What do yoga and one of the world's most technical sports have in common? They both require a hard deep breath. Ever wonder why strenuous exercise is beneficial for divers? It increases your red blood cell count and allows your body to hold oxygen for long periods. You can exercise via HIIT cardio and other forms of exercise, but yoga gives your body a stillness while holding deep breaths. Stretching your body's use of oxygen will prolong your life support system and increase lung strength. Here are tips on why and how to practice yoga for SCUBA diving.
Work your Muscles
Working your muscles, particularly your lungs, allows your body to respond to deep breathing. Lung expansion means your lungs can hold more air underwater. Along with the decompression and contraction of the lungs, your ribs, pelvis, and spine need length and strength to allow room for deeper breaths. Pranamaya means breath control and is one of the main components of yoga. Breathing exercises require controlled yet deep inhalation. When you go SCUBA diving, the expanse of your lungs allows you to use more oxygen with less wasted energy. Your body's surrounding muscles, including transverse abdominals, solar plexus, and thoracic, help your core and spine to protect the body and give you strength for submersion, surfacing, and carrying equipment throughout your dive.
Focus and Awareness
Yoga increases the blood flow to your brain with pranamaya (deep breathing) and allows you to stay in touch with the body and mind. Dives require mental fortitude and strength. You can prevent dangerous situations by focusing on breathing. When you dive, you will need awareness to stay alert for any danger. If you are panicked or distracted, you increase your chances of being caught off guard or experiencing hypoxia. Clearing your mind for focus and stamina allows you to keep on top of problems before they begin.
Practicing Yoga for SCUBA Diving
The best yoga exercises for your SCUBA dive focus on deep breaths. While all of the yoga helps you practice pranamaya, some practices enhance your lungs' capacity to utilize oxygen. To prepare the body for diving, practice the following moves. (Click a link to see how to perform each yoga pose.)
- Mountain Pose- Stand tall in a natural and neutral stance. Raise your arms to the sky, breathe deeply pull in the belly button as you stretch up and back. Your chest expands as your waist and ribcage contain the air pressure. Your pelvis pushes downward as you control the impulse to pee.
- Forward Fold- After you stretch in mountain pose, maintain a straight spine and solid core as you bend at your hips. The goal of the forward fold is to remain straight and gradually fold into a bend. Remain completely straight, inhaling from crown to tail until the chest and spine decompress. The movement will stem from your hips until you create a 90-degree angle with your body. Exhale as you slowly allow each vertebra of your spine to relax over your legs.
- Upward Dog- Start at a downward dog with hands and feet on the ground and butt into the air. Keep your spine straight even if you have to bend your legs. Slide your head and chest down through your arms. Breathing in, claw your hands into the ground as you lift from your chest and pull your chest upward. Look forward as your pelvis and thighs dangle above the ground. Breathe out as you settle into the upward dog. Your thighs should be relatively close to the ground. Mastering the upward dog means your pelvis should be less than an inch off the ground, your chest forward and up, and your neck and upper spine are straight and aligned.
- Half Standing Forward Fold- This move is like the forward fold, except you keep your spine 90 degrees from your legs. Remain bent and breath from the tailbone to the crown while tightening your kegel muscles. Allow your spine and chest to lengthen and decompress with each deep breath.
- Four-Limbed Staff Pose- Position yourself for a plank. Inhale deeply and maintain a straight line as you bend your elbows until your body is parallel and hovers over the floor. You will maintain a straight line from the heels to the tailbone to the crown.
Remember your Breath
As you move into yoga, remember your breath. While going through your yoga exercises, inhale air with a tight core while pushing air into the pelvis, ribs, crown, and waist. Everything should expand and contract in unison. Focus on your breath with deep inhalations and controlled exhalation. SCUBA divers who want to improve their oxygen intake should consider a course in Nitrox air diving. Nitrox air is oxygen and nitrogen-rich, meaning divers can stay underwater longer. Contact By the Shore SCUBA Instruction for more information about Nitrox air and how you can use this air for your next SCUBA dive.