is under no pressure to perform. But for one who is fixated on achievement, it is easy to ignore bodily signals and sensations and push past what one is ready for. 

There wasn’t a lot of blood, but having a fear of blood made even that small amount unbearable to see and imagine within me. After the particular dive, I heard a gurgling sound and had trouble taking a deep breath (taking a deep breath caused me to cough), both signs of respiratory tissue damage. People usually brush off these few drops of blood, believing that injuries are part of any sport and that all I need to do is rest. But I was concerned about what had caused this to happen because I wanted to avoid it happening again. 

On reflection of my own unique situation, I believe the reasons for my trachea/lung squeeze was owing to a conflagration of factors that were related to me being hard on myself despite being slow to adapt to the new training conditions and environment.

I was ambitious when I left home. I had goals in mind for an upcoming competition. And a training plan that, if followed rigidly, “should” lead to the results I was targeting for or so I thought. But this plan did not take into consideration that I had difficulties adapting to the new country, school, system, social environment, diet, training, and water conditions.

Moreover, I came to the island at a low point in my life, and I was depressed and lonely. This training plan did not consider that everything around me and within me, even those seemingly unrelated to freediving, took a toll on my mental state and body and affected my mental clarity, judgment, and performance.

Tex, the owner of Freedive Utila and my instructor, dives by two principles. He tells his students: 1) Listen to your body. 2) Don’t do anything that is hard. If taken seriously, these principles imply that the sport of freediving is accessible to anybody. It encourages one to stay at where one is at until one is ready to progress further. Natalia Molchanov, the world’s greatest freediver, advises in her manuals that we are not to be obsessed with numbers but be realistic about our limits. She wrote, “Never compare yourself to other freedivers. Everybody has their own way. Feel your body, listen to it. This will help you not only to dive safely but also to know and accept yourself and truly enjoy a new underwater experience.”

Over time, I learned to accept that my training plan was not going to work out. Rather than push myself to attempt an unattainable goal, I decided to use freediving once again as a therapy to bring back health and wellness to my mind, emotions, and body. I re-examined my expectations and adjusted my standards. I decided that freediving was going to work for me rather than I work for it.

Photo by Miska Kontiainen. Really liked the fact that we get to pick up some boating knowledge and skills.

2 The Fun of Curiosity and Wonder

Here at Utila, the direction of the wind and currents determines the site we go to and the available depth we have when we dive. The beauty of our dependence on weather conditions taught me the importance of flexibility in training goals and having fun. I learned that depth need not be the only measure of one’s progress. There was a lot one could work on at shallower depths other than extending one’s personal best (PB).

I watched as my friends Caspar and Yilmaz and then Miska discovered that they could hands-free equalise. Many people think it’s impossible to learn hands-free equalization because they are unwilling to take a step back and become like beginners again, especially when they can now easily Frenzel or do the Mouthfill to deeper depths. It seems almost foolish to return to the beginning, struggling to make it past a few meters of depth, with a completely new technique. But my friends with their childlike spirit of faith, exploration, and tenacity discovered that they could also perform an equalization technique that has a reputation of being “impossible to learn.” 

Is it any wonder that many discoveries are made when we have fun with nothing to prove and with all the time to lose?

We also tried diving as fast as we could, variable weight, diving to the bottom of the ocean and lying in the sand, no fins to the bottom and then kick off from the sand back up to the surface, and one-by-one following closely behind Tex through the many decks of the Halliburton Shipwreck. Yes, it was during a variable weight dive that I discovered I could Frenzel. Being dragged through a water column at such a high speed made me instinctively picked the method of equalization that was the fastest, and it seems putting my hands to my nose and rapidly firing my tongue was my body’s method of choice for this style of diving.

Each day presented different opportunities. I was experiencing the fun of freediving again.

And this I did at Freedive Utila with many amazing people. I tried so many things I didn’t try previously in my pursuit of depth. For me, pursuing depth meant fine-tuning techniques that were known to work, instead of experimenting with new and unproven techniques. I wanted to achieve the greatest progress in the shortest amount of time. However, letting that go opened my mind to what progress means.

I learned in my time at Freedive Utila to view each problem I had with curiosity rather than criticism. Since I arrived, an issue that has been bugging me was a squeaky left ear, likely a result of middle ear inflammation. One day, Caspar was practicing his Mouthfill, and he did it from the surface with full lungs. This gave me an idea, why don’t I try it too? To my surprise, with this change in equalization technique, the squeaky ear issue went away. Apparently, before switching to this method, I was equalizing a little too slowly with my intermittent hands-free equalization, causing pressure to build up on my eardrums. While this was not so much an issue with short diving sessions where I only perform a few dives, it was too much for my body for the longer dive sessions that we have here at Freedive Utila that can last up to three hours. With this new technique, my eardrums were continuously inflated and never experience the water’s pressure. Realising a constant pressure Mouthfill may actually work for me also made me open to trying noseclip diving, something I was previously resistant to.

