Scuba diving and yoga have a lot more in common than you may think…
I have been practising yoga for 9 years and while travelling, I recently completed my Open Water and Advanced Open Water diver courses. I was amazed to see how diving and yoga are so similar and complementary. I found that they also share a lot of the same philosophy:
They are both a moving meditation, prone to developing a meditative mind. Being under water is very silent. We are almost weightless and buoyant, which helps our body relax. The sensation of hovering is especially liberating. Looking at all those gorgeous fish and living organisms is a form of meditation, during which we are fully aware. We experience a profound sense of peace and connectedness with nature. Water is also known to have incredible healing properties that take the whole relaxation to a deeper level.
The golden rule of diving is to never hold your breath. Well, same thing in yoga: ‘Remember to breathe’, your yoga teacher constantly reminds you. The breath is a central aspect of yoga and diving. You might be nervous before getting into the water, but when you start hearing and regulating your breath, you become stress-free. I find the sound of my own breath underwater to be very calming and meditative. It helps induce a relaxed state of mind and inner peace.
Practising yoga can also help you reduce your air consumption while diving, which allows you to stay a little longer underwater. It is a nice added bonus! Breathing also helps you control your buoyancy.
Did you know? Ujjayi breathing is also called ocean breath. Although ujjayi is performed through the nose while doing yoga and through the mouth when diving, the inhalations and exhalations are equal in duration. This particular breathing exercise increases oxygenation, tones the lungs, and allows free and healthy flow of prana.
Ahimsa translates to non- violence, not causing harm to any living being and to yourself. Obviously, it means not hurting any aquatic life nor living organisms while diving. Physically, both in yoga and diving, one should acknowledge honestly and respect ones limits. It means not pushing ourselves over the edge. When diving, we also practise ahimsa by staying within limits of training and certification; for example, doing buddy checks thoroughly so that everyone is safe; not diving deeper than 30m; if you have a cold, don’t go diving.
Satya translates to truthfulness, not telling lies to ourselves and to others. You know when you feel stressed, panicked, cold or overexerted in the water. It simply means recognizing and accepting when enough is enough. Don’t push yourself beyond healthy boundaries.
Aparigraha translates to non-grasping or non- possessiveness. If your buddy has to abort the dive because he is cold or low on air, you have to follow him, even if you still have a lot of air left in your tank. You could possibly stay underwater for another 20 minutes but you have to let it go. Diving in drift current also implies that you have to go with the flow and not fight it. Both yoga and diving reflect this aspect well: it’s not about the destination but about the journey.
Asteya translates to non-stealing. It is one of the 10 yamas and niyamas that a yogi aims to practise on and off the mat. Well, asteya is also a part of the diver’s philosophy. We firstly think about physically not stealing what is not ours, but we could also be stealing other people’s time, space and peace for example. A good diver obviously does not remove parts of a reef, coral, fish nor removes pieces of a wreck. But also does not waste the time of other divers and the divemaster; arrive on time and allow ample time to set up your gear. Another example is to stay aware and avoid swimming into other divers.
Practising asteya through yoga and scuba diving reminds us of the non-material richness we have in our lives. It reminds us of acknowledging where we are at because if we don’t, then we rob ourselves from the experience of being alive and present in that particular moment.
As yoga helps you deal with life adversities, so does diving by teaching you how to remain calm in difficult situations. It is the most important attitude for safety. Don’t panic, breathe.
If you are a yogi, you may want to try diving and experience the likeness for yourself. If you are a diver, you may want to try yoga and see how it can help you with your breathing and control of your body for better buoyancy and relaxation.
Yoga and diving are both ways of life that make us more conscientious and aware human beings, taking care of the world surrounding us.
Yoga for Scuba Divers, Kimberlee Stedl, Todd Stedl. This book teaches you poses, breathing exercises and visualization techniques to make you a better diver.
Learn more about the yamas, niyamas and the other limbs of Yoga here.
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