When you’re plunging deep into the unknown void of the ocean – and you’re doing it all on just a single breath…
Sometimes your mind can get a little restless and anxious.
And that’s not a bad thing either. As a freediver – you need to be a little on edge and aware of any dangers in order to reach the surface safely.
It only becomes an issue when your mind starts spiraling out of control and becomes flooded with anxiety. Not only does this ruin your freediving experience, but the physiological symptoms of worry are such that they burn through your oxygen reserves, which is a real risk to a freedivers’ safety.
One of the best ways to calm your negative thoughts and out of control mind, is to use powerful meditation techniques for freediving.
At it’s core, meditation is all about easing into the present moment.
It’s a way of becoming completely immersed in the ‘now’ – while not getting caught up in your thoughts. The benefit of this is that without getting distracted by your thoughts, you become less prone to anxiety surrounding your dive and it massively enhances your experience as a freediver.
When done correctly, meditating before – and maybe even during – freediving will relax your mind so much you become fully immersed in the beautiful, peaceful serenity of the underwater realm.
Once your mind and thoughts have calmed and you are completely present; there’s nothing left but your body as a vessel floating through the seemingly infinite expanse of the ocean. When you are completely present – only then do you get the explicit experience of being underwater, without any thoughts, left with just the ocean speaking to you in beautiful rhythmic waves.
It’s a truly surreal experience of being connected and at one with the sea – and something more than 99% of the human population will never feel or fully understand.
And not only do meditation techniques for freediving get you a full uncut preview of the ocean in it’s most natural state – where you’re not just a visitor – but you truly feel like you’re at ‘home’…but you will also lower your anxiety & worry to such a low level, that your oxygen consumption drops so you can reach unbelievable depths without consciously trying.
First and foremost – let me just say that practicing meditation can be a great way to boost your freediving performance.
But having a calm, relaxed mind is only half the battle.
If you’re really serious about boosting your freediving performance, you also need to invest in high-quality freediving gear.
Not only does having great gear boost relaxation in the water…it also conserves oxygen, helps you hit deeper depths and unlocks much faster, more hydrodynamic speeds underwater.
Make sure you have a weight belt that doesn’t cut off your pre-dive breathe-up (click this link here to learn more)…
And make sure you aren’t using a freediving mask that isn’t slowly burning your oxygen supplies as you dive deeper.
Already got high-quality freediving gear you can trust?
In this post we’ll talk about the best meditation techniques for freediving. Let’s get started on the list shall we?
Mindfulness meditation is probably the most well known form of meditation. The goal of being ‘mindful’ in mindfulness meditation is to be completely consumed and acutely aware of what’s occurring in the present moment – without any judgement. Simple in theory, but surprisingly hard in practice.
One of the key things that separates humans from animals, is that we have the ability to think. We can project into the future and reflect on the past. This is something animals are not capable of doing.
Now although being able to think is an advantage – especially for setting long term goals to stay alive – all too often our ability to think blocks us from enjoying the gifts in the present moment.
A great illustration of this is by Lao Tzu’s famous quote:
“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
A good example of how this can affect your freediving, is when you’re descending – which is one of the best parts of freediving – but you don’t enjoy the peace and calm that comes from it because you’re too focused on making it back up to the surface safely.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s a good idea to be aware of your safety. But if your thoughts are completely consumed by the idea of you maybe running out of oxygen or not resurfacing consciously; then you’re sacrificing the present moment for the future.
If you don’t learn to be mindful when freediving, you’re missing out on half the fun and on a truly enlightening experience!
The best way to be mindful when freediving is again, to become completely absorbed in your senses. Like you do when practicing mindfulness meditation on dry land – so too should you come into your senses and feel your surrounding space and observe it objectively.
Feel the cool water pressing against your face. Observe the schools of fish darting through the open spaces of water. Listen to the empty stillness and complete quietness and serenity of being underwater. Feel your body sway gently with the rhythm of the ocean’s natural energy.
In short: hone in on your senses and don’t think about what you feel. Just experience the here and now.
Visualization meditation is a way of improving your performance in a particular activity, by constantly imagining yourself performing well in what ever the activity it is you’re doing.
Research has shown that if you imagine something vividly and with enough repetition; eventually your subconscious mind will soak it up and it will start to manifest in your actions and conscious thoughts.
This is something elite athletes all over the world practice before setting foot on the sporting field. For example, before taking a penalty shot, a basketball player may close his eyes and imagine the ball looping up in the air and then shooting through the ring without hitting the rim.
Then, when the player actually takes his shot, his subconscious mind orders his muscles to produce the desired outcome of scoring a point, thus improving his chances of scoring.
