Since the heyday of Jaques Mayol the vast science of yoga has been touted as the key to inspired free-diving. The benefits in this area are undoubted, from mental clarity and thoracic flexiblity to emotional well-being. The list of Yogic benefits to the Free-diver is long, less talked about are the benefits of free-diving to the student of yoga.
The benefits of free-diving to the Yogi, when practiced in the right spirit, are equally profound. The most obvious of course is the control and understanding of the breath, free-diving as a door into the science of pranayama. The Aghori Tantrik Vimalananda apparently trained in Pranayama by submersing himself in the Indian ocean and Chinese masters of Tao developed breath-based energy practices with long breath holds in pools.
It’s clear that the aspects of Yoga that deal with the breath are enriched by free-diving but it’s the less obvious benefits that this Blogger is interested in, such as the way water allows for movement in a gravity free field. When coupled with a mature yoga Asana practice the forgiving nature of water allows us a fluid realignment of the body.The nature of water is that effective movement in water is fluid movement, something which every yogi or body worker aspires to.
In Yoga Asana, we work the body, disciplining it and realigning it. We test it and push it to break rigidity, to develop flexibility and make space. The body becomes fluid in its nature with movements like containers that the body flows into and fills. And this fluidity is not a thing only of ligaments and muscles, it is a thing of energy. We don’t do this for the sake of sitting in ever-more complicated postures, we do this so the body’s subtle life juices can flow better.The body becomes more permeable and energy flows better, resulting in health and a sense of lightness.
With free-diving our focus is precisely on this type of fluid movement, to move like water through water. We learn that rigid movement is wasteful movement.
A useful working definition of a yogi is one who does not waste energy, by their thoughts, words or actions. Be it holding tension, or expressing negative thoughts, the dedicated yogi tries to avoid using energy in a wasteful or self defeating manner. This conservation of energy on all levels is an essential part of free-diving.
Through meditation the Yogi slowly learns to avoid the nagging of the non-essential and to be present in the passing moment. With Free-diving we practice the art of letting go to the moment, of disciplining the body and breath so that sometimes you may go beyond the body and breath. When we dive we may feel contractions, the mind may say go up, go up, but we don’t resist, we absorb, we let the sensation move through us and any associated mental reaction is calmly observed. We observe and enjoy sensation, even so called unpleasant sensation. We become permeable to it and liquid in our reactions.
Time is limited but sometimes the moment draws out and becomes something eternal. The non-essential is left behind and there is a sense of union. This drawing together of mind and body into one focused moment is some of the essence of yoga.
Free-diving when practiced in the right way is actually a form of Oceanic yoga. Finding the stillness in fluid movement and the peace in a moment of pressure. See some training principles…
In Bali Yoga is the work of shamans, a communication with spirits. It’s a ritual balancing act of courtesies paid to both the Gods of Mount Agung and the low spirits of the Sea and other dangerous places, such as crossroads.
The sea is considered a place of many dangerous spirits yet also a place of purification. In a romantic way we can see free-diving in the Balinese context as a ritualised confrontation with the our ‘low spirits’ of fear and needless anxiety.
When we free-dive sometimes the mind turns against us becoming mischievous or fearful. we can become plagued by our own inner ‘demons of doubt’. But with the ritual of our weighted line and safety procedures and our faith in physics we can see beyond the doubts to the deep blue face of mother nature. Then we free-dive mindfully, infused with calm and a sense of home coming.