Is freediving good for you and, if yes, why? There are the obvious reactions and responses: it teaches you to breathe properly and deeply, it teaches you to relax, it can have a positive effect on your physical and mental health, it introduces you to a community of very cool people. All of these are fine answers, but if one had to be specific, what would one say? Sheena McNally has the answer to that.

Finding Joy

"I've been asked more than a few times why I freedive. A flood of responses comes to mind whenever I'm faced with this question, but over time, I've pared the answer down to one simple but effective statement: finding joy, be it on the line or on the reef. Over the past few years, freediving has provided a lot for me. It’s a great way to spend a morning with friends, it can be a fine physical workout (depending on the task or training at hand), or it can be an effective way to find some peace and quiet underneath the surface. It has given me a reason to explore new places and meet new people. It has for the better part of the past years been the source of my (fairly meager) income, but more importantly, has been the source of a lot of my own personal development. I’ve had some conversations with friends and fellow divers recently about the sensations you experience while freediving—in particular, while deep freediving—and these conversations have given me the clue as to my sort of “ultimate” answer to the question of why freediving is good for me (or you): it can teach you the importance and power of non-reactivity. In other words, freediving can teach you mindfulness.

Hold up, though. About this “mindfulness” thing. We’re living in an age now where buzzwords are thrown about like confetti—especially when they have something to do with health and wellness. You’ve probably heard this term, and because of that, I’d like to caution that I use it to mean something slightly different than what you might believe it means. Bear with me. I’ve met many folks whose impression of mindfulness is that it has to do with relaxation, with being in the present moment (as opposed to thinking about the past or worrying about the future), perhaps with a flow state, or with a calming meditation. NO. When I use the word “mindfulness,” I mean not just “being in the present moment,” but being fully aware of your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations—both pleasant and perhaps more importantly, unpleasant. And I’d take it a step further. When I use the word “mindfulness,” I mean not just being aware of these things, but also observing them with curiosity, acknowledging them, and even accepting them for what they are, without reaction or judgment...and without trying, at that moment, to change them. Yes, even and especially the unpleasant ones".

A Deep Dive

"Let me give you a freediving-specific example of what I mean: a deep dive. Obviously “deep” is relative to the diver, but for the purpose of my example, let’s imagine a properly deep dive with a definite beginning/work phase, followed by a long, long freefall, a turn, and a long ascent. Something at least 80 or 90 meters. Something somewhat strenuous, like a deep bi-fins dive. When you begin such a dive, if you’ve prepared properly, then the beginning of it might actually feel quite automatic and uneventful: duck dive, kicking purposefully, feeling relaxed, and focusing on streamlining and lessening your efforts as you lose buoyancy.

Early into the dive, unless you’ve fumbled your duck dive or experienced a sticky equalization (etc.), the inner dialogue might be minimal and sensations might be gentle. At this point, it can be quite easy to be aware of and accept what’s happening. But things change with depth, with time, with CO2, with pressure, with you continue to descend, time passes and CO2 rises, bringing possibly the first mildly uncomfortable sensations (and often, the first bit of chattering inner dialogue). For some, it’s an urge to breathe or to swallow, or a generalized discomfort. For others (for me!), it’s contractions—yes, I get them on the way down, and no, they are not generally a problem (in terms of barotrauma or sensation).

Here is perhaps the first chance in the dive to apply non-reactivity, and I’ve applied it so repetitively to the signals caused by CO2 that I must admit, I’m usually only passively aware that these signals are happening. If you react to these sensations, they may actually get worse (or at the very least, you might feel worse, as you’ll be focusing mental energy on how unpleasant they might be), but if you can approach them with a mindset of gentle curiosity and acceptance, they are not necessarily a problem. When I feel my first signals from rising CO2, I simply say to myself (silently, of course—because I’m diving!): “Ah, there you are.” I acknowledge them, I accept them, and I continue the dive. Are they relaxing? Nah. Nice? Not really. But it’s OK.

During the freefall, inner dialogue can rear its ugly head. “I didn’t get a very good final breath.” “This mouthfill isn’t going well.” “My ear is sticky.” Any of these statements could be true, but...on my better dives, I accept that my mind (like everyone else’s!) isn’t perfect and that it certainly does chatter, sometimes. Silly mind. Back to the dive.

At the turn, depending on the depth and the effort, inner dialogue can pop up again, and though it might even be of a positive nature, I try (not always successfully) to remain impartial. If that voice happens to say, “I made it! YES!” it might seem like a good sentiment, but the problem is that being excited uses oxygen. “I made it. Yes.” Good, acknowledged. Now back to focusing on the task at hand: getting to the surface.

Here’s where things can get painful. CO2 is getting properly high. Contractions get bigger, punchier. Legs start to feel heavy, and maybe even burn. During the last meters of the dive, the urge to breathe can feel intense. None of these are pleasant sensations, but all of them can be accepted without judgment and reaction. Reacting wouldn’t help, anyhow; scrunching up your face at the discomfort burns oxygen. Reactive thoughts burn oxygen. Tensing up your muscles not only uses oxygen (or glycogen, as it may be by this point), but it’ll make you feel even worse.

My best dives aren’t the ones that necessarily feel the best. Rather, they are the ones during which I am the least reactive, and it’s not always because the sensations are easier to handle. It’s how I handle (or rather, don’t handle) the sensations that determines not only the outcome of the dive, but how happy I am with it (and how much I enjoyed it either during or immediately after)".


"But, back to the question: why is freediving good for you? If my answer is, “because it can teach you non-reactivity,” then, why is non-reactivity a good thing, outside of freediving? We can extrapolate our experience with this deep dive, and apply it to other situations in life. There are many other instances in our lives when the thoughts and sensations we experience aren’t always pleasant—some of them physical (e.g.; we step on a nail), some of them emotional (e.g.; we experience a break-up). Reacting can often make these situations worse, or at the very least, it can make them feel or seem worse, to us. Our experience and perception of these situations becomes clouded by emotions and sensations. Practicing a sort of non-reactive mindfulness, and observing our own thoughts and sensations without judgment allows us to see ourselves and our world more clearly. It allows us to see the reality of situations.

If this all sounds a bit enlightened, then you should know that I’m not an expert and that while I strive to remain impartial during my dives (and during many experiences in my life), I certainly have moments where I’m not able to remain non-reactive. Like anything else, it takes practice, and while practice can make it better, it doesn’t make perfect! But I value this practice immensely, and I know that this is one of the things that freediving has provided (is providing) for me that is proving more and more valuable with each passing year.

Why is freediving good for you? It’s fun. You meet cool people. You discover new places. You (might) become healthier. You might learn to breathe better. You could earn a little money. But why freediving is good for me goes beyond these reasons. Freediving is good for me because, in a roundabout way, it teaches me to see things for what they really are".

Alchemy V330PRO
Sheena's Short Carbon Freediving Fins Of Choice


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