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yoga/meditation and freediving

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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icarus pacific

Nov 7, 2001
Well, its officially winter for me which means that the closest diving-like exercise I'll be doing is going back and forth to the woodpile...

Can anyone recommend any reading/training materials that get into beginning yoga and meditation that would be beneficial to my freediving? I have read the couple articles from the newsletter and while it's a great start, I'd appreciate a fuller exposure to this now common practice.

As a Major front moves in...

The wind is howling here, and High wind warnings with lots of rain are on the menu for the next 48 hours.

Although I don't practice yoga in a sense, I do have some recommendations from my initial personal experience.

The last day of the Performance Freedive Clinic I came down with a nasty cold that had lasted close to 3 weeks. Needless to say I was in no shape to workout in the pool or weightlifting.

Instead I did my ritual breathing exercises with lung packing and stretching during each pack. It was about all I could muster to do during those 3 weeks. I finally got back into the Pool last night and although my aerobic capacity was pathetic to say the least, My capability to do negative pressure dives comfortably really surprised me. I can only attribute this to my daily lung packing and stretching.

I also do a series of weightlifting exercises with a twist - I do a breathe up and then go into static apnea until my first contraction. I then begin my weight lifting skill until I can no longer hold my breath. This is all done in a controlled way - using a timer for the breathe ups in between each lifting skill.

I usually go from 3:00 minutes for the first set, then 1:45 for the second set and then :45 sec for the third set. Or at least that is my goal - so far I have only been able to go for the first two sets, but I have noticed an improvement in working under load while in apnea. :cool:

If last night was any indication, I am going to have to find another place that is deeper to do my negative pressure dives. 12 feet was almost too easy, even with all air forcefully exhaled from my lungs.

Re: As a Major front moves in...

Originally posted by Cliff Etzel
The wind is howling here, and High wind warnings with lots of rain are on the menu for the next 48 hours.

.....I am somewhat sympathetic, but we've had more snow in the last 4 days than all of last winter!

{Quote}If last night was any indication, I am going to have to find another place that is deeper to do my negative pressure dives. 12 feet was almost too easy, even with all air forcefully exhaled from my lungs.

....Try reverse-packing; 12' will be plenty if you can do 10 good ones or more;)
Erik Y
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Hi guys. Just logging in after lurking a while. Found this thread with a google search, key words, Yoga and freediving. Bio: Been practicing yoga for six or so years and freediving since '70. Water bug since... '60.

Sven, although most of the references to yoga in this forum have logically gravitated to Pranayama maybe you would just be interested in some good reading during a cold winter.

(The following word groups will yield rich googling) Try any translation of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. BKS Iyengar's Light on Yoga. or his Light on Pranayama. That's enough to mention here and finding any of these will connect you with a ton of stuff.

Yeah, it's winter here too. Kauai. The swell was just up to 35 foot yesterday. A coffee brown ring around the island from surf and rain. Nothing to do but surf. See thread on "underwater fin surfing"

What a pleasure to discover a place to connect with people who share similar pursuits. The occurance of freedivers in the world population is probably small .0001%? Yogis? .0001%. What about freediving yogis? I'm sure it barely registers.

Mr. Whelan, have you seen any other threads along this line? I posted once along time ago under kbakery. I think it was something about a dive story.

Yoga, if you're interested, is a great thing to do in the off season. I picked it up because an actual Guru came through town. I'd always been interested but hadn't wanted to learn it from some blond chic who'd changed her name to Sri-Rama or something. Mr. Pahtabi Jois, 84 years young came to lead people in his style of practice. He's more like an Indian fitness coach. He leads a strenous limb of the science called Ashtanga Yoga. What a work out! I've become a leaner diver. Intercostal flexibility off the charts, legs behind the head, the whole bit.

