Tuesday, August 7, 2012

*Mermaiding Post* ~Breath holding~


*Before I begin, I would like to point out that I am a) not an expert, this is just my research and knowledge, and b) anything you do regarding breath-holding is at your own risk.*
Being a water baby, holding my breath underwater has never been an issue for me. It feels quite natural and I can do it for a relatively long time. However, there are many techniques to improve the length of time one can hold their breath! I am still practising them to this day, and will continue to do so.
The great thing about improving your breath-holding is that it is not just for swimming. In general it increases the strength in your lungs and your fitness will improve because of this- I guarantee it!

First off, let me get through some basics. Never ever just go "OH I'M GOING TO SEE HOW LONG I CAN HOLD MY BREATH!" dive into a pool, and go for it- especially if you are by yourself. Has anyone ever seen the bride or groom faint at a wedding? It's because they FORGET to breathe from nerves- not even kidding- so imagine fainting underwater. Lack of oxygen= slowing of the heartbeat and decreasing the tone in the thin muscle layer of the small arterioles, resulting in a sudden lowering of blood pressure and decreased blood supply to the brain, causing one to faint. When first developing your breath holding skills, do it on dry land, with someone around you.

On that note, developing your breath holding skills DOES NOT start with holding ones breath. You need to train your diaphragm. Lets get all in depth with your anatomy now! :D Your thoracic diaphragm is a sheet of muscle that separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity (the heart, lungs and ribs from the stomach, liver and lower goodness) and controls the breathing! The diaphragm contracts, enlarging the thoracic cavity, which in turn reduces the pressure and creates suction which draws in the air. This is a function which is involuntary- even if you have the ability to hold your breath for a long time, your diaphragm with begin to spasm to force you to breathe.  On that same note: it is not physically possible to  hold your breath until you are unconscious. You may faint, but you will awaken only a second later because you're body would have regained control of your breathing moments before you black out. (This is why you will drown if you hold your breath for too long underwater).

Although your diaphragm is out to 'make' you breathe, you CAN train it to be under control! Some great examples of this come from singers- they learn to control their breathing to hold amazing notes for lengths of time- I can bet you there is not one professional singer who hasn't got lungs like an Olympic swimmer!
I personally contribute my breath holding ability to singing training!

So lets get into an exercise to help you develop an understanding of your diaphragm!! :D
Simply lie flat on your back on the ground, put your hands on your ribs below your chest and concentrate on lifting them up every time you breathe. Don't force it, do it nice and slow, and don't lift your shoulders up!  Try your best to concentrate on using your diaphragm. This might take some time to start feeling the difference, but the slower and deeper you breathe you will begin to actually FEEL the diaphragm at work. A good way to test this is to put a heavy book or something on your tummy and see how high it moves when you take in nice slow breaths!
You will find this exercise very relaxing ^_^ And it is! It slows your heart beat and puts you in a state of sleepiness- that is because you are inhaling oxygen at a deep, consistent rate. This is a great exercise to do in bed while falling asleep. HOWEVER I DO NOT recommend getting up in a hurry- slowly sit up and stay seated for a while before standing, as you're blood pressure will have dropped significantly.
Here's the awesome catch: continually doing this simple exercise has its benefits, as after a while you will find you can expand your chest further as you've actually been building the muscles strength all the time! Plus, you will start to be a killer at karaoke. ;D
I guarantee that doing this diaphragm exercise will increase your lung capacity. 100% positive and proven. Hell, if there is nobody else in the room I say try taking a big slow breath and singing a note for as long as you can! You will be surprised at the control you have of your breath and at the length you can hold the note (however singing requires a lot of other muscles in the throat and chest, so don't expect to be Adele or Michael Buble overnight! haha!).

One more thing before I finish this quick introduction into breath-holding. If you have ever seen free-divers in action, you will notice that they move slowly and deliberately- this is because they keep their body as relaxed as possible to conserve oxygen. When lying down, breathing slowly, you will find you can hold your breath longer and breathe 'stronger'. Its all about controlling the diaphragm, people! :D Free-divers are only human too, they suffer from the involuntary contraction of their diaphragm every swim, however they have the muscle strength to avoid sucking in a lung-full of water!

I hope that this has been helpful or at least interesting to you!
Next time I will talk more about free-diving and the way it affects your body and lung capacity.

Happy swimming! <3

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  1. This is good information~ I saw a lookbook post where the woman dressed in a custom mermaid swimsuit and took her lookbook outfit in it, underwater. It was beautiful! She might have used some of these techniques. It probably could have helped some people on the tv show America's Next Top Model when they had underwater shoots, too ^^

    1. I didn't get to see America's Next Top Model when they did underwater shoots! It would've looked pretty amazing though! ^_^

  2. Hey hun Just found out last night my friend has an underwater camera. Its not the best quality but we should so take some pictures of you underwater sometime in summer in clear water!

    1. Oh that sounds awesome! :D I would seriously love too sweetie!! XD <3

  3. Oh, wow! This is pretty interesting! :D I love to swim, but how do you know if you're an underwater baby?

    1. I use the term 'underwater baby' because I feel like I was born to swim, if that makes sense? hehe! It can only be you who decides! ^_^ <3

  4. Great post Carrie :3 I've had to learn deep breathing techniques for music (I play wind instruments so you need pretty good breath control) and also for yoga practice. I would really recommend anyone who is wanting to learn better breath control to look at a diagram/animation about how the lungs and diaphragm work - it can take a little while to understand that RELAXING the diaphragm is what allows you to utilise more of your lung space, instead of trying to use force. It may also be helpful to visualise the air filling up all the corners of the lungs, people might be surprised at just how much air they can hold in their lungs :b

    1. Its really amazing- swimming and music do come hand in hand with breath control! In high school we were looking for a leading man for our production, and were incredibly surprised to find one of the keen swimmers had a wonderful singing voice (and he was surprised too!) all because he knew how to control his breathing! It can really help! :D