Another problem I had that used to make me think I was not cut out for freediving was my early contractions. Probably because I am perpetually high strung, I have a naturally high baseline level of CO2 when using a breathe up that works for most people. While having contractions during diving is common and not an issue and signals the MDR is working, I wanted to know if I could delay them by awhile to increase the period of relaxation during my dive. During one of the static sessions, I decided to try a different type of breathe up that reduces the CO2 content in my body. And lo and behold, for the first time ever, I experienced a “normal” breath-hold which had distinct segments of relaxation and contraction and hypoxia. The arrival of the contractions, rather than being premature, matched the lowering level of O2 in my body more closely. And with this breath-hold, I managed to do a PB!

Hitting a PB for static after trying a new breathe up!

Ironically, progress comes easily when one is having fun.

From these experiences, I learned to listen to my body and find unique solutions to my unique problems. It is true what Natalia Molchanova said that regardless of how long one has been doing the sports, with a curious mind and open heart, it is possible to “truly enjoy a new underwater experience” with every dive.

3 The Joy of Exhale Diving

Unique to the Apnea Total System, besides the lack of depth requirements for their courses and focus on students’ experiences rather than performances, is their teaching of exhale diving in the Advanced course (equivalent to Level 2 for the other certifications). Exhale diving means diving with anything less than full lungs. The most common is the functional residual capacity (FRC) dive, which is diving with the amount of air after a passive exhale.

Being new to the Apnea Total system, I did not have much experience with exhale diving. Even the thought of it scares me. Exhale diving may not appeal to a diver who has been working on depth because exhale diving exposes the diver to higher pressures earlier, hence regressing one in meters. It does not sound attractive to train exhale dives when depth is available. But! There are many benefits to exhale diving, including being less buoyant and being able to conserve more oxygen during the most energy-consuming phase of the dive – the entry and beginning meters of a dive. 

One particular day where we were at the Shipwreck with a depth limit of 33m, I devoted that session solely to exhale diving. Usually, when the body is still warming up, the first few dives are the most uncomfortable. And on other occasions when I’ve tried exhale diving, this is usually the point where I stop, hence reinforcing my belief that exhale diving was challenging and uncomfortable. However, because I only did exhale diving in this session, I slowly realised that the dives became more and more comfortable, and I went deeper and deeper. And not only that, each dive left me with a feeling of euphoria that my full breath dives rarely gave to me.

Our body is actually more adapted to exhale diving than full breath diving. One of the triggers for the Mammalian Dive Reflex is a reduction of lung volume. When you dive on exhale, you are allowing your body to more quickly launch the mammalian dive reflex. Your body senses not just the apnea, coldness on your face, but on top of this that you have less air in your lungs, and hence it will be more conservative with oxygen usage, kicking in the MDR earlier than it would have otherwise dive on full breath. 

I experienced this strengthened conservation of oxygen viscerally and physically with my exhale dives to the same depth being much less effortful than the full breath dive. This opened my mind to trust my body more. Knowing that my body knew exactly how to adjust the knobs of its system to take into consideration the air and oxygen level in my body was mind-blowing. I did not have to worry and stress over every small change I was making to my training program or the quality or length of my breathe up and be perfectionistic over the levels of O2 or CO2 in my body. The truth is the body senses all these changes to the minuteness of detail and will respond accordingly to help me make my dive.

Photo by Yael Eisner.

Was the three months I devoted to freediving worth my time and money? It was more than worth it. Thank you Freedive Utila for the wonderful friendships and experiences. And thank you to all my islander friends who accepted me as their own and made me feel so at home.

The island has opened its doors once again beginning October 2020 after a long drawn out battle to try to keep Covid-19 out.

Do keep this little island and dive school in mind in your freediving plans!

Freedive · freediving

An Insight into BTV Equalisation

Archiving this Facebook note from the 1st of September, 2018

– – –

Two weeks ago, I hurt and overstretched my left eardrum. As a result of this, an insight about BTV equalisation came to me. I have been attempting to return to the depths, but I noticed because of my injury, pressure is exerted unequally on my left and right eardrums. At the same depth, I felt a lot more pressure on my left than right eardrum.

It made me suspect that BTV equalisation is dependent upon a build-up of pressure for it to work. I noticed that I can only BTV where there is a certain level of pressure built up on the eardrum. So unlike Frenzel equalisation where you can do it anytime you want along the depth column, with BTV, you have to wait awhile, allowing pressure to build up, before you can equalise.

