Do you want to dive deeper? Do you want to have a longer breath-hold? Absolutely. Many beginner freedivers as well as more experienced ones, use a variety of techniques to achieve more immeasurable performance. From depth training to better equipment and from cardio to certain diets, every little bit helps to hit the depths we are after. What about relaxation though? How much does it affect our performance in freediving?
I believe relaxation is one of the most important aspects of freediving. Whether or not you are relaxed during a freedive can affect the outcome of your dive. Once you realize what your body is capable of physically and physiologically, it then becomes a test of the mind. Even if you can perform everything correctly, without relaxation and a calm confident mind, it can throw everything out the window and ruin what could be a perfectly good dive.
Also as you descend deeper, being calm and relaxed allows you to apply all your knowledge on your dive with more ease and comfort. Having all the proper equipment that you can trust and feel confident in will also help to relieve some anxiety. Anxiety and fear can function as a barrier keeping you from enjoying your dive and reaping all the benefits. When you aren’t relaxed because perhaps you are nervous or scared, this causes your heart rate to increase, burning precious oxygen and making your dives less efficient and shorter.
Remember that your thought process can control the way you feel. When you think positive calm thoughts, the more relaxed you are, the less oxygen you burn, this keeps your heart rate low and you conserve more valuable oxygen for your dive, allowing you to make longer and deeper dives and causing your dives to be more enjoyable.
Relaxation in freediving is a massive subject to talk about. Given the opportunity though, I would like to give you a few tips to progress in that area.
When it comes to new freedivers, most of them don’t have the patience to enjoy the learning process. If you want to enjoy freediving, be safe & advance, then you need to be patient and progress step by step. If you try and push the process, then you can have injuries and it is more difficult to relax because you are going too fast. Every freediver has a personal “improvement speed” and you need to respect that. So, take your time and progress step by step.
You have to work on your breathing techniques. This is one of the fundamentals of freediving. Something that personally helps me to relax a lot is to exhale very slowly. I inhale slowly but also exhale slowly, when at the surface, during relaxation. So, slow inhale and super slow exhale. I also like to hum as well, it reminds me of the Om in yoga. This inner vibration, coming out of my lungs when I exhale, helps me a lot to relax. Finally, what you can also do is what I call “sleep breathing”. It’s a very gentle type of breathing that mimics the way you breathe when you are asleep.
You should also try to avoid overthinking. It happens a lot to beginners or when you are competing for the first time - you think too much and it doesn’t help. Try to simplify the way you think and a good way to achieve that is to practice meditation. Remember; your brain is like a muscle, you need to train it. You need to be able to keep it calm at will and tame your thoughts.