“Relax… Relax every muscle in your body…” These were the comforting words of my dive coach. I was laying face down in a pool holding my breath. My first 30 seconds without the normal rhythm of oxygen in… and carbon dioxide out… is all about breaking the lifelong habit.
“Release any tension in your neck, shoulders, back…” I could feel a gentle touch helping me identify the slightest unproductive strain on my body. This is when I start to struggle with boredom. Itches appear from nowhere or I am tempted to adjust the fitting of my mask, but I know that any movement now can cost me seconds in the end.
“Show me an ‘ok sign’ with your right hand now…” About every thirty seconds after two minutes I was asked to understand and perform a controlled movement proving that I was conscious. …Thy kingdom come and Thy will be done… I resume focus on my chosen mantra in my head while imagining liquid of my body has fully merged with the water surrounding me.
“You’re doing great. There are your first contractions.” What looks and feels like a strong hiccup is an involuntary response of my body to the slightest buildup of carbon dioxide. ….on earth as it is in heaven…. I know that I still have plenty of oxygen in my blood but I have to resist the urge to clear my airway.
“Now give me an OK with both hands…” Again proving that after four minutes without breathing I was fully awake. …Give us this day, our daily bread…. The slightest of tingle in my toes and fingertips reminds me that, in situations like this, my body is designed to limit blood flow to my extremities, while preserving my vital organs.
“Alright counting down, ten, nine, eight….” I feel such peace and calm. …For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory… I realize some of this euphoria is a chemical reaction in my brain, but I have learned to love this discipline of absolute stillness.
“Five, four three….” Even with my eyes open, shooting stars streak through my vision. …for ever and ever Amen!… A small voice in my head reminds me that if I actually have a loss of motor control and almost black out it could ruin my remaining training for the day.
“And, breathe, good…good recovery breaths…” I am tempted to empty my lungs completely but instead I cut my exhale just short of halfway and replenish my blood with life giving oxygen. Holding the fresh air for a brief second, I release and actively perform the recovery breathing we have practiced so many times. I turn and give full eye contact to my coach revealing that I have yet to find my maximum possible breath hold. At the same time I am excited to learn I have crushed my personal best by reaching an in pool, breath hold (static apnea) of four minutes and thirty four seconds.
Becoming comfortable holding my breath for longer and longer durations is an essential skill for exploring the beauty of the underwater world. Relying on my own lungs to sustain me will allow me to silently enter into the world of wildlife that have no comparison on land. In the next article of this series, I will explore the experience required to reach 30 meters (almost 100 feet) below sea level on one breath. I would never consider or recommend starting this journey without the training and supervision of skilled mentors and trainers, this is why I chose Fusion Freediving.