If my hypothesis is right, this is causing problems for me right now because of the state of my left eardrum, which is more pressure sensitive than the right one. Before sufficient pressure can build up in my right eardrum for btv to be applied, my left eardrum is already telling me, “That’s uncomfortable! I’m overstretched already!”

So for today’s dives, I figured out that I have to Frenzel (though it’s not my preferred method) or do mouthfills in order not to put any undue stress on my poor left eardrum. I should not allow the pressure to build up in my eardrum at all, but constantly exert a pressure against the eardrum to maintain its comfort and neutral state. Should my hypothesis be right, this abilty to control the frequency and strength of equalisation is one of the reasons why the frenzel may still be superior over the btv.

And that very good advice to equalise as often as you can only applies to the frenzel and not the BTV. Let me know what you think, especially if your BTV works differently from mine!

Update from 9 May, 2020: Today, we know BTV equalisation relies upon negative pressure, instead of positive pressure (as required by Frenzel and Mouthfill techniques). This means that we cannot be slow to BTV equalize or allow too much water pressure to be exerted on our eardrums before we equalize, or we risk middle ear inflammation from the build-up of liquid in our tissues.

– – –

To read more about hands free (BTV/VTO) equalization, check out the following links:

Hands Free Equalization for the Beginner and the Curious: Is it Possible to Learn at all?

Lessons about Equalization: General Principles that Can help you Master any Equalization Technique

Learning to Hands Free Equalize: How I Did It and How You Can Do It too

Feel · Freedive

Competitions and Self-Compassion

When I signed up for a second time for the 2019 Singapore Depth Championship, I had in mind that I wanted to update all my AIDA personal records from last year. I wanted to show beginner freedivers like me that if they feel like competing, they can – even if they don’t have the right gear or are still fresh and new to the sports.

But things did not turned out the way I had hoped. I made multiple mistakes that penalised me in the competition. I collected a full set of white (no penalty), yellow (penalty), and red cards (disqualification) this time.

Competitions are more challenging than trainings in that there are more protocols you need to adhere to. So I had made a few mistakes here and there and did not get the maximum score possible.

Being someone who likes to overachieve and aims for perfection, this result is disappointing.

But it showed me that these are exactly the tendencies that I want to shed from my upbringing in Singapore. This fear of failure and not being good enough, working harder than I am capable of and then beating myself up after mistakes are made.

I learned that I can define success on my own terms. We live in a world where many will only celebrate a good performance and where some are quick to question an athlete having a poor season.

To me, meeting someone’s expectations of me is not my definition of success.

Success, to me, is learning how to perform under pressure before judges and an audience, even when I have performance anxiety. It is finding my own way of achieving new depths (e.g., using short fins and using a mask), even when they differ from how most people attain them. It is learning to speak lovingly to myself even when I feel I have let myself down. It is learning to move moment by moment in the water, focused on nothing more than each present moment.

Freediving in competitions, surfaced a part of me that I wished I did not have. It showed me that I can be consumed with my errors.

If you watched the videos of my dives, you will see that I have strange surface protocol when I surface from my dives. It has surprised and amused many people. After removing my facial equipment, signing the ‘ok’ sign, and then saying, ‘I’m okay,’ I declare to the judges the mistakes I made.

Why did I do this?

It was because the moment I made my errors at depth (whether it was pulling above the candy cane or a misplaced mask blocking my nostrils on my descent), it was all that I could think of the whole journey up from the bottom. For the full 1 minute of my ascent, the full 50 strokes more or less, my mind was on nothing but the mistake I made at depth. I was beating myself up the whole journey as I ascend from the depths!

When a freediver surfaces, her first expressions reveal the thoughts and emotions that have been going through her mind while diving. Time is distorted during a dive. Those few minutes of holding your breath are stretched out and time can feel much longer than it usually feels. A mindful diver enjoys each moment of her dive – the joy of freefall, the feel of water as it rushes past you, the delight of buoyancy changes – and surfaces with a big smile on her face.

Conversely, a self-reproachful diver, as I have been, has disdained for herself stretched out as well. I had no heart to enjoy my ascent, usually the favourite part of my dives. Instead, I rapidly surfaced, my mind in a distant place of disappointment, guilt and shame. It was why when I surfaced, I spouted out the regrets of my dives.

regretful smile.jpg

This is the Shuyi I had grown up to be but this is not the Shuyi I want to be.

This is my biggest lesson from this competition. That I need to unlearn many bad habits and thought patterns that have been ingrained in me. And as much as I have been working on being a more self-compassionate person, I still have a long way to go before I become a loving friend to myself and a mindful freediver and competitor.

