Breathe, Just Breathe

Written By Bob Hunt

I love the water. I’m always happy on the water, whether canoeing or kayaking. Most of all I enjoy being in the water swimming or with a camera taking pictures of waterfowl. The air is fresh and I can fill my lungs with the sweet smell of lily pads. A simple mask and some flippers can transport you into a different world. Surfacing every now and then to exhale and draw in fresh air through a snorkel. These are among the times when I feel deeply aware of and connected with my body.

Image of scuba diver in the water
Photo: Bradley Stabler via flickr Creative Commons

Ice diving brings its own special rewards. The diver is suspended in the water enjoying the shaft of light that pours through the hole bringing objects into sharp relief. The ice provides a canopy of inter-cut light, delicate air bubbles and fish moving in slow motion.

It's breath-taking. But, the most important skill that divers learn is how to breathe. The natural tendency is to breathe too quickly and use up the tank’s oxygen thereby reducing the time to enjoy the underwater world.

Scuba divers aren’t the only ones who benefit from learning to breathe. One of things I teach students at the University Health Network (and try to remember for myself) is the value of controlled breathing. Slowing down, perhaps even leaning back against a wall and taking three slow deep breaths, can make a significant difference in how we respond to others. Oxygen flows to the brain and you can think more clearly and be more aware of what is going on both inside you and in the environment around you.

Buddhists have taught this technique for years. Have a look at a post written by Leo Babauta, Breathe: zenhabits.

The Hebrew word that is often translated as spirit can also be translated as breath. Being aware of my breathing is a spiritual experience. It helps me to be more aware of my body my emotions and my opportunities. When I slow down and breathe I become aware of the canopy of life. When life is complicated and you are feeling rushed, remember to breathe, just breathe.