Explorations in Breath, Pt. 3

breathing 3I took a break from the single-breath timing exercises for a while after hitting a new personal record of 3 minutes 41 seconds, lying down, and with no movement.

I picked it up again after a couple of weeks and the change was dramatic. First time I barely went more than two minutes. Only after a further three attempts did I manage 2:41 seconds, a full minute less than what I’d managed before.

Soon after this, I had the opportunity to try this in water. This was a first for me – the actual intended application of these exercises.

Predictably, I managed no more than 30 seconds before panicking. I borrowed a set of scuba goggles which covered my nose and tried holding myself down. After a little practice, I was up to 60 seconds, then approximately a minute and a half. This was with no movement or distractions. A small success.

The biggest barrier here was the very real fear that I was going to drown. Another kind of panic engaged. On land, lying down, I had trained my brain to recognize that to prevent suffocation, all I needed to do was open my mouth and feel a little dizzy. This was a different animal entirely. I had to fight hard against the urge to jump out of the water. Reassurance came in the form of knowing I simply had to kick my legs up and I’d be fine. But the fear was relentless either way and half the battle was keeping my heart rate steady. I’m curious how it will be when going down deeper than a five-foot deep backyard swimming pool.

I have purchased a swimming snorkel mask, and the next step will be to acquire a gym membership with an organization that has a pool.

I have a long way to go. I will be practicing again more regularly to build up not only my physiological resilience, but most importantly the suppression of my psychological panic impulse. I am keeping my expectations low, enjoying the brief highs, and committed to continuing in this weird and wonderful exercise.

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