I got introduced to Scuba diving about 8 years back in a small island called Havelock in the Andaman Sea. I was fascinated with the underwater world and got hooked straight away. Over the next year, I got my certification for Open Water and Advanced Open Water. I was also considering trying out Tech diving in order to be able to dive deeper. Right when I was pondering upon my options, I came across freediving while browsing through Instagram. I learnt that free diving is all about revisiting our mammalian reflexes and controlling your mind – go into a super relaxed, meditative mode to reduce oxygen consumption. I was fascinated. Needless to say, I tried to hold my breath while lying down on my bed with a stop watch in my hand – I barely made it to 40 seconds.
It just happened that in the next weeks I was supposed to be in Malta. I frantically searched for a Freediving school there to get a taste of it and came across Jesper Stechmann, a World Champion Freediver. My wife and I spent about 40 mins with him in the waist deep waters of Gozo, where he explained how mammalian reflex works, various breathing techniques and how to relax. At the end of 40 mins, I was able to hold my breath underwater for 3 mins. I was spell-bounded on how quickly our bodies could adapt and remember long lost skills.
After returning from Malta, I was seeking for more opportunities to explore freediving and soon I found myself in Koh Tao, Thailand. My wife and I signed up for a Basic Free Diving course for 2 days with Apnea Total. Both of the days, we had classroom sessions in the mornings and diving in the evenings. We liked it so much, we proceeded to take the Advanced course right after (an additional 3 days). After those 5 days, here’s what I acquired:
- I was able to hold my breath underwater for a little over 5 mins.
- I was able to easily dive down to 32 meters.
- I learnt that we are designed to be able to hold breath longer under water than above water, if we could switch off our panic button. We share this skill with other mammals like dolphins, whales and seals.
- With no air bubbles coming out of my mouth, fish and other aquatic animals thinks that I am just another fish in the water and are less scared of me. Once I even had a school of Sergeant Majors floating all around me, occasionally biting on my finger tips.
- I completely gave up Scuba diving as free diving gave me a sense of an absolute freedom – no more tanks to carry, no decompression time, I could go up and down as many times as I want to, I could go deeper way quicker, etc etc etc. Additionally, contrary to what many may believe, freediving is safer than Scuba diving, as long as you learn how to live in the moment and listen to your body.
- I learnt that anybody could freedive as our bodies are designed for that. We lost the skills over time but it takes a very short time for our body to regain the capabilities.
- I took up yoga to improve my breathing and eventually ended up becoming a Budokon Yoga teacher after quitting my day job.
The conclusion to my experience is free diving lets you connect to who you really are. A few days of free diving is enlightening and has the potential to change a person positively in a number of different ways.
If you are interested to try out Free dive and Budokon combo, I am organising a retreat in Thailand in March 2019. For details, check here.