But what interests me on this thread is the experience of diving, of peace and quite 10 or 20 meters down. I'm a bliss junky. Adrenaline was a good high and is still (huge surf). Endorphines do it too (5-15 mile coastal swims). Diving in good conditions (favorite location:Kona/Kohala of the Big Island of Hawaii) is unmatchable for the bliss effect ay? But if you want it everyday and you don't live in Kona what are you gonna do? I mean, I live on the North Shore of Kauai with miles of great diving and surfing but this practice is so successful (for me) at cranking out daily highs... the predictable bliss associated with rolling out the mat and practicing the Primary and Intermediate Ashtanga yoga series five or six days a week has got me hooked. My dive and surfing buddies are disgusted. I say no to dive trips more than I'd like to admit.

Once the Guru came and left guess who ended up being my teacher? You quessed it some Blond chic named something like Sri-Rama. But she's O.K. (that was an understatement by the way) She's a Sanskrit scholar and a teacher/coach who is patient and tireless.

If you're land locked out there somewhere take your stiff old bones down to a yoga studio (Ashtanga if it's in your area) You'll start out akward and immobile and each practice transforms you a little. Like having braces; The process is slow and sometimes uncomfortable but your smile steadily improves from the first day they tighten the bands on your teeth. Six years later you'll have a gentle resting heart rate, a lung capacity of a horse and the flexibility of a monkey.

But the real thread I'm looking to follow here is the effect both these games have once you get that all too brief empty and quite head. What I think helps cause the best stillness in diving is the life and death thing. If you can't manage some pretty fantastic relaxation techniques at 35 or more meters you might not get back to the surface. Nothing like that to focus your mind on one object. That's one of the more advanced yogic technigues by the way, focusing steadily on one object or thought. Like Kirk Krock the diving guru says, "Look at the second hand of a clock and think of nothing else but that second hand, NOTHING ELSE, as it ticks once around the dial." I can't do it, yet.

If you come to Kauai call or e' me, I'll go dive.(if it's not between 7am and 11am, that's reserved for a good stretch)

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Hi blu2o,

I started Ashtanga Yoga a month ago sort of as a last resort. After doing all different kinds of training for freediving and just for shape, I really hadn't found anything that left me feeling better after a session and didn't require equipment, a pool, spending money up the wazoo. Anyway, a month has convinced me that body is going through some serious adjustments and pointed out all my weak areas.

What amazes me the most is after only about five or six sessions I noticed that my muscle tone was returning. After the month, I have more definition and strength than from conventional weight training...but the difference is it is spreading out and invading muscles that I've never used before.

Okay, I'm a little excited.

I can't wait to get into the water to do some open water swimming in the spring and of course, freediving.

As for the topic of this thread, I think the average person would get far more benefit from the regular breathing that is a part of Hatha, Iyengar and Ashtanga yoga than doing pranayama by itself. Given that many of us like to take things to the max, there are texts that suggest that extreme pranayam without doing "asanas" (yoga movements and poses) is not necessarily good for you and can lead to interesting "energetic" injuries. See Kundalini yoga for more on this. I think the stretching and strengthening of the breathing muscles and everything around it through asanas will yield much more results in the short term than just doing pranayama. I think we are all enamoured of the Jacques Mayol ideal and there are only a very few freedivers out there who have really benefitted from proper pranayama practice.

If I could summarize my emerging approach to freedive "training" in general, I would do so as follows:

1. Do things you enjoy (ie. play in the water)
2. Eat well, stay alkaline, reduce nutritional stress
3. Do an exercise in addition to "having fun" that rejuvenates you (yoga, qigong, taichi, etc)
4. Get lots of sleep
5. Don't take freediving too seriously (yes, I'm slowly learning)

Ok, now I'm going to head over to the dolphin surfing thread, where I'm happy to see that you've paid us a visit, blu2o!

Pete Scott
Vancouver, BC
5. above cannot be reiterated too many times!!

