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October 2008    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 23, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Downward Dogs Can Improve Your Diving

from the October, 2008 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Can a yoga course really help reduce air consumption, improve flexibility and buoyancy control, and make a more proficient diver – in just one week? Charlotte Boan, a writer for the British magazine DIVE, checked out these claims from a “scuba Zen” course offered by Sunra Yoga in the Red Sea resort town of Dahab, Egypt.

“The fusion of yoga and scuba was a concept that perplexed me,” writes Boan. “I had visions of fins wrapped around my head, mid-water locust positions and other bizarre underwater contortions.” But later she found that there would be no underwater gymnastics. The daily schedule was a 90-minute Hatha-style (exercise-focused) yoga session in the morning, followed by a day of shore diving.

Yoga-practicing divers say there is a connection to the relaxed feeling one gets from both diving and yoga. As well as the physical benefit of muscle-stretching postures, yoga offers an effective way to switch off, focus on the present and relax, similar to finning underwater.

Yoga for Scuba Divers“Yoga is great for divers because it offers breathing exercises that strengthen the lungs, slow the heart and allow greater control of the breathing reflex,” says Arielle Thomas Newman, a yoga instructor who holds “Yoga by the Sea” courses through Sea Life Divers in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Also, “divers tend to have upper-back tension because of the tanks they’re carrying, and yoga stretches can help that as well.”

“When I first started yoga, I saw the impact on my buoyancy control,” says Todd Stendl, who, along with his wife Kimberlee, wrote the recent book Yoga for Scuba Divers. “Holding yoga poses for extended periods is helpful in strengthening core muscles, allowing divers to maneuver easily instead of flailing around.”

After doing yoga poses, breath-holds, and timed inhalations and exhalations, Boan says she felt immediate improvement in her diving. “The morning stretching techniques helped ease my muscles, minimize fatigue, made me more alert and gave me more energy. The breathing and relaxation techniques had a dramatic impact on my air consumption, giving me at least a third more air supply on each dive.”

Yoga can be done anywhere there’s space to unroll a yoga mat. In their book, the Stendls describe and photograph the yoga poses best for divers, and explain why they’re beneficial. For example, the Downward Facing Dog is an excellent calf stretch for divers to improve their finning underwater. The Navasana, or boat, is tougher but is great for strengthening the abdominal muscles and hip flexors. The book also gives details for breathing exercises, and visualization techniques to prepare for tough dives.

Newman offers three-day courses at Playa Del Carmen (www.morethanyoga.com). Janine Davis, maker of a divers’ brew of tea called Diversitea, hosted a yoga and meditation dive week at Habitat Curacao last spring and says the trip was sold out (contact her at www.diversitea.com about future trips). The Stendls plan to host their own yoga-focused dive trip next March at Dominica’s Jungle Bay eco-resort; visit www.8thElementDiving.com for details. Buy their book Yoga for Scuba Divers at our Web site (Undercurrent) - - you’ll get it at the best price Amazon.com has to offer, and all proceeds go to save the reefs.

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