Scuba diving is seen as an extreme sport. Just mention that you are a diver and watch non-diver’s eyes stretch wide or look at your medical insurance policy- which likely excluded injuries relating to the sport. As more and more people venture into recreational diving research increases and the sport has become safer and available to almost anyone. Diving is not only a sport but through a unique sensory experience and connecting a diver with his/her breathing also a way to journey into yourself.
The touch that sets you free
Divers agree that the underwater world is a touch-free zone. However, while submerged in water we are touching and being touched the entire time. Few things come close to diving in just a swim suit and feeling the water moving against your bare skin. The mere nature of this ‘touch’ is what holds us suspended weightless in the water and enables us to move in ways that we cannot do while on land. This leads to a feeling of being absolutely free.
Entering into this space is almost like entering into a bubble where the focus point becomes you and your body in relation to the world around you. Once your focus moves from your equipment and conducting skills more experienced divers become more aware of where they are in this space based on signals from their body. For example they notice the difference in depth of a meter or so based on how their ears react or controlling their buoyancy (as well as slight depth changes) by controlling the volume of air in their lungs. ***Dive tip – you can keep the volume of your lungs fairly constant for short amounts of time by breathing with your diaphragm.
All you need is the air that you breathe…
Diving elicit other feelings besides that of being free. Nitrogen narcosis leads to feelings of warmth and euphoria that could last till long after the dive.
Because we cannot verbally speak to each other under water there is also a sense of stillness that exist. With the sounds of the above-water world drowned out you become more aware of the unique sounds of the ocean: waves breaking, shells tumbling against each other, a boat in the distance, fish feeding… and most of all, your own breathing.
While diving you are forced to pay attention to your breath as this helps you to maintain your buoyancy. Paying attention to your breathing can also help you identify when you are overexerting yourself or find yourself in an uncomfortable situation that might escalate. If you think about the advice instructors give for these situations (Stop. Breathe. Act) it becomes clear that breath control is important in diving
By paying attention to and listening to your breathing as well as being aware of the physical sensations of the water surrounding you, you enter a kind of meditative state. While diving you become more and more aware of the present moment and how you interact with the world around you. External demands fall away and all you need to do is be focused on you in this moment. This leads to the feeling of being calm and relaxed after a dive, much like you experience after a deep meditation.
This meditative effect that diving offers have even led some to call diving and being submerged in water as being a ‘therapeutic landscape’ where reconnection with self and healing can take place.
Who knows, perhaps in time medical insurance companies will come to credit divers for the health benefit of diving… we can live in hope.
Reference: Elizabeth R Straughan – Touched by water: The body in scuba diving. Published in Emotion, Space and Society. 2012
*A version of this article was first published at www.scubadiverlife.com