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There is a close relation between the state of relaxation of the body and our breathing. Every emotional state affects the rate and the amplitude of our breathing, on the other hand breathing influence the emotional and psychological state. For example if we get seized with fear our breathing stops in inhalation phase, if something worries us breathing gets faster and so on…

In order to avoid feeling deeply all the negative emotions breathing decreases its amplitude and depth, as all those who practice therapeutic techniques know, for example the body oriented psychotherapies are used to get access and to unlock emotions of the past stocked in our body. In regards to freediving, it is particularly useful to know that abdominal diaphragm breathing stimulates the parasympathetic system, that part of the neurovegetative system aimed to slow down the metabolism, lower the artery pressure, slow down the heart rate and the breathing rate, all factors that influence the state of relaxation. 

In addition, these modifications of the body system characterize also the dive reflex, the adaptation of some physiological parameters that allow us to save energies and oxygen while we dive in the water. On the contrary a forced thoracic breathing stimulates the sympathetic system, aimed to active the metabolism, increase the heart rate and the artery pressure. It is evident then that a slow and controlled diaphragm breathing leads to a better relaxation.

In order to associate relaxation to breathing a good exercise can be following precise time rates in the alternation of inhalation and exhalation.


Position: sit on a chair with the back straight but not rigid, or  lay down with knees folded and feet leaned against something. Inhale slowly four times avoid any excessive and unnecessary tension.

Exhale eight times, breathing should be slow and followed by a body relaxation sensation and inner quiet. It does not matter the rate but it must remain constant. In relation to the personal characteristics it can be 3/6, 4/8, 5/10, 6/12 etc.

Once you find your own schema, the aim is to keep it constant with no effort. After training we might increase the time. After that we might squeeze in a certain period of apnea during inhalation that is log as the period of inhalation made while the exhalation period remains double the inhalation one, for example: inhale 4, apnea 4, exhale 8…..and so on.


  • Same positions as before.
  • Inhale 4 times in a controlled way with no effort.
  • Hold the breath 4 times, listening to the body sensations and paying attention to avoid any unnecessary tension.
  • Exhale 8 times in a controlled way with no effort.

An other simple relaxation and respiratory exercise to make either on the ground or in the water right before a dive, is the following:

  • Supine position on the ground with the legs outstretched and the arms right on the side of the body. If we are in the water then prone position and breathing through snorkel.
  • Focus your attention on a point at the centre of your pelvis. (In some way sit can be considered as our ideal centre, but it is also a very important point in many eastern disciplines from yoga to tai-chi and martial arts …)
  • Inhale in that point and imagine that right from that point your body starts expanding while the air gets in. At the same time consider the sensation of your body becoming lighter and bigger during the deep, slow and not forced inspiration.
  • During the following expiration, imagine your body gets smaller, heavier while the expiration goes on gradually re leasing all tensions.
  • Before any dive it might be useful to make this little exercise (or many similar other ones) in order to get a good relaxation status.

It is very important to not force our respiratory rate and to not prepare your dive too long in order to avoid changing the physiological parameters of our body related to the oxygen and carbon oxide values, and braking some of the fundamental rules of safety in freediving.

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