Scuba Diving Tips: Breathing Control

Scuba Diving Tips: Breathing Control

Breathing is easy, isn’t it? We do it all the time. Good air in, bad air out. Simple, and easy, right? Wrong! In scuba diving, breathing properly serves three major purposes, and missing out on knowing how to breathe properly can lead to a messed up dive.

Why should your learn a different way to breathe for diving? Well, the technique that will be given here isn’t just for diving, it’s meant to increase the efficiency at which your body processes oxygen in general, and will benefit every aspect of your life that requires physical activity.

First off, proper breathing helps you to control your buoyancy. If your scuba instructor tells you to hold your breath while adjusting your regulator to control your dive depth, you’ll quickly wind up blue in the face. Definitely not a pleasant experience. Instead of holding your breath and relying on the weights and regulator to adjust buoyancy, breathing properly can cause subtle shifts in your floatation.

Secondly, proper breathing on a dive extends your air time. The breathing technique given here helps the body process more oxygen, sending it to the body with greater efficiency and maximizing the amount of oxygen that gets introduced into the blood stream. You won’t use your air up as quickly, and can extend your time underwater.

Lastly, proper breathing combined with good control over your descent and ascent rate helps to minimize decompression sickness, which is a problem that hits divers when the sudden changes in external pressure on the body trigger collections of air pockets in the blood stream, heart, and sinuses. Those little air pockets cause a condition that divers refer to as The Bends, which can be anything from merely painful and annoying, to outright fatal by leading to a stroke or brain damage.

That said and done, let’s get into the actual breathing method to use.

Speaking from personal experience, the breathing technique that should be employed in diving are related to that used by martial artists, singers, yoga practitioners, and gymnasts. This is a method called diaphragm breathing, and goes by many different fancy names depending on which discipline is using it, like in martial arts where it is referred to as Ki or Chi Breathing.

To practise diaphragm breathing, either stand or sit up straight (your choice), and just breathe in. Don’t slouch. Observe how you take the air in. Most people will have their chests expand when they take a breath. This is normal, regular lung breathing. In diaphragm breathing, the lower stomach expands instead of the chest.

To do this properly, the biggest key is to relax. Your abdominal muscles will actually instinctively tighten up when you take a breath and try to focus on your gut. Don’t focus on your gut, just relax and breath in, but make a point of actually relaxing your navel area when you inhale. Most people get diaphragm breathing wrong because they tense up the muscles in their gut in an effort to send their breath there. Tensing up these muscles actually causes them to contract, which keeps air from going that deeply. That’s all there is to this form of breathing, really. It’s simple, once you get the hang of it.

It’s also important to keep your breathing rhythm deep, slow, and even when you’re practising this method, inhaling as far as you can go, holding the air in your lungs for just a few seconds, then exhaling the air slowly and evenly. Shallow, rapid breathing, as most medical practitioners know, is a very, very bad thing, which leads to asphyxiation, a state where not enough oxygen gets cycled through the body.

By the way, the air, of course, isn’t really going into your stomach. It just expands because the diaphragm is positioned right above it in the body. Basic anatomy lesson here: the diaphragm is a membrane which controls the expansion of the lungs, which causes the inhalation and exhalation of air. Basically, what this form of breathing achieves is to strengthen your diaphragm itself, as well as increasing the capacity of your lungs. Keep practising this method until it becomes automatic and natural, and you’ll be surprised at the results. Not just in your scuba diving, but in your overall physical condition.