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Learning to breathe well | Hanli Prinsloo

We all have to breathe well to perform well but it is a skill that has to be learnt. Whether you want more from your everyday or are seeking to increase performance on the water or field, preparation is everything.


To coincide with her lung stretching and breath hold sessions in store this week, and following the screening of Planet Ocean in our Broadcast Presents film series, we asked Hanli Prinsloo, multiple South African freediving record holder and Founder/CEO of I AM WATER Ocean Conservation, for a step by step guide to breathing preparation, stretching and yoga. Here's her advice:

Yoga & breath

I have been training yoga as long as I have been freediving, around twenty years. The first and foremost benefit yoga has, I believe, is the breathing practice. Yoga sees breath as the force of life, and breath synchronised movement is the root of Asanas, or postures. The postures challenges the body to become both flexible and strong, working with balance and fluidity. The philosophy of yoga and breath is one where discipline meets acceptance and this lesson is a valuable one for any ocean user to contemplate. If we can be strong yet quiet in our minds, we can deal with anything the ocean throws at us, and yoga is essentially the cessation of mind activity, and what better way to approach the ocean, than with a quiet mind.

How to stretch your lungs and increase your breath-hold.

First, you need to think about your breathing.

Lying flat on your back, feel the air move in and out of you, and start to identify the muscles controlling that process.

Become aware of the diaphragm pulling down to create a vacuum that draws air into your lungs while the muscles between the ribs expand for even more air space.

Consider the oxygen circulating around your body and the expulsion of carbon dioxide.

This is how you become a conscious breather.

Stretching

An increased lung capacity increases the body’s oxygen uptake, having larger lungs is like using a better quality fuel for your body. This is relevant in any sport, be it rugby, surfing, running or cycling. We all have to breathe well to perform well.

Our lungs could expand much more than the muscles between your ribs and over your chest and back allow, so we stretch.

  • Sit in a comfortable position - on a block cross-legged, or kneeling on your heels but most importably straight back.

  • Take a full breath then straighten your arms over your head so your elbows touch your ears.

  • Hold for 20 seconds or as long as is comfortable, then exhale slowly. 

  • In the same kneeling position, take a big breath then lean over gently to one side, with your arm reaching over, to open the intercostal muscles.

  • Hold for 20 seconds on each side, or as much as you can.

  • When you stretch with air in your lungs, be sure to do so carefully and consciously, pain is not good!

Master belly breathing

  • Lie flat on your back and breath into your stomach.

  • Take deep slow breaths, feeling your stomach rise and fall.

  • Try to direct the air into your stomach so you don’t feel any expansion in the chest.

  • Count your inhalation to 6 seconds and exhale for 10.

Belly breathing will help you take bigger breaths and slow down your breathing.

A big breath

For deep dives or long hold-downs, you need to know how to take the deepest breath possible.

  • Start by breathing out all the air in your lungs.

  • Inhale slowly, first into the stomach, then into the lungs, feeling your chest expand as you fill up.

  • Finally fill the last little bit right up behind the collar bone.

  • Now you have a very large breath the key is to relax with this sensation of being over-full.

In the water

Never enter the water alone. With your buddy keeping an eye you, do a short breathe-up at the surface, inhale for 8 exhale for 10. This slows down the heart rate, conserving oxygen and putting you into a trance-like state of relaxation. When you’re ready, take that one last long breath and dive down. Move smoothly and avoid jerky actions to save energy. Use weights around the waist to make yourself neutrally buoyant, so you don’t have to waste oxygen trying to stay down.

About Hanli

Growing up on a horse farm in rural South Africa Hanli's love of nature and the human need for wilderness was instilled at an early age. With a background in social-political documentary filmmaking, Hanli has travelled the world seeking and telling stories of transformation, hope and inspiration. Hanli excelled at competitive freediving and is a sought-after coach having worked with professional rugby players, cyclists, runners and big wave surfers. At present her energy is channeled into ocean conservation through human experience, reconnecting people with nature through the innovative I AM WATER ocean workshops offered to underserved coastal communities globally. Her for profit, I AM WATER Ocean Travel takes paying clients on extraordinary ocean adventures around the world, teaching yoga, freediving and big animal interactions as a fundraising tool for the work of the foundation. Her personal quest being freediving with marine megafauna has resulted in numerous exhibitions, films and articles about the human/animal connection. She is an acclaimed inspirational speaker and Young Global Leader under the WEF. 

Photos In Store - Tom Warry | Water Photos - Peter Marshall

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