Now you may be thinking – “all this sounds a bit ‘airy-fairy’ give me the hard science on how visualization meditation works”.
Well, researchers have strong evidence suggesting your subconscious mind struggles to know the difference between what you’re imaging vs what is actually happening.
That’s why if you watch a Youtube video of someone several hundreds of feet up high in a sky scraper, peering down over the edge at all the tiny buildings and roads littering the view of the ground…your body automatically recoils and goes into a state of mini-shock and you’ll get a little nervous and your palms may even start to sweat with a raised heart-beat.
Your body reacts the way it does because on some level your mind thinks that what it’s seeing is real.
The obvious caveat here, is that watching a Youtube clip or imagining something is not the same nor as powerful as actually doing it – because it’s not intense enough. It doesn’t tap into your sense – what you feel, touch, see etc as deeply as actually experiencing it.
You actually have to practice what you visualize – this meditation doesn’t replace actually doing the activity.
But it certainly does help implant desirable outcomes into your muscles memory, simply by visualizing yourself correctly completing activities.
So how do we apply visualization meditation to freediving? Easy!
And that’s it. That’s how you do visualization meditation for freediving.
But what about visualizing during freediving?
Your method would be similar to the steps above.
Let’s say for example you’re trying to set a new record depth.
Now let’s say 3/4 of the way through your dive, you become worried you’re not going to reach the surface in time.
In order to maintain your confidence and keep your strength, you’d start visualizing yourself already at the surface, safe & sound with plenty of oxygen in your system.
You may even picture yourself as some sort of rocket or unstoppable torpedo, piercing your way through the water to the surface.
Picture yourself reaching the surface alive and well and with plenty of oxygen left in your lungs. Keep rehearsing confident images in your mind and feel the sense of triumph you’ll feel after reaching your new depth. This may unlock a hidden enthusiasm and source of power in your body to keep pushing through until your resurface.
Mantra meditation is the act of repeating a word, phrase or noise to yourself – either out loud or in your head – as a way of creating some sort of change in your behavior, thoughts or emotions.
The way it works is simple. If you focus heavily on repeating a particular phrase or word to yourself – and the phrase has enough emotion attached to it – you’ll start to feel similar to the word or phrase you’re chanting.
Repeating something over and over causes your brain to absorb – like a sponge – any emotion attached to what you’re chanting.
For instance, a very popular Mantra meditation phrase is ‘everything I need, I already have’. This is typically used to practice mindfulness and acts as a reminder to stay in the present and not get too caught up in your desires.
However, you don’t have to repeat a phrase – it can be as simple as just whispering the word ‘peace’ or ‘love’ to yourself…and when done with enough repetition and intensity, you’ll start to feel like the word.
Some people like to listen to relaxing audio tapes before doing Mantra Meditation. The benefit of audio tapes is they help your mind automatically ‘switch gears’ to a more relaxed state, to help tap into more powerful meditative experiences.
So what word should you repeat during Mantra meditation? Unsurprisingly – there is no best word! The word or phrase you choose to repeat to yourself, largely depends on 3 things:
It’s up to you decided the above three, so you can hone in on what to chant during your Mantra meditation.
After following the 8 steps above, you should feel very different and start seeing and feeling a difference in your freediving ability. In my experience, mantra meditation is best done at night, before you go to sleep, as it embeds better into your subconscious.
Doing full Mantra meditation when freediving can be a little risky. Of all meditation techniques, this is one of the techniques that requires the most focus and usually shouldn’t be done in full if occupied with another task.
However, that’s not to say you can’t do it when freediving. All you have to do is tone it down a bit. And by that I mean, you can repeat your mantra to yourself – but don’t visualize it deeply. Instead, let your mind wander and enjoy the experience of freediving, while still looking out for your safety.
This will keep you safe, while still leveraging some of the benefits of mantra meditation for freediving.
Like most meditation techniques, Zen meditation can be practiced in many different ways. For the sake of this article, I’ll outline the most popular Zen meditation technique; Zazen meditation.
Zazen meditation involves making a concentrated effort to focus on your breath. Focusing and being aware of the way your breath moves in and out of your body acts as a distraction to stop your mind focusing on thoughts.
Instead your relentless focus on the breath, helps you smoothly transition into the present moment.
Guided meditation is a way of practicing any sort of traditional meditation technique (like the ones in this list), but while you do it, an instructor or teacher gives you guidelines and leads the meditation.
This can be in the form of the teachers’ physical presence – such as a meditation class you attend. Or it can be via a book you’re reading or even a tape, audio book or phone app. Guided meditation is a great starting point for many beginners.
The role of the teacher is basically to add structure to your meditation sessions, by gently guiding you through what you’re meant to do, so you don’t feel lost or use improper techniques.
