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Vagus nerve - Training???

Discussion in 'General Freediving' started by TobiasTorp, Nov 11, 2017.

  1. TobiasTorp

    TobiasTorp New Member

    Local Time:
    7:51 AM
    Hi all

    I'm relatively new to freediving.

    I have done apnea total level 1 course.

    I went to 20 meters (feet first free immersion, had problems equalising)

    But only because my instructor was very good telling me on the surface that I was able to do it and shouldn't respond to the vagus nerve wanting me to quit the dive.

    But now I'm struggling getting past 15 meters every single dive since diving alone (not alone alone of course, but without instructor).

    I find it difficult to challenge the vagus nerve. Are there any exercises I can do dry or is it only possible to train during actual diving, and how do I train it during actual diving???
    I kind of panick when it kicks in, and it is really annoying since I have been doing 2 minute dives to 10 meters sitting at the bottom, so I know I have the air, but just can't push my self against the nerve.

    Might be stupid question, hope not. Couldn't find anything on the topic in here. Hope you guys can help!

  2. Nathan Vinski

    Nathan Vinski Active Member

    Local Time:
    7:51 PM
    Did you do your course in Utila? The reason I ask is because there were an instructor there who mentioned that they had issues with vagus nerve stimulation that caused a panic urge to breathe for their first few dives of the session and spoke about this issue with students.. This instructor also spend 6-7 days per week in the water for 3 hour sessions, sometimes doing static tables or dynamic training after the open water session. Because of that the symptoms were almost certainly caused by classic overtraining (fatigue, free radicals, mental burnout... too much diving)

    The reason you can't find anything about what your experiencing is because it isn't a real (realistically) issue. In extreme cases repeated vagus nerve stimulation (look up Eric Fattah's old deeperblue forums) by using air pressure contraction blocking techniques do stimulate the vagus nerve enough to drastically slow the heart rate and increase dive response at the cost of an intense burning urge to breath w/out contractions. Repeated practice of this can cause various neurological symptoms including depression..

    Considering that no one really teaches this and that you have only done the level 1 course Im assuming you haven't been using any techniques to over-stimulate the vagus nerve.

    So if thats not the issue then what is? You mentioned that you were having trouble equalizing feet first down to 20m with motivation from an instructor. The two things to take away from that is that nerves/relaxation do play a huge part in freediving and sometimes I can be scary diving for the first time without an instructor, or with a buddy that you might not be as confident in as you would be with an instructor. Being nervous will cause the urge to stop you dive.
    Another thing to consider, struggling to Equalize to 20m (feet first) is almost certainly caused by tension and stress. Most people, if fully relaxed can bring valsalva down to 25-30m (head down), head up its possible to valsalva to 35-40m. Learning frenzel, properly, will get you to 50+m head down, again as long as you're relaxed. So looking at your current Equalization limits its safe to assume that there is a general stress around being that deep which presents its self as EQ issues, as well as... the urge to end your dive.

    The best way to get over this is just to gain water comfort. 2min at 10m shows that you can do it, all you need to do is bring that relaxation down with you when you go deeper. Be progressive with adding depth and only go deeper (2-3m) when you are fully comfortable going to your current depth. as time goes on and you gain more relaxation, learn better EQ skills, and evolve as a diver. the progressions will happen faster and with greater comfort at depth..

    Hope that helps
  3. TobiasTorp

    TobiasTorp New Member

    Local Time:
    7:51 AM
    Thanks for your reply Nathan!

    I think I formulated it wrong. I did not have any problems equalising to 20 meters feet first, but the reason I went feet first was because I had problems equalising head first lower than 15 meters.

    I did not do the course in Utila, and haven't learned the teqnicue you are describing.

    I just remember being told that if you feel the urge to breath at fx 15 meters, but you know that you have air enough and the equalisation is fine, then it is probably the vagus nerve telling you to turn around.

    And I am wondering if there is any specific way to train this Vegas nerve not to give such a response that powerful already at 15 meters.
  4. Nathan Vinski

    Nathan Vinski Active Member

    Local Time:
    7:51 PM
    The reason I mentioned the Utila thing was because weather or not you were influenced by that particular instructor.. In any case it is a good example for whats happening with you.

    My comments about difficulties equalizing deeper than 15m stay the same. Other than stress and tension, there is absolutely no reason to have difficulties at that depth, head up or down. That feeling is a normal process in learning freediving. Its is perfectly normal to start off with a little nervousness around going deep on a breath hold and through practice and training that will slowly disappear until any depth feels mentally the same.

    Without causing a political discussion Apnea total generally varies from most other (AIDA/SSI/PADI) freediving agencies in that the course content in quite different from the others. Im an AIDA instructor and I have read and compared the educational material for the first 3 levels from all 4 agencies as well as listened in on intro courses from all 4 agencies. The main difference I see with Apnea total compared to the others is that that while AIDA, for example, focuses a lot of attention on biology and physiology, while apnea total focuses more on breathing, breath ups, and yoga techniques. Just to mention, AIDA/PADI courses never mention the vagus nerve, partly because there is not enough research done on it to make any factual statements, and also because when looking at what we do know about it, nothing you do in an intro course will stimulate it enough to cause anything noticeable.

    What we do know about the Vagus nerve is that, with the help from cold water on the trigeminal nerve, rising CO2, and blood shift cold water on the vagus nerve can cause bradycardia (slowing heart rate). While it plays a roll, the trigeminal nerve, bloodshift, and high CO2 all play an equal or greater roll in the onset of bradycardia.

    -Rising CO2 causes the urge to breath and contractions

    -Stress causes the urge to end the dive, and/or contractions

    Long story short; a case can be made for the vagus nerve slowing your HR, but it is 100% the mind, and only the mind telling you to turn around. Don't over think it and just practice, practice, practice.. Calmness comes with experience and will get rid of the urge to turn around.
    Davos likes this.
  5. Nathan Vinski

    Nathan Vinski Active Member

    Local Time:
    7:51 PM
  6. TobiasTorp

    TobiasTorp New Member

    Local Time:
    7:51 AM
    Great Nathan! Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer!

    I'll stop worrying about what I'm doing wrong, and accept that the only thing I'm doing wrong is exactly worrying.

    I will take small steps to greater depths with calm mind.

    Thanks again!
  7. Davos

    Davos Member

    Local Time:
    8:51 AM
    As above: this is great advice. I've done Apnea Total freediver and PADI freediver & Advanced and the later worked a lot more on biology and steered clear of anything too ambiguous.
    All I wanted to pipe in with was that it takes time to adjust to depth - both physically and mentally. I remember my first dive to 20m being very stressful, but with time I was able to do hangs at the 20m marker. Hell, I even got tangled on the dive line at 20m (don't ask how haha) and was calm enough to untangle myself and complete my dive. But that sort of thing comes with experience and time. So just let yourself acclimate to depth :)

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk