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The healthy lifestyle of the Mediterranean diet: an example of sustainability for free divers

The traditional Mediterranean diet is the heritage of millennia of exchange of people, cultures, and foodstuffs throughout the Mediterranean basin, with diverse food consumption and production patterns, in continuous evolution representing the particular historical and environmental mosaic that is the Mediterranean. This diet was the basis of food habits until the mid-twentieth century in all countries of the region, but it is now progressively disappearing because of the widespread dissemination of Western-type lifestyle and globalization.

The Mediterranean diet, recognized as a healthy dietary pattern and a healthy lifestyle, is still an underexplored resource for valuing biodiversity and understanding human nutrition. More than just food, it is also a potential model of sustainable development, although this too has not been fully realized. In the Mediterranean region, there is widespread awareness of the social, cultural, health and economic dimensions of food, shared by all Mediterranean people.

It must be emphasized that there is not one single Mediterranean diet, but rather a number of variations on a basic theme adapted to individual country’s cultures. Therefore, the Mediterranean diet is more than just a defined diet, but it represents the plurality of various cultural expressions of different Mediterranean food cultures and lifestyles.

The term “Mediterranean diet” implies the existence of some common dietary characteristics in Mediterranean countries such as high amounts of olive oil and olives, fruits, vegetables, cereals (mostly unrefined), legumes, and nuts, moderate amounts of fish and dairy products, and low quantities of meat and meat products. Wine in moderation is acceptable when it is not contradictory to religious and social norms.

In the early 1980s, the notion of ‘sustainable diets’ was described by Gussow and Clancy to recommend diets that are healthier for the environment as well as for consumers. The concept of a ‘sustainable diet’, borrowed from ‘sustainable agriculture,’ promoted activities that minimized the waste of natural resources and addressed food production for local and seasonal consumption.

With the food globalization process and the increased production of agricultural systems, and with no attention paid to the sustainability of ecosystems, the sustainable diet’s concept was neglected for many years. But recently interest in sustainable diets has again been raised by international scientific societies and institutions.

There is growing recognition of the complexity of defining sustainability, as well as a growing body of evidence of the unsustainable nature of current diets. A definition of sustainable diets should address the sustainability of the whole food chain while acknowledging the interdependencies of food production systems and food and nutrient requirements.

The notion of a sustainable diet would have been curious a few hundred years ago when people obtained the majority of their foods out of their ecosystems. Biodiversity was valued and utilized; ecosystems and agro-ecological zones produced the foods that they had produced for millennia.

According to FAO estimates, is that the number of undernourished people has increased to nearly one billion. This number reflects only the dietary energy supply, whereas micronutrient malnutrition exists on an even larger scale. In addition to the problems of undernourishment, obesity and its associated chronic diseases are rising. This, coupled with the alarming pace of food biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, makes a compelling case for re-examining agricultural systems and diets and at the same time reaffirms the notion that human health cannot be isolated from that of ecosystems.

The FAO has also estimated that by 2050, in order to satisfy the needs of a growing and richer world population with increased demand for animal products, food production will have to increase by at least 60 %. This will be a major challenge for food security and sustainability, considering that natural resources are already increasingly stressed and degraded, with the additional negative effects of climate change.

In 2010, participants at the international symposium on ‘Biodiversity and Sustainable Diets: United against Hunger’, reached a consensus position on the following definition of sustainable diets: ‘Sustainable diets are those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to a healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources.’

Despite the fact that the Mediterranean diet is well documented and acknowledged as a healthy diet, paradoxically, it is being abandoned, mainly by the young generations in most Mediterranean countries.

Such a decline in the Mediterranean’s healthy diet patterns was already predicted in 2005 in the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development report, issued by the United Nations Environment Program, as follows: “Mediterranean agricultural and rural models, which are at the origins of Mediterranean identity, are under increasing threat from the predominance of imported consumption patterns. This trend is illustrated in particular by the decline of the Mediterranean dietary model despite the recognized positive effects on health”

Historically, starting from the 1960s, the Mediterranean diet began to be studied as a model of a healthy diet with reduced morbidity and mortality.

