Breathing is one of our favorite activities- we like to do it every day! When learning to dive, effective breathing habits are fundamental. Even as we become quite proficient, calm breathing is one of the ways to efficiently control underwater air consumption. Before taking your next giant stride off the boat, let’s focus for a moment on what affects our breathing above water, in order to best control what happens down below, and other tips for efficient air consumption. No one likes to have to end a dive early because of low air!
Remember to breathe
The stress and excitement of everyday life can cause our breathing to become fast and shallow. Hearts beat rapidly and our pulse races. Sometimes it’s hard to let worries go, and we get stuck in unhealthy breathing habits, including forgetting to breathe. As you read this, take a couple of deep, cleansing breaths and release them slowly to realize some of the benefits of simply breathing. More oxygen flows to the brain, and provides an overall soothing effect on our mood. A long exhale is a way to cleanse and let go of worries.
Scuba diving and breathing
Understanding how our moods and feelings interact with breathing is an important lesson to take diving. When you got certified you learned that it can be dangerous to hold your breath. Deep steady breathing is beneficial here too. As you dive in, let your surface emotions and worry wash away with the ocean waves. Before you descend, practice breathing from an upright vertical position. Draw a breath in low from your diaphragm and exhale slowly from the top of your lungs. This promotes the greatest exchange of gasses.
Improving air consumption
Another good reason to improve underwater breathing skills is to efficiently use air. If you feel your breathing control could be improved, practice breathing in for four counts and then breathing out for four counts. Once you master this consistently, you can move up to five counts each. When you see something exciting underwater like a shark or have a stressful moment, remember to stay consistent with these breathing exercises.
Here are nine more ways to safely use less gas while diving.
1. Relax. Diving is not without risk, but approached safely, it is an enjoyable athletic activity. Try and let go of worry and anxiety and enjoy the experience. By doing so, you’ll reduce your air consumption vastly.
2. Mastering buoyancy and weights. Neutral buoyancy not only is less exhausting, it also helps keep you from damaging the reef, getting hurt or bumping into other in your group. Remember that any time you change gear, like using a thinner wetsuit, your weight requirement will change. Check your weights. Putting air in and out of your BCD needlessly will use up your air supply.
3. Maintain your equipment. Regularly maintaining your dive gear, including checking for leaks and deteriorating o-rings will help on air.
4. Configure your gear. Being comfortable and streamlined in the water helps you exert less energy. Maybe you like your tank riding a little lower. Experiment and get to know the best set up to be easier on air consumption.
5. Don’t bulk up. Fortunately accessories are getting smaller and more efficient. Focus on items that can be tucked in pockets and keep the bulk to a minimum.
6. Slow Down: Making calm deliberate movements rather than thrashing around will also help keep your breathing under control.
7. Keep Warm. On a warm sunny day, you may be disinclined to fully suit up. Just remember, the colder you are, the more energy your body uses. Also, you lose heat underwater about 20 times faster than topside. For deep dives, we recommend wearing both the farmer john topped with a long sleeve shorty. You can always peel the top layer off when on the boat. Stay warm and be a more efficient diver.
8. Look- No Hands! Ideally, you want to keep a streamlined horizontal profile. You’ll notice professional dive staff typically have hands clasped loosly in front of their torso when not in use. Swimming with arms and hands is ineffective and uses excess energy. Unless compensating for a physical limitation, keep you hands and rest during most of your dive.
9. Practice. The more diving you do, the more all of these things, from steady breathing to equipment set up, will become familiar and you will be more relaxed. So, the best way to learn to be efficient with your air is to come out diving with us as often as possible!