When I first started meditating, I was impatient, unsure of which pieces of information to follow and not even sure if I was doing it properly.
This all changed when I took up guided meditation. I didn’t have much time in the day to attend a class, so I used a simple phone app called Headspace which I thoroughly recommend. There’s also free options which I’ve never tried before (I think one is called ‘Calm’?).
If you’re a beginner looking to start meditation for freediving, I strongly recommend guided meditation. Having an instructor tell you exactly what to do in a step-by-step fashion, could save you weeks, months or even years of spinning your wheels doing incorrect meditation and not getting the most out of it.
I won’t outline the steps to follow here…as you should be following your instructor’s meditation tips 😉
However, I will say two things…
First: I recommend audio tapes, recordings & phone apps, over attending an actual class. Having the audio with you at any given point, means you can meditate where-ever and whenever you want. Also, if you get stuck or didn’t understand something, you can simply rewind, without having to disrupt a class.
Lastly, it also helps you save time and money as guided meditation using apps, books or audio tapes tend to be much cheaper than classes.
You should only really be attending a class with an instructor if you need specific help or if you’ve been meditating for a while and just can’t seem to feel the positive effects of it.
Second: I recommend meditating first thing in the morning. The morning meditation really calms your mind and soaks through into the rest of your day, so you go about your wakeful hours with a clear mind. This calmness from your morning meditation will also carry on through to your freedives throughout the day, which makes for a better diving experience.
For obvious reasons you can’t practice guided meditation during your freedive…because you’re underwater 😉
However, if you’re well-versed enough – you should be able to simply recall the instructions from your mentor while diving. Gently run through the steps in your mind as you descend and you should be able to get almost the same benefits as dry-land guided meditation.
Some of you – especially beginner freedivers – may be reading this part with surprise. Why would yoga – something that is mainly done on dry land – be applicable to freediving? The funny thing is, yoga and freediving go hand-in-hand. They naturally compliment one another and many freedivers practice yoga as well.
The skills that make someone masterful at yoga…naturally lend themselves to freediving. If you’re experienced at yoga but not at freediving, I can almost guarantee you’ll pick up freediving faster than the average none-yogi beginner.
But for those of you reading who aren’t well versed in yoga, you may be asking – “what exactly is it? Is it more than just slowly stretching on a mat?”
Despite popular belief, yoga is more than just poses and stretching down by the beach. Yoga is about bridging the gap between your breath, body and mind. Sure, it involves dry land exercises and stretching – but it’s often also used as a meditation technique.
There are many different types of yoga – from Hatha yoga, to Kundalini to Vinyasa. Each style of yoga follows different techniques, postures & poses. For this reason – it can be hard to actually find a yoga style that’s suitable for freediving.
My recommendation to learn yoga for freediving, is to head to Sarah Campbell’s Yoga Freediving Channel. She has a lot of videos that walk you, step-by-step through some of the best yoga poses and practices for freediving.
Vipassanna meditation is often seen as a more advanced meditation technique. I am by no means an expert in Vipassanna – I recommend reaching out to an instructor as a bare minimum. Even better would be to go on a Vipassanna meditation retreat for 5 – 10 days to really wrap your head around it, as it is quite complex.
So why is it considered so complex?
Vipassanna is considered to be more advanced or more complex because it builds upon mindfulness meditation – which in itself is difficult. Mindfulness is about being completely present and in the moment. Vipassanna – when done correctly – changes your entire view of life and of the world.
To define Vipassana as a meditation technique; I’ll quote the blog Apneista below:
Vipassanna is direct experience of the mind/body connection as an energetic field and how the mind/body interacts with the present moment.
After correctly practicing Vipassanna deeply and carefully for many years, you deepen yourself into the ‘present’ moment. The more and more Vipassanna is practiced, the less suffering one goes through as the present moment gently sinks into your consciousness like an ink stain soaking into a white towel.
This will lead to a sense of enlightenment and drastically change the way you view and experience the world.
Listed above are just some of the meditation techniques you can use to not only become a better freediver, but also to enhance your freediving experience. There are plenty more meditation techniques you can learn about and trial for yourself.
This depends entirely on how your mind and body work. Each person is unique and everyone processes information and experiences the world differently. My recommendation is to try each meditation technique and see how you feel when freediving after.
As usual it’s best to get an instructor to help your along the way.
Good luck on your journey! 🙂
Gerrie is a passionate Freediver, Spearfisher, Digital Marketer, and author for the Apnealogy website. Gerrie is an SSI Level 1 certified Freediver who loves geeking out about freediving and spearfishing gear and lives for his family and adventure.