What is the best way to learn how to hold your breath? Of course, it is signing up for Freediving course 😉 But if you couldn’t do it at this moment (or did it and forgot), here is a small review about it!
If you haven’t read my previous post about breathing in general – check it out here
So, any breath hold has 3 parts – preparation, breath hold itself and proper recovery after it.
So, the first part is relaxation breathing.
We can say there are two main types of relaxation breathing
First one, let’s call it “old school” relaxation breathing is when you are trying to slow down breathing rate by extending your inhale and especially exhale part. There is even recommendation – exhale twice longer than inhale (not sure why twice). Let’s be honest – it is a mild version of hyperventilation (if you extend your exhale over a period of time, you removing extra CO2 from your body). I think Goran Ccolak said in his interview to Freediving Café, that every breathing, which differs from tidal breathing is hyperventilation. The question is how big ;-).
Yes, you are going to feel that you need to breathe less and less. But if you remember, your respiration rate regulated by the amount of CO2, reduction of CO2 will cause a reduction in the breathing rate. But do you want to reduce your CO2 level? Just quick reminder – if your CO2 level is low then O2 delivery going to be not that effective (Bohr effect).
You also creating some resistance for your respiratory muscles, right? And it potentially won’t allow you to completely relax (this is my opinion).
The second type of relaxation breathing is a relatively new way of warm up. Instead of extending the duration of your exhale, do tidal breathing and then just 1-2 big breath in (with passive exhale) before actual breath hold. Same breathing what you have before you fall asleep. Still better to use diaphragm breathing for it though (it means that you still want to learn and practice it). Let’s say for two minutes you are doing tidal breathing. You relax your muscles and mind. Your heart rate will go down since you are more and more relaxed. And your CO2 level not going to be high as well. But at the same time, it is not going to be below the normal level for this particular level of activity.
I remember first time read about it on William Trubridge FB page (hope I am not wrong here) and then Alexey Molchanov said the same on a Deep Week in Amed, about his breathing routine before a dive.
And lastly, another Freediving champ Adam Stern was talking about this type of Breathing on one of his last video!
Now, let’s talk about breath hold itself.
Questions are – what to do while you are holding your breath and what happens in your body?
The answer is – try to become as much relaxing as possible. Easy to say, hard to do. What I recommend for my beginner students is to “scan” their body during breath hold and check if their muscles relax or not.
Face muscles (especially around eyes and jaw), neck, shoulders, arms, belly area, hips, ankles. And then do it again and again. Sooner or later you can relax without such “scanning”, but in the beginning, it is VERY useful!
If you are a beginner, not tolerance for a high level of CO2 or low level O2 important. It would be later. Now, you need to learn one of the most important parts of Freediving – how to relax!
So, you finished your relaxation breathing, made a big breath in and start holding. You managed your relaxation and completely relaxed. But all functions of the body are still working. So, you are still producing energy and as a byproduct, producing CO2. At some point, the CO2 level reaches a certain level and your respiratory center (RC) will send your muscles to remove this CO2 from your body. And you have the first contraction (movement of your respiratory muscles).
And what happens at this moment with your O2 level? It is going low for sure, but you still have plenty of O2. Enough for every body’s cells. And you know that and this is why you are keep holding.
Another contraction, a little bit stronger. But you are a Freediver and RC not dictated you what to do anymore. So, you are keeping holding. RC disagrees with you and sending you another command to breathe. Another contraction. And another. And they become a bit tougher.
Ok, you decide to finally follow this command and finish your breath hold! How? By start doing recovery breathing!
Ok, last part, recovery breathing. Why do it? During your breath hold (static, dynamic or depth) you use some O2. Longer you hold your breath, more O2 you use. Less O2 you have, higher chance of LMC/BO/SWB.
But as you remember, you start feeling discomfort, not because of low O2, but because of high CO2. So, when you stop holding your breath, what is your main goal – reduce the level of CO2 or increase O2?
The second option is correct. During your recovery, you don’t care about the level of discomfort (level of CO2), you care about not to lose your conscious!
First, exhale doesn’t have to be full (passive exhale more than enough) followed by full quick inhale. And you repeat it 3-6 times (or longer if you need it). Some Freedivers also do a “hook” breath – it is when after full and quick inhale, you keep this air for a second before exhaling.
And don’t forget while you are doing recovery breathing it is much safer if you have a support – float, side of the pool or anything else.
Another important rule – do recovery breathe every single time, not only when it was “hard” dive. Even after very easy dive you need to do it – it will help you to create a very useful habit and put it on a subconscious level!
Thank you for reading! If you have Freediving friends, who might find this article helpful – feel free to share! And if you have any question about Freediving – please let me know in comments below!