Sam (and Deepest Bear who lives by that one!)
just want to iterate some words of caution to everyone who is thinking about going to the local gym for a yoga session, esspecially ashtanga. From personal experience and from other peoples aswell. This isn't ment to put people off learning yoga

be vey cautious from the start it is very easy to injure yourself. Especially with some of the teaching meathods around particually ashtanga, where the teacher comes along and 'helps' you into a posture :rcard . this is very risky as you can be pushed too far.

the thing with yoga is that it was developed in india where people didn't use chairs, so sat on the floor. Where as in the west, everyone will have probably been sitting most of there waking lives in a chair. This causes the hips in particular to be very stiff. making certain postures very difficult and dangerous, namely padmasana(lotus) and half padmasana.


my experience with this one. during the asana(posture) my knee would move and lock the knee in a bent posistion, was painful, but if i thought about moving it i imagined that my knee-cap would burst out and possibly injure the person next to me!!! :crutch with the help of the teacher we managed to straighten the leg again where the joint righted itself. this has happened more than a few times and isn't the nicest feeling.

now it first happened when i was 16 so not because i'm some old fart with old joints. I thought at the time i was pritty flexible as i could to the splits!!!

Initially the teacher thought that it could be due to cartalige tear, but had scans and show nothing wrong with the knee at all!
later i found out the main thing with padmasana is hip flexiblity, goes back to sitting on chairs again! After opening the hips somewhat i am now able to do padmasana.

this is probably the biggest issue with men. For woman it would probably be over streching (pulling) the hamstring.

With regards to extreme pranayama and the texts.

asana becomes before pranayama in the yoga sutras of patanjali. meaning once perfecting asana one can then progress to pranayama.

ok this is a very strict path, but think of it this way you wouldn't (unless stupid or mad) go straight to 100m when beginning freediving as a novice. Nor should you go straight to the advanced pranayamas without starting from the beginning.

now the reason why asana becomes before pranayama is so that once mastering the posture one is able to sit perfectly still comfortably an concentrate solely on pranayama. Though practicing basic pranayama and meditation is worthwhile from the start. like most things you have to sow the seeds to reep the rewards.

the books tom (bluh2o) has already mentioned, specifically BKS Iyengars light on yoga, give you a good step by step aproach of asana and pranayama.

better stop here, said more or less,(ok less) everything from my opinion.
sorry for the long post, but it was disrupting my practice!
also have to heavily agree with point 5.
Very interesting and convincing posts. :)
Is it possible to actually learn yoga alone (to some satisfactory level) from one of these books?
Hi Sven,

Richard Rosen wrote a "Guide to Pranayama" (I think that's the title) that gets into the history/philosophy and also addresses postures, etc.

He's from Santa Rosa. I'm not sure where you are in Nor Cal but I used to live in Sonoma and Santa Rosa and it's kind of cool to read a book written by someone local.

Hope this helps.
Ashtanga asana work is not the same as Patanjali's Ashtanga (eight limbed) yoga - in which asana work is preparatory and secondary.

Nowadays asana is overemphasized and pretty much advocated as though it were a complete path in itself. Ashtanga is a very structured approach to this and tends to fall into the error of requiring the practitioner to adapt to it - which can be appropriate only up to a point. On the other hand - a structured, gradual approach - skillfully taught - can be very productive and safe.

At the apex of my asana practice I had no problem with the third series and could throw both feet behind my head in an arm balance straight out of bed - or plant my heels in my eyesockets in a back-bend.

In a perfect world asana practice is focal only for a couple of years - degree depending on time, place and person and not some convenient generic prescription - thence to pranayam and meditation (asana, obviously, remains in the inventory). If you find a good ashtanga teacher and enjoy that - go for it. However I'm inclined to recommend Vinyasa (gary kraftsow - sp?) which comes out of Krishnamacharaya's work (teacher of Iyengar and Pattapi Jois (ashtanga)) who's son Desikachar teaches at his institute in India.