Then, in the early 1990s, the Mediterranean diet as a plant-centered diet, consequently lowered demand on soil, water, and energy resources, began to be researched by Joan Dye Gussow (beforehand named) as a sustainable dietary pattern, which also considers the overall impact on the ecosystem.

In the last decade, the Mediterranean diet has become the object of increasing studies on its environmental sustainability, because of its mainly plant-based dietary pattern and its lower greenhouse gas emissions and lower water footprints, when compared to current Western dietary patterns.

The following four sustainable benefits of the Mediterranean diet are highlighted: (i) major health and nutrition benefits; (ii) low environmental impacts and richness in biodiversity; (iii) high sociocultural food values; and (iv) positive local economic returns.

Data from a series of cohort and case–control studies have shown that a high intake of foods typical of the traditional Mediterranean diet pattern (MDP) is associated with a reduced risk for developing various types of cancers, including upper digestive tract, stomach, colorectal, pancreas, liver, and selected hormone-related cancers such as endometrial cancer.

Surveys have repeatedly shown that adherence to an MDP is also associated with a healthier body weight, reduced waist circumference as a marker of central obesity, and lower incidence of the metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. The Mediterranean diet may positively influence the ageing process by delaying the evolution of cognitive decline linked to Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, which is often documented a long time before the clinical diagnosis of dementia.

Pic (C) Ingolf Hatz

On the other hand, a plant-based diet with low consumption of animal products and thus has a smaller water footprint and lower greenhouse gas emissions, compared with other current dietary patterns. Increased adherence of the Spanish population to the MDP was reported to have a marked impact on all standard environmental footprints: reduce greenhouse gas emissions, land use and energy consumption, and to a lower extent water consumption, while on the contrary, adherence to a Western dietary pattern increases all these parameters. In an Italian study, adherence to the MDP was shown to significantly reduce the food environmental footprint on natural resources especially for water consumption.

The Mediterranean diet encourages the use of a wide range of cereals, fruits and vegetables, not only cultivated products but also wild species, thus sustaining them together with the local, indigenous and traditional knowledge about their use. The seasonal consumption of fresh and local products, biodiversity, variety of foods (especially fruits and vegetables of different colours), traditional culinary activities.

Additionally, the Mediterranean diet expresses the care in food preparation, moderation in portion size and avoiding waste, and is linked to the high cultural, social and economic value that food has for all Mediterranean peoples. In Mediterranean cultures, eating is important over and above the physiological need for energy. Family and communal meals are a moment of conviviality and importance, as well as fun and pleasure (more or less explicit), and represent a daily opportunity for social exchange and communication. The Mediterranean diet is a socio-cultural historical heritage intimately linked to the lifestyles of the Mediterranean peoples throughout their history, with a myriad of food traditions, religious and cultural differences, and the succession of different dominant civilizations.

Pic (C) Once ocean One breath

At the end of 2010, the Mediterranean diet was inscribed in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, and described as follows: “The Mediterranean Diet – derived from the Greek word díaita, way of life – is the set of skills, knowledge, rituals, symbols, and traditions, ranging from the landscape to the table, which in the Mediterranean basin concerns the crops, harvesting, picking, fishing, animal husbandry, conservation, processing, cooking, and particularly sharing and consuming of food”

As freedivers with the aim to live in harmony with nature following a healthy lifestyle maybe it worth considering incorporating this diet in our life. Let’s organize a Mediterranean cooking workshop soon.

References:

B. Burlingame et al. (2011), Sustainable diets: the Mediterranean diet as an example, Public Health Nutrition: 14(12A), 2285–2287

S Dernini et al. (2016), Med Diet 4.0: the Mediterranean diet with four sustainable benefits, Public Health Nutrition: 20(7), 1322–1330

S. Dernini et al. (2015), Mediterranean diet: from a healthy diet to a sustainable dietary pattern, Front. Nutr. 2:15

Is freediving an activity that suits better females? A tribute to Ama

Off the shores of Korea and southern Japan, the ocean bottom is rich in shellfish and edible seaweeds. For at least 1,500 years these crops have been harvested by divers, mostly women, who support their families by daily foraging on the sea bottom. Using no special equipment other than goggles (or glass face masks), these breath-holding divers have become famous the world over for their performances. The divers are called Ama.

