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Yoga and Freediving

To accompany our rather good feature on breath hold diving and yoga, here are a few extra tidbits:

Photo: Richard Fleury
Photo: Richard Fleury


  • Yoga literally means ‘union’ and is based on the principle of harmony between the mind and body.
  • All freedivers can benefit from it but yoga is particularly helpful for those trying to push beyond the depth of 100 feet (30m).
  • Students are often surprised how quickly they reach 65 to 100 feet (20-30m). But progress to 130 feet (40m) and beyond requires advanced techniques.
  • Since Jacques Mayol, the father of modern freediving, introduced it to the sport in the 1960s, yoga has become a central part of freedive training.
  • In particular, Mayol popularized techniques from Pranayama yoga which relax the mind through controlled breathing. Using these exercises, Mayol was able to slow his metabolism and control his heart-rate at will.
  • Such feats take years of practice, of course. Mayol would prepare for deep dives by training with a yogi in India.  But, says Emma Farrell, yoga is “for everyone.”
  • “It doesn’t matter what discipline you do,” she says, “You will benefit from learning how to breathe properly and the exercises and poses help stretch your lungs and diaphragm.“
  • Emma is trained in Hatha yoga, which strengthens muscles and joints to improve flexibility. The discipline teaches asnanas, or positions, such as Sun Salutation, which stretch the entire body. And meditation such as Yoga Nidra, helps clear the mind of thoughts, ready to dive feeling relaxed and positive.
  • “Throughout the week the exercises got more complex,” she says, “I wanted to be able to start with people who had never ever done yoga before, keep it really simple and then just increase the variety and complexity as they were comfortable.”

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