By Errol Putigna
To be honest, both are correct at the right moments. As freedivers and spearos, we're always looking for different ways to improve our breath-hold. But how often do we seek to be better breathers and to really take advantage of the benefits of proper breathing? I mean, really? We breathe about 30,000 times per day!
I have been doing some research; personal experimentation and I have trained breathing with the top freedivers in the world. I figured since I have to breathe each and every day for mere survival, I might as well get it right. Not only will improved breathing-techniques help you hold your breath longer and improve your bottom time for that mutton snapper swimming just out of the reach of your speargun, it will enhance your life in most ever aspect; from increased energy levels, experience a positive attitude, faster metabolism and even weight control. In combination with spearing and freediving, it will allow you to be in some of the best physical shape of your life!
At one point in time I weighed all time high of 84.5kg (186lbs), which for me at 1.78m (5'10") was quite heavy. I got back into freediving and spearing, took a FII Freediving level 2 class with Martin Stepanek and within 6 months of learning how to breathe properly, proper diet (and I didn't even make an effort to eat better, it was my body simply craving healthy foods and not junk) and the awesome exercise that freediving and spearing provides, I lost 14kg (30lbs) and I've not been able to gain any of it back! Take that Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers!
Some great and easy tips to get you on track is to really make breathing part of your lifestyle; to make it a conscious part of your day and to use it to your benefit through deep, diaphragmatic breathing. It will take you out of the "fight and flight" mode we are in most of our day when we're in the work force and it will bring us to the "rest and digest" mode, which is where our bodies need to be more often. By holding our breath for a short time (no more than 30 seconds out of the water), it will bring us into further relaxation and meditation, which brings additional benefits to our bodies and minds. I take just 2 minutes at night, while lying in bed, to do slow diaphragmatic breathing before I go to bed and I've found that I sleep much better at night. It's that simple!
When spearfishing, I will usually do around 5 minutes of relaxed diaphragmatic breathing on the surface and I'll achieve a super relaxed state to be able to start my day of diving out right.
The last thing fishwants to see is a guy/gal all-amped up on adrenaline attacking him! If you're nice and relaxed, you'll have a higher chance that the fish will approachyou. You'll kind of send an "inviting" signal. Through correct breathing, this can all be achieved.
Of course, when we're not diving, yoga is a great way to achieve proper breathing (Yogis have been getting it right for about 3,000 years... they know a thing or two about breathing.). Stretching is also fundamental to truly take advantage of proper breathing (Check out Martin Stepanek's Stretching for Freediving DVD). This will allow all of that wonderful oxygen to get to your muscles and tissues. Make sure you don't just jump into these activities without getting the proper instructor and training.
I hope with these simple tips, I was able to give you the initiative to breathe or not to breathe!
Errol Putigna is an FII Instructor Trainer based in West Palm Beach, Florida. He has been working with 13 Time Freediving World Record Holder & FII's Founder, Martin Stepanek since 2008 and offers private & public FII freediving courses throughout South Florida & Canary Islands. Click here to view Errol's course listings.