The freediver that spends time training and conditioning their breathing muscles will not only improve their depth of breath but they will also improve their equalisation and overall efficiency whilst breathing up. They will therefore increase their time underwater and possible maximum depth.
There are lots of exercises that you can use to help your breathing, fragmented breathing is an exercise that i use regularly… even whilst sitting and watching the TV! If you actually sit down properly and commit some time to this exercise on a regular basis you will see improvements to diaphragm flexibility, increases in respiratory volume, strengthening of the inspiratory muscles and a heightened awareness of the different stages of breathing.
The bellows exhale is part of Bhastrika, a yogic practice which can utilise the fists to enhance the exhale.
So how do you do it?
- Get your self kneeling upright, sitting on your heels, with a straight back and looking straight ahead.
- Take some slow, relaxed preparation breaths for no more than a minute.
- Take a maximum inhale. Full capacity breath. Starting from the belly, then the chest then the clavicular region.
- Hold the breath for a few seconds (start at 10) and relax the shoulders, diaphragm and chest. Giving the muscles the chance to be stretched and conditioned by the inhale.
- Release the breath with a passive exhale, meaning dont push the air out, just let it escape until you are at a neutral capacity.
- Hold this state, allowing the breathing muscles to relax and recover from the previous state.
- Now actively exhale to the point of completely empty lungs. Create two fists and place them at the top of your hips on your lower belly, then bend at the waist so as to ‘concertina’ any remaining air out. The fists will help block the diaphragm from moving down and will also provide increased gastric pressure as they press against the top of the thighs. Focus primarily on using the diaphragm whilst performing the exhale especially in the final stages. During those final stages push the last bit of air out by making a humming or ‘shhhhh’ noise.
- Retain the ‘lack of’ breath and very slowly right yourself. Feel the diaphragm move higher in your chest and your abdominal muscles compress towards your spine. Retain this position.
- Release the negative pressure and allow the body to passively inhale to your neutral volume.
- Retain this neutral state for a few more seconds, then relax and recover or start to repeat the whole process.
You can then repeat this process for as long as you wish. I try to give this exercise about 20-30 minutes of my time.
As with any breathing exercise you must be careful when you perform this, especially during the max inhale/exhale. Dont push it at first, remember freediving training is all about ‘baby steps’, small increases in performance by continued and slowly amplified training.
You can progress or regress this training by varying the length of time that you retain the breath for in each phase. Start at 10 seconds, if this is too hard then try 5 seconds, if this is too easy then try 20 seconds… and so on and so on.
If you would like to learn this among many other techniques for freediving then why dont you come to one of our freediving courses?