If you choose to take up asanas do it in a way that is interesting, intelligent and sustainable. There are many 'styles' of Yoga which really amount to approaches suited to different types of people at various times. Iyengar himself has said he feels the sun salutation alone, properly done, is completely sufficient.

Don't get obsessed with stretching. The best teachers I know actively discourage viewing the practice as stretching and it is not the best way to release the body. In Qigong it is recommended never to go beyond 70% of your capacity. That is - enough sensation to help focus your attention - not so much that it is a distraction from 'wholeness of feeling'.

Eric Fattah has made some great observations here about Qigong and pranayam practice - particularly as it pertains to diving - I know of noone with a more precise approach in this context and would love to see a detailed dissertation on this subject as well as asana - which I think he practices as well.

Relative to the body it seems best when it becomes completely transparent. In my opinion the rest is just theatre.

just my 2 centavos
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Great group here, good posts. I agree, be careful.

What about the quietness thing? I mean in freediving I guess. When I started yoga they said yoga is the calming of the fluctuations in the mind. That is freediving too. The effect of peace and quiet in the mind associated with freediving is connected to the dive reflex and the unavoidable need to relax when down deep in order to make it back up to the top. Are there any other elements of diving that make it so relaxing? I was thinking that the ocean is an immense battery absorbing solar energy for eons, I get charged just getting in. To rest is to be recharged.

One change for me over the past few years is I've lost interest in spearing fish, haven't sold my spears yet but was thinking of it this year. Maybe I'm growing out of it. Plus the urge to compete seems to have escaped me. Did a static and dynamic competition in Kona a while back and once the peaceful part was past and I had to start working contractions I just surfaced. So watch out! If you start practicing Yoga it may ruin your love of spearfishing and competitive freediving.
Bingo! Being u/w on a held breath is like being in love.
I've been toying with taking up spearfishing again - after many years - we'll see though. I honestly don't know what I'd spear - the bass are too friendly, carp are kinda like big golden retrievers and salmon and lake trout are illegal...

It's some kinda concentrated space down there...everything looks like art.

What mind? :)
Recommendations based on personal experience:
- Teach yourself pranayama. It is not as dangerous as people make out, there are plenty of texts available, and a tool that you give yourself is many times more valuable than one that is given to you.
- Some kind of preceding light exercise will benefit a pranayama session, and asanas will allow improved posture during the sitting, however it doesn't have to be Ashtanga or any other particular form of Yoga (10 minutes cycling + generic stretching could be sufficient).
Ashtanga doesn't have a monopoly on pranayama. There is a lot of literature, written by jealously guarding yogis, that makes these disciplines out to be some sort of magic art, where improper initiation will expose you to powers beyond your control. The real guru will encourage you and trust you to find your own path.
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Roj the above - but no hurry - pay attention - and see how your day goes after :)
Concerning the dangers of pranayama, it concerns mostly unanticipated kundalini awakening; not necessarily a complete awakening, but the startings of one.

When practicing intense pranayama, signs of unanticipated kundalini include:
- Random twitching of various body parts, primarily fingers, toes, the head/neck and upper torso
- Sensations of heat or cold or fiery tingling in various parts of the body
- Getting extremely hot or sweating all over the body (during the exercise)
- Sensations of pressure, heat or burning in the perineum area
- Strange outbursts of emotion, in particular rage, anger or gruesome thoughts (these pass once imbalances are dissolved)
- Massive fluctuations (high or low) in libido; this may occur during the breath-hold, or at any other random time

In order to actually reach the point where these symptoms appear, you generally have to do alternate nostril pranayama in the ratio of 10:40:20 or more. At the ratio of 10:40:20, it will take quite a while for the symptoms to appear in most people. At the ratio of 16:64:32, the symptoms may appear in a matter of days.

