Have you ever watched the little mermaid or the H2O show when you were younger? Being a mermaid has always been a fantasy of mine.
2021 was the first year I was introduced to the freediving/ apnea world. If you have gone swimming at some point in your life, you have probably practiced a little freediving! However, the real fun kicks in when you attempt to reach larger depths in the water, and hold your breath for longer periods of time.
I signed up for a 2-day Wave 1 certification course with Matthieu Duvault, one of Canada’s national record holder. Matt is an instructor based in Tulum, Mexico teaching through the Molchanovs Freediving Education program. He is not only a great diver, but also a great teacher.
Up until this point, I had never gone out of my way to practice breath-holds, I didn’t know how to properly pack my lungs before diving, even my duck dive needed so much work! I remember feeling so anxious and excited the night before the first class.
Back in 2020, I had a very -unpleasant experience in the ocean (I was being very irresponsible while bridge jumping), and although it didn’t stop me from continuing to swim in the ocean, it definitely introduced some fear every time I go in the water. I also used to struggle severely with generalized anxiety, and although I’ve given myself the time to heal, it still creeps up sometimes.
When Day 1 started, so many thoughts were racing through my head: not being able to hold my breath, not being good enough, not equalizing properly, not being able to swim back up fast enough; I was stressing about all possible external factors when in reality it was all in my head.
Before going out to practice in a cenote, we spent time going through the theoretical information, and practiced in a pool. Cenotes have a mysterious vibe, they are beautiful bodies of water, but not many people get to see the their underground beauty. Picture yourself in a rocky forest, but under water. Truly magical.
One of the things we do before diving down is taking a couple of minutes to do tidal breathing with the purpose of relaxing all muscles and the mind before diving down. Unfortunately for me, these were also the two minutes where my nerves and anxiety would kick in so it takes a little extra effort to calm it down.
Once you take your final inhale, you have to commit and trust yourself. You have to trust your body and quiet the inner critic in your head.
Tips for 1st time freediver
- Be patient with yourself
- Have a buddy to look out for you
- Do a body scan and visualization to relax your mind and body
- Your urge to breathe is not due to lack of oxygen
“Freediving is not only a sport, it’s a way to understand who we are.” – Natalia Molchanova
The first few attempts were overwhelming and I little frustrating, which immediately led to my body getting tense again as I dove down the line.
After more practice and pool training on the second day, my comfort zone expanded, I had tested what my brain, lungs, and muscles could do, and after a couple of practice dives, I felt bliss and confidence radiating from within because I reached all the way down the tennis ball (the ball indicates when you reach your desired depth).
It was an exhilarating feeling, a feeling of peace, flow, with a dash of “f*ck yeah”.
Freediving taught me different ways to calm my anxiety, it taught me how my performance tanks when my body and mind are not in sync. It taught me that my body is capable of doing so much more than I’ve been taught. I will be transparent, I struggle a lot with anxiety sometimes, and I could totally feel the way it held me back during my dive, it was a bit frustrating…
Doing a body scan, relaxing breathing and visualization helped me a lot in order to be present in the moment and focus on my dive.
Words can’t describe how much joy and inner peace I felt through this experience.
At one point you learn that your mind and your body are two separate entities. You can have them working separately, however, you are able to reach a higher potential when they learn to work for the benefit of one another.
Ready to explore the world of apnea?