How far would you go to experience mindfulness?

Savoring the present and experiencing true mindfulness isn’t as easy as the books, yoga teachers and therapists make it sound. Yet living in the present radically enhances life and transforms the mundane to the extraordinary. Read on to learn how to use freediving as a hack for mindfulness.

word "breathe" written in lights

Breath Is the Key to Mindfulness

The most common mindfulness exercises—yoga, tai chi, meditation, therapy—all have one thing in common: the breath. Breathing exercises are one of the quickest ways to get into the present moment, including breath holds.

That’s how freediving—the art of diving underwater with no breathing apparatus—can teach you mindfulness like never before.

freediving in blue water diving down a line

The Science of Freediving & Mindfulness

Freediving requires full concentration from both body and mind. It takes more than a full gulp of air to dive deep underwater for prolonged amounts of time. Both the body’s innate abilities and mindfulness make freediving possible.

Mammalian Dive Reflex (MDR)

When you immerse your face in the water, your body has an amazing mechanism called the Mammalian Dive Reflex that kicks in. Your heart rate slows down so your body uses oxygen slower (bradycardia). And blood shifts from your extremities to your head and torso, ensuring your brain and major organs receive enough oxygen (peripheral vasoconstriction).

freediver underwater surrounded by bubbles

Mindfulness Underwater

Mindfulness is the exact opposite of anxiety. When you are living mindfully, you are fully present in each moment to process, enjoy or savor what’s happening. Anxiety keeps you out of the present moment by pulling your thoughts to the nonexistent past or future. Ultimately producing fear and robbing you of the present. Not to mention the havoc it wreaks on your health by increasing cortisol levels.

The effects of pranayama or breathing exercises on anxiety are well-documented, so it’s no surprise that holding your breath has similar effects. Freediving is more powerful than surface breathing exercises because it puts you into survival mode. Holding your breath underwater forces you into the present moment. You can’t simply inhale whenever you want.

Underwater: The Perfect Meditation Setting

Freediving is a hack for mindfulness because when you’re underwater holding your breath, there’s no noise to distract you. The relationship you develop with your body becomes instantaneous due to the nature of survival. Suddenly, the present is very clear as your senses are heightened and your thoughts are louder than normal.

ocean with freediver's snorkel poking above the water

Freediving as a Hack for Mindfulness

In “Mindfulness for People Who Think They Can’t Meditate” Kaia Roman describes mindfulness as, “It’s about doing whatever it takes to bring your attention to the present moment, into your body, and out of your chattering mind.”

In order to grow as a freediver and reach new depths of breath holds, you have to stare back at yourself and stand face to face with the uncomfortable thoughts in your head. To freedive, you have to let go and succumb to the discomfort and the water. In fact, the more you let go, the more enjoyable and easier the dive is. It’s the same with anxiety and so many of life’s experiences: find acceptance and you find freedom.

person meditating, mindfulness

Freediving—One of Many Ways to Mindfulness

Whether it’s yoga, meditation or simple anger management, turning to your breath is the key to pulling you back to the present moment. Freediving opens up a world of possibilities, beyond its intrinsic connection to mindfulness. You’ll break personal records, dive with the ocean’s most fascinating creatures and learn a new respect for the water and yourself.

Disclaimer: Always train with qualified professionals and never dive alone.