But I am on my way. 🙂

– – –

Check out this video where you can see me getting my three – white, yellow, and red – cards and see if you can see how I got my red card. 🙂




Do · Feel · Freedive · Think

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. 🙂


Do · Feel · Freedive · Think

Staying in the Present with Freediving

I have mentioned how special freediving is to me. Let me share one important lesson I learned from my coach and it is not to anticipate what is to come but to stay focused on the present moment. I cross the swimming pool tile by tile, one fin-stroke at a time…

First, what is freediving? Freediving or apnea is a sports that involves the voluntary suspension of breath — so you hold your breath underwater. It is not scuba diving where you have tanks or diving where you jump from a platform and perform acrobatics before breaking into the water.

It is being relaxed, taking a deep, full breath, before ducking underwater and swimming across the pool, propelling yourself forward with your kicks, usually with the help of fins (but you can do it without too). And you don’t come up to breathe until you have or want to.

The first time I tried freediving at a Discover Freediving course (I don’t think I will forget the 7th of May 2017), I experienced the strangest of sensations, feeling myself moving in the water at such speed that it became surreal. I remember coming home with such an adrenaline rush that I kept replaying the experience in cold sweat. It got me hooked from the start.

Back to the lesson I had learned. We are always told not to look up and ahead to where we are headed to check how much more distance we are to cover, but to remain focused on the present moment. Don’t think about what is to come until you have arrived. This is not only good for streamlining but more importantly, it helps alleviate anxiety.

Your thoughts in apnea are so important – they tell the body what you can and cannot do. Freediving accentuates the mental and emotional states. So much can happen in a short span of a few minutes. You feel like time is expanded and suspended.

When you’re fully focused on that tile before your eyes, the movement of your legs in the water, the sensation of your body flowing through the water column; you don’t have time to worry whether you will make it or panic that you may not, and you can remain relaxed, something so essential for the state of apnea and your present enjoyment of the activity.

This is also an important life lesson. How much time do we spend worrying about and anticipating something of the future that might or might not happen; when that energy could be focused on completing each present task at hand?

Learning to stay in the present moment, to enjoy it, and not cross the bridge until I come to it are important lessons that freediving has taught me.

Do · Feel · Freedive

Freediving and Re-claiming your Body

I took awhile to blog about freediving even though when I started this blog, it was one of the first things on my list. I think it has such a special place in my heart that I do not really know how to present it to you or feel I don’t give it justice by presenting it merely as a form of therapy, even though to me, it is really as good as having a therapist, and cheaper in fact.

The best description I have found on freediving was written by Zhenping and it goes: “I’ve never found a better mix of power and relaxation, action and peace, and adventure and calm as freediving – and I doubt I ever will.” For someone as serious and tense as me, relaxation doesn’t come easy or naturally. All my life, I have learned (wrongly) that the way to succeed and survive is to compete and fight hard, to do more than is required, always be on your guard and never lose your position. For someone who grew up with such a belief system, discovering freediving was such liberation.

I learned that relaxation, counter-intuitively, was the most important means to excel in this sports or activity. I learned about my body, I became so much more aware of my body, my respiratory system, my musculature, and especially the spaces inside my head, neck, and chest. I started learning to voluntarily use my soft palate to equalize my ears, what was once an involuntary movement for swallowing and yawning. I am also learning how to use my diaphragm and the glottis. Yes, glottis control is needed not only for speech sounds, but also to perform another maneuver also required for equalization of the middle ear.

I got to know my body like never before. I started to reclaim my body. It’s going to sound funny but my body used to feel like an appendage to my mind. I am someone who was always stuck in her own mind. So much rumination went on in there, there was always bustling and lots of activity – contemplation, retrospection, planning ahead, and worrying – and my body basically just nervously tagged along, hidden, contorted, slouched, blending into the surroundings. I felt that the body was just for show and I did not like showing it. Freediving helped me reclaim my body. I feel that I own it now and have more control over it.

Perhaps another sports or activity may have a similar effect for you, opening your mind and reconnecting it to your heart. Yoga and CrossFit seems to help many people. If you have been feeling that you are working your mind a lot more than your body, and always easily stressed and tensed, I suggest trying a sports or activity that you never previously considered or is actually the last thing you would ever think of doing, for whatever reason (Really, swimming and water were never my thing until March/May 2017). It might just be the thing you need. Never say never. And be open and creative to seek solutions to meet your needs.

I have so much more to write about this (yes, freediving is so much about the mind as well), but I shall stop for now. Through freediving, I have found that my own body and mind are my personal therapists and of course, so are my freediving instructors and friends. I have discovered a whole new way and world to learn about myself.