Breathe, Breathe and Breathe

When I teach scuba dive, one question that is almost always asked by the newbies is “how long can the air tank last?”

The answer is simple: for a good dive, the goal is always to maximize your time underwater by prolonging the air consumption rate. The air consumption rate will depend on how you breathe and move underwater. Broadly speaking:

The more vigorous movements you make, the more air you need to consume - if you move a lot (like kicking very hard), you are likely breathing shorter and faster. As a result, you will use up the air tank faster. If, however, you move slowly and breathe in a consistent pace, your air tank can last longer.

The more you move against a force, the more air you need to consume - If you are diving against the current, you will need to kick harder in order to move forward and, therefore, you will breathe faster and consume more air. However, if you are drift diving (i.e. let the current pushes you), you will be moving very little and, therefore, you will breathe slower and consume less air.

The more stressed you are (emotionally and physically), the more air you need to consume - When you are anxious and nervous, your breath is short and faster. When you are calm and relaxed, your breath is long and slower. During a dive, the slower you breathe, the lower your heart rate – and in turns, you become more calm and relaxed.

The more pressure you are under, the more air you need to consume - If you dive in shallow depth (like less than 15 metres), you are under less pressure and, therefore, can breathe smoothly and slower. However, if you go deep (like 20 – 40 metres), the pressure underwater will cause the air to become denser and therefore, harder to breathe. The tip is to breathe in a deliberately slower and longer pace.

Whether you are a scuba diver or not, by now you should see a pattern on how our breathing can be influenced by our own external and internal environments.

Likewise, it is easy to make the metaphorical correlation between being underwater and being above water. For the latter, we all are subject to pressure, stress, anxiety and negative energy and emotions. The breathing strategy for scuba diving is totally relevant and applicable to our daily life.

An amazing wonder of our human body is that we can consciously control our breathing. In fact, when we can control our breathing, we are aiding ourselves to become resilient.

In short, breathing is the foundation to good health and movement.

Here is a simple breathing exercise that you can do and with some variations that you can add later in your own time.

1-minute Breathing Exercise:

  • Sit on a chair with your back fully supported
  • Close your eyes to help you focus
  • Place the tip of your tongue against the back your upper teeth
  • INHALE through your nose into your lungs and to its maximum capacity
  • EXHALE through your nose, emptying your lungs like deflating a balloon
  • Repeat continuously for 1 minute (or until you want to stop).
  • It takes only 1 minute a day of your time as a starter. As you start to feel the benefits, you will naturally create more time for yourself to just do these breathing exercises.

Some additional variations that you can add later.

Variation 1 - Pace your inhaling and exhaling with specific length of time. For instance, INHALE and count 1 to 3 as you are inhaling; then EXHALE and count 1 to 3 as you are exhaling. Make it a smooth transition. Over time, as you become more familiar, you can extend the length of time for inhaling and exhaling.

Variation 2 - For scuba divers, you can switch to breathing through your mouth. At the same time, you INHALE by sipping air in slow motion and counting 1 to 5 or more until you fill up your lungs. Then you EXHALE by blowing air in slow motion and again counting 1 to 5 or more until your lungs are empty.

I would love to hear from you on your experience – even if you don't get the breathing exercise and have more questions about it. Please do get in touch by email to or by leaving a comment here.

p.s. From October 2017 (if not, earlier), we will start a new series of workshops and seminars on mindfulness and breathing. Stay tuned!

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About Stephanie Luo

Stephanie is an Executive Coach and Leadership Development Consultant. She has over 20 years of commercial experiences as an English-qualified solicitor, through working with the renown international law firms and international banks in London and Hong Kong. 

Throughout her legal and banking career, she has enlisted various approaches as the support system for her wellbeing to deal with highly stressful working environment. These approaches include executive coaching, reiki, yoga and meditation. As a result, she has been living an integrated life where she maintains a balance between her career, family, friends and community.

In 2014, she took the leap of faith and joined Luxe Nova. It is part of her mission to assist her corporate contemporaries to create their own support system to improve their quality of life and wellbeing.

She has been incorporating mindfulness practice, mediation and other alternative approaches into her work with senior executives in the international corporate, achieving positive shifts in these clients and their immediate surrounding (including raising the workplace health and staff engagement and performance).