Breathing underwater requires a slightly different technique compared to how we normally breathe. The most common mistake of scuba diving is breathing normally as if you’re on land. If you inhale like you are doing now, when you’re underwater it’ll tire you out quicker as well as consume air faster.
This is the breathing technique I recommend when scuba diving, to help you feel more comfortable underwater as well as maximize your bottom time and allow you to save your air.
Best Breathing Technique During Descend
You’ve just jumped into the sea, and your dive leader has given you the “down signal”.
- Slowly (like whistling) exhale while deflating your BCD
- Exhale slowly until your head is 50 cm under the surface
- Stop deflating your BCD after 50 cm of depth even if you have more air in it
- When you need to inhale, do it slow and steady. Not a lungful.
- Slowly exhale while descending, and take breaks.
- You should NOT be “falling“, you should BE “soaring” like a leave.
- This will give you the chance for equalization (both mask and ear) and save air by moving slow (less oxygen need)
Best Breathing Technique During the Dive
You’ve made it to the bottom/level you want to be at. Your leader gives you the “stay at this level” signal. Here’s how you should breath whilst enjoying the view.
- Inhale for 4 seconds slowly.
- Pause for 2 seconds (I am not talking about holding your breath)
- Exhale for 4 seconds
If there is an obstacle in front of you, like a giant rock, you can shorten the 3rd step. This way, you can use your lungs to avoid the obstacle. Then you can fully exhale again and follow these 3 steps. The idea here is to fill your lungs to dissolve as much oxygen as possible during the dive. On the land, you are inhaling and exhaling for 2 seconds (try it). But saturating your lungs with oxygen is important when we are talking about the underwater.
Why? Let’s discuss it in detail.
Dead Air Space
We are using regulator 2nd stages and snorkels. As you know, there is also some air inside of these equipment. If you breathe normally as you do on land, you’ll always inhale “enriched carbon dioxide“. That’s because you are always exhaling into the snorkel/regulator 2nd stage and carbon dioxide here increases. If you don’t inhale long enough (like 4 seconds), you’ll inhale this “enriched carbon dioxide” air trapped in these dead air spaces.
So, if you inhale long enough, you will again inhale this “enriched carbon dioxide” air, but will reach fresh air right after. We don’t face these issues on land, because we are inhaling the air directly.
However, if you want to try this, you can use a straw to test it out.
Role of Carbon Dioxide In Dead Air Spaces
Carbon Dioxide is an unwelcome gas (at least for scuba divers). If you breathe short through a snorkel/regulator 2nd stage, you will be inhaling the carbon dioxide you just released on your previous exhale. We don’t want this to happen and thus always say “breath slow and steady“.
Our brains always check our carbon dioxide level to give the “breath command“. When we breathe too much CO2, our brain commands us to breath more and more to exhale the excess CO2 and reduce the level of it to an acceptable level. But if you go on short breathing, your heartbeat is going to increase, trying to pump more oxygen to your tissues.
As a result, you will try to breathe more which lowers your air in a short time, this leads to a low bottom time and of course, you will get tired quicker.
Best Breathing Technique During Ascent
During your ascent, it is a must to breathe continuously. As you all know, the golden rule of scuba diving is not to hold your breath. The breathing technique is slightly different compared to the one you use when descending.
- Inhale for 3 seconds
- Never ever hold your breath
- Exhale for 4 seconds
- Be sure that you are exhaling fully
1-second difference between inhaling and exhaling is to emphasize the importance of fully exhaling during the ascent. This will prevent over-expansion of lung injuries.
Using the correct breathing techniques underwater is very important because it not only prevents some dive injuries but can also provide comfort, save air and allow for more bottom time fun.