Other pranayama exercises such as bhastrika with retention, or any pranayama which involves breath retention, can lead to the symptoms. This is particularly true of any pranayama exercise in which you are doing a slow, controlled exhalation, and/or performing the bandhas during the apnea or during the exhale.

In terms of benefits of pranayama for freediving:
- Pranayama has a general balancing effect which can make regular apnea more enjoyable, with controlled, comfortable contractions
- Pranayama (for me) produces a drastic increase in exercise capacity (both aerobic and anaerobic)
- To actually prolong your static apnea by means of pranayama, generally requires intense practice for months, passing through all the above symptoms, until all of the symptoms disappear. At that point you should notice a dramatically reduced need to breathe in general, decreased metabolic rate and dramatically reduced resting body temperature.

I will write another post about the link between pranayama, kundalini, and 20 minute yogi static breath-holds....
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Hey Will,

I should be more clear about what I intended to point out with my comments:

1. Pranayama practiced at high intensity is said to cause problems. Kundalini yoga texts warn that a body unprepared for intense practice can basically short circuit if "awakening of kundalini" is achieved. (which I take to mean basically a different mechanism for using and directing metabolic energy in the body) Asanas are said to clear the pathways that this energy takes once the awakening has been achieved.

2. Pranayama at low intensities has a lot of benefits, especially to the immune system. Indeed, most meditation techniques involve some sort of "breath practice." I don't know if any of the yoga texts recommend only pranayama by itself without the accompanying yoga disciplines (not just physical practice). But someone who wants to develop better control of the diaphraghm and become more self aware when it comes to breath, is probably not a problem.

3. Asanas are a good idea in of themselves. I hope no one has mistaken my enthusiasm for Ashtanga to mean that other styles are crap. Not so. I have not tried any other styles except for Hatha (briefly) and so I couldn't really say anything about them.

Ah, I see Eric has made a post.


Vancouver, BC
I am familiar with a similar description of Kundalini awakening as Eric's. However if we analyse the symptoms:
1. Random twitching: we all know that towards the end of any long breath retention it becomes difficult to keep still. If you don't actively move your body then a degree of twitching can occur at about the same time as contractions start.
2. Fluctuations in sensation of temperature/tingling: hypocapnia after hyperventilation (or bhastrika breathing) may cause tingling; body temp usually increases with breath hold, as vasoconstriction and cessation of breathing reduce heat loss.
3. Outbursts of emotion/arousal: typical to long static apnea holds.
4. Seeing lights, especially white: very common in longs holds, or straight away in apnea after hyperventilation. After long holds I used to prolong the effect by only taking small sips of air, staying "in the zone" and watching the fireworks on the back of my eyelids whilst listening to music.

Basically I am of the opinion that the symptoms yogi texts give for a Kundalini awakening are no more than the body's natural reactions to hypocapnia, hypercapnia or hypoxia. This doesn't mean to say that kundalini energy doesn't exist. I have recently extended my pranayama ratio to 10:50:20, which I hold for 24 cycles, and I have been experiencing effects that are not common with any form of static apnea (N.B. I didn't get these with 10:40:20). They are too subtle and personal to explain here, but in my subjective opinion they are more akin to what I would expect an 'awakening' to feel like. Furthermore I haven't had any of effects 1-4 above since moving on from 8:32:16 ages ago.

The role of Asanas, as Pete mentioned, is to clear the nadis in order to allow Kundalini energy to flow cleanly. However I don't believe that Asanas are the only means of achieving this - might not the rhythmical movement of monofin or no-fin swimming or the body control of gymnastics or Olympic diving to name a few have the same affect? The key is awareness of the body through controlled movement repeated to perfection. Ashtanga is a compact and specific approach, but as I said earlier I don't think it has a monopoly on accessing kundalini. This explains why say a ballet dancer will find it far easier to meditate than a couch potato - ironically the couch potato won't be able to sit still!
When you're talking about 8:32:16 ratio, does it mean 8" inspiration, 32" hold, 16" expiration ?

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