At Divesangha we love yoga and we love Yoda too...I'm guessing you're all familiar with Star Wars?
What we love about yoga is that the attention given to breathing is paramount to what your body does. You actually let the breath guide you along your practice, support you and give you strength. If you think about it, as scuba divers we totally rely on our breath too but I wonder how aware of it we are and if we take full advantage of its potential.
There are also many things we love about Yoda, the first one being the fact that he's such an unexpected Jedi Knight and master. Luke was seeking a great warrior and found a giggling, little creature that didn't exactly match his stereotypical image of one. Masters can be found in all forms and this reminds us that we always need to keep an open mind.
This is actually not a post about the physical benefits of yoga, which I'm sure are known to many of us. Sadly I don't think many divers are interested in it yet, however I'm sure they have a lot of interest in controlling their breathing, improving asset & buoyancy and...Star Wars.
I was at a brilliant yoga workshop in our Clapham neighbourhood last week, held by a wonderful American teacher called Giselle Mari. That workshop made me reflect on some aspect of diving and one class in particular was centred about Yoda's teachings, given to Luke on Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back (by many considered the best of the entire series).
Sound is strange underwater but we do hear our breath. Oddly enough that is quite a Darth Vader kind of breath...not very Jedi! Underwater our breath becomes even visual, as we see bubbles coming out of our regulator when we exhale. Have you ever taken a minute of your dive to count your breaths, to see how how long your inhale and exhale are? Have you ever tried to see what happens if you consciously control your breathing?
My teacher Giselle says the Jedi Force is nothing else than Prana, the life force that encompasses all cosmic energies, as described in the ancient scriptures of Upanishad and Vedas. Prana enters our body through our breath. In the same way Yoda tells Luke to feel the force to be able to use it, we can rely on the awareness of our breath to perform a series of actions as divers. We can use the power of our breath to regulate our heartbeat, create or preserve energy, gain control of our body position in the water and of course save on our air, increasing safety.
Do you remember what Yoda tells Luke when asked how he can feel the force? Yoda says he will feel it when he's calm and how well that applies to divers. There's no doubt a calm diver is a good diver. One of the skills we need to perfect as divers is the ability to be calm and relaxed, performing slow and controlled movements, managing our breathing rate well and maintaining a calm but highly alert mind. That alone will make you a safer diver.
The Dark Side in diving is easy to identify. Doing things in a hurry, not considering all factors and failing to plan a dive properly, not listening to your physical and mental state, being allured to depth (and not being trained for it), all leads to the Dark Side. If you then end up in a panic you become a victim of the Dark Side of the Force and I don't need to tell you how badly things could turn out.
For example, try and inhale to the count of 3 and exhale to the count of 3 matching the two - then try and extend that if you can, up to a count of 4 or even 5.
Try to feel where the air goes...are you inhaling down to your belly, occupying the lower part of your lungs, or does the air stay up in your chest giving a bit of a squeeze? If you only use the upper part of your lungs you could end up breathing faster, shallow breaths leading to a quick use of all your air/mix reserve.
If you feel your heart is almost racing try to extend your exhale, make it slow and longer. That quickly calms your heart down. Make it a conscious action, don’t take your breath for granted.
If you are in a panic situation, simply stop and breath the longer breaths you can, give yourself time.
In yoga we meditate focusing on our breath and transform even a very dynamic practice into a moving meditation, achieving great calmness of mind. I'm going to be even more daring here and say that when calmness is achieved diving could be considered a form of meditation in itself. I wonder if there is any instructor our there who would agree with me and teach scuba diving that way.
Next time you can take three minutes out of your dive try and focus on your breathing, try and feel how much power it holds. Don't be as hasty as Luke, don't give in to the Dark Side and feel the Force, let it guide you.
At the next opportunity I think I'll try and find a quiet sandy bottom, get my gear on, ground myself with a couple more kilos and sit there contemplating the underwater world, focusing on my breath and becoming one with the sea. I honestly can not think of a better way to find the wisdom of a Jedi diver...
PS. For a very Obi Wan Kenobi look you can always try our DS Poncho...