Breathe Less on Your Dives
I went diving in Padangbai Bali with our dive instructor Chris the other day. We had excellent conditions, almost no current, amazing visibility and huge schools of fish all around us. After exploring the dive site for some time he asked me how much air I had. I showed 60 bars. He looked at me funnily, so I looked at his SPG. It showed 120bars. Damn it! I didn’t want to go up so early, but rather enjoy the amazing dive for a bit longer. Why do I consume my air so quickly, I thought. Well there might be several reasons for it.
Efficient breathing is good because it obviously allows you to stay underwater longer. People however have different metabolism rates, body weights, and energy needs. Faster metabolism, more weight, and higher energy level also mean more air consumption. Some divers can breathe efficiently because that’s their natural ability. They don’t have to train it because they already have it. Other may need a little bit of training to get used to the idea of slow yet effective breathing. That will most probably be my case as well.
If you struggle to consume less air while scuba diving, just like me, here are some tips to improve our breathing techniques so we can consume less air and enjoy the dives for longer time.
1. Dive Often
There is very good reason why inexperienced divers consume more air than they actually need and faster than they want: anxiety. It is an understandable reason because a completely new environment can be scary indeed. One of the body’s first natural responses to potential danger is to increase metabolism, hence increase heart rate and oxygen consumption as well. It is unfortunate that a lot of air cycled through their lungs is actually not used, but simply wasted into the water. Despite the increased heart rate and metabolism system, the lungs can only take limited amount of air. Regardless of how much air inhaled, it does not increase volume of the lungs.
On the other hand even those who dive every week or so can still find it difficult to breathe slowly because the body still considers underwater a strange or dangerous environment. The body reacts as if it is the first time you dive, although your brain tells it otherwise. So dive more and train your body & mind to stay calm underwater.
2. Move Less
More movement means more air. You have to realize that in fact you only need a minimum effort to glide underwater. It is not necessary to make a lot a movement to go from point A to point B, unless you are swimming against the current. No matter what your position is and where you are going, make your body as streamline as possible, just like what you do when you are swimming. Your fins are an effective equipment to help you move and make turns. You rarely have to use your hands, so don’t move them except when you really need them to move. It helps to think about every movement you make, so you can stop making unnecessary waving, turning, or even spreading the hand as if you are flying.
3. Don’t Hold Your Breath
There is a big difference between consuming less air and consuming air efficiently. Inexperienced divers will want to try holding their breath and hope they consume less air and spend more time underwater. Holding your breath while diving is not exactly the same as holding your breath while swimming or when you are on the shore. Holding breath while diving is a big no-no that can cause serious injury called arterial gas embolism in which air from the lungs escape into the blood stream and interfere with blood flow. Besides being dangerous, holding breath also costs more air in the long run.
To sum it up, every activity takes practice and in the case of scuba diving also calm mind. At OK Divers in Padangbai the only limit we set for the dives is the amount of air remaining in your tank. So whether you enjoy the amazing diving in Padangbai for 20 minutes or an hour, this is quite in your hands. Make the most of it buy breathing efficiently.