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Breathholding

Kyron Rathbone - Big Wave Surfer and Freediver from Tasmania shows us in this little series how to enhance your breathholding and bulletproof your skills under water.

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BREATH HOLDING COURSE

Between all of the various stretching routines, yoga poses, diets, and cross-training variations, there are extensive discussions between freedivers concerning what is BEST for increasing performance. Some freedivers stretch before diving; others don’t. Some train more for cardiovascular fitness, others focus on strength training. Most of the time, we see that there is no solution that works for everyone, and the best thing to do is to experiment around and see what works for you. But there is one technique of Hatha Yoga that undeniably positively impacts a freediver’s depth performance: Uddiyana Bandha.

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one full breath

COMFORTABLE, FOCUS ON RELAXATION

The one full breath is a long and deep inhalation to fill our lungs with as much air as possible. The focus remains on relaxation. It makes not much of a difference if we can access the very last bit of our lung capacity but pay for that with the build up of a lot of tension.

BREATHE IN SLOWLY

Filling the lungs completely takes time. You can try this yourself: Inhale as much air as you can in one second. You will notice that only the chest expands and you can only access a part of your lung volume. So, again, take your time. Top freedive athletes allow themselves up to one minute to fill their lungs completely. Of course you do not need to go that far, but go as slow as you comfortably can. You will notice that you will slow down even more after a few repetitions.

THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE

As the name says, you take only one full breath. Remind yourself that your body’s saturation with Oxygen was already at its maximum even before you started your relaxation phase. Taking more breaths does not mean storing any more Oxygen – there is no space for more tea in a cup that is already full. (I personally, however, like to take 3-4 medium breaths before my one full breath. I find this technique to help keep my heart rate down rather than going straight from the relaxation phase to one massive breath. It works more as a transition to take 3-4 medium size breaths).

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HOOK BREATHING - RECOVERY

Hook breathing is one of the many weapons freedivers and big wave surfers use to battle against surface water blackouts and other deadly effects of oxygen deprivation. So what exactly is hook breathing for freediving and surfing? And how can hook breathing help you cheat surface water blackouts and potentially save your life?

Hook breathing is a particular recovery-breathing technique freedivers and surfers use when resurfacing after dives and wipeouts. Hook breathing rapidly shuttles more oxygen into your bloodstream than regular breathing and also boosts lung air pressure & blood pressure. For these reasons, hook breathing can be incredibly effective at preventing surface water blackouts and prepare you for your next hold down in the surf.

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HYPERVENTILATION

Simply defined, hyperventilation is in- and exhaling more air than you need to maintain a neutral level of CO2 in your blood. Of course this definition depends greatly on your current state of activity. In a relaxation exercise while lying on your bed you are barely producing CO2, whereas in a 400m sprint you produce such big amounts that your breathing cannot catch up with exhaling enough of it. In the first case any audible breath would already considered to be hyperventilation, while it is not possible to hyperventilate during the 400m run.

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O2 & CO2 STATIC TABLES

In many high activity sports (for example freediving) there are some well-known exercises to develop smart breath-holding skills. Most of these exercises consist of breath holds and rests with specific lengths — apnea tables or static tables (apnea training based on repea-ted intervals of breath holds). They are mostly used in freediving but they can be very beneficial when practicing other sports or just for meditation and relaxation moments. O2 & CO2 Static Tables are timed static breath holds with no movement during them. Their aim is to get the body used to the extreme conditions of lack of oxygen or excess carbon dioxide. If you want to improve the duration of your breath hold, you must get your body used to having high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and low levels of oxygen (O2). It takes quite a lot of time to do it but this static training undoubtedly leads to a visible improvement in the long run. You need to follow two types of tables – CO2 and O2 tables. They are both based on your personal best (PB), which you should measure beforehand.

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