The Japanese Ama specialized in freediving in the cold sea for collecting foods and pearls. In ancient times, women were thought to be able to hold breath longer and better suited to diving in the cold water as they possess an extra layer of fat for insulation. The history of Ama dates back almost 2000 years ago.  

For those who choose this occupation, diving was a lifelong profession; they begin to work in shallow water at the age of 11 or 12 and sometimes continue to 65. Childbearing does not interrupt their work; a pregnant diving woman may work up to the day of delivery and nurse her baby afterward between driving shifts.

During their activities they swam with their faces submerged, scanning the bottom. When a promising area is located, they abandon the floats and dive 5-7m, returning to the surface in 20-40 sec. After approximately 30 sec of rest, the dive is repeated. In villages, this operation is a community affair and Ama prefers to dive into groups. They were dressed in light cotton suits.

Up to the 17th century, the Ama of Korea included men as well as women; now they are all women. As we shall see, the female is better suited to this work than the male. Physiologists have found considerable interest in studying the capacities and physiological reactions of the Ama, who are probably the most skillful natural divers in the world. What accounts for their remarkable adaptation to the aquatic environment, training or heredity or a combination of both? How do they compare with their non-diving compatriots?

A scientific paper published in 1963 reported an investigation performed in 1960 about the diving pattern, lung volumes and alveolar gas of the Korean diving woman. At that time about 4000 people lived in the village of Keum Nyung and 1200 women were classified as potential Ama.

Recently, in 2016, some colleagues from the University of Texas and several research institutes in Japan published a workaround the hypothesis assuming that it is possible that Ama (in that case the Japanese counterparts) may have adapted similar arterial structure and function to those seen in diving mammals as an explanation of the capability to perform repeated free dives through their lives. In a typical day, Mama performs around 100-150 free dives holding the breath for up to 2 min at a time.

In the diving conditions, the organism has to adapt to augment the arterial compliance function. Indeed diving mammals, such as seals and whales, have adopted the arterial structure such that the ascending aorta is about three to four times larger than the descending aorta. This structural adaptation not only enhances the compliance function of the aorta but also serves to maintain arterial flow. Because Ama performs repeated free dives and experienced diving-induced bradycardia throughout their lives, it is possible to hypothesize that they may have adapted similar arterial structure and function.

Currently, the population of Japanese pearl divers is on the verge of extinction as few young women come into this profession. Unless we revive this fascinating profession, the study made by Hirofumi Tanaka in 2016 could be potentially the last large-scale physiological investigation of the arterial health of the Japanese free divers. We’ll see.

Last year, the famous French free diver and cinematographer, Julie Gautier, released on International Women’s Day a beautiful film in honor of Ama. As she described:

“Ama is a silent film. It tells a story everyone can interpret in their own way, based on their own experience. There is no imposition, only suggestions. I wanted to share my biggest pain in this life with this film. For this is not too crude, I covered it with grace. To make it not too heavy, I plunged it into the water. I dedicate this film to all the women of the world.”

Julie Gautier redefines the rules of the underwater world, immersing us into an unknown universe of endless shades of blue. Her love for the ocean and the innate use of poetry has created fascinating short films. Filmed in a deep pool in Venice, Italy, the captivating underwater dance is titled after the Japanese word for “woman of the sea.”

Over the course of about 6 minutes, we can see Gautier holding her breath and performing an incredible routine unlike anything else. She elegantly glides through the crystal-clear, calm water like a ballerina in slow motion. With each controlled movement, her silk-like hair and the fabric of her dress flow and “dance” with her.

Shane Gould, and Olympic champion swimmer is also using her camera to communicate what she has learned from a lifetime of immersion. She conveys a palpable understanding of what it means for the human body to be in the water, to be compelled by it and through it.

One of the enduring attractions for humans is the way the water feels against the body. For most people, being in the water is an extremely pleasant sensation. Floating, supported by water’s buoyancy is particularly delightful. Being immersed in the element of water is a physical experience unmatched in our normal land-based life where gravity makes us heavy as it pulls us downwards. As she said: “Swimming as free diving is a unique art form. Painters need a canvas. Dancers need a floor. Writers need paper. And not one of their mediums can work actively with the artist except water.”

Watching a masterful body moving with easy grace through water is to see a beautiful symbiosis of human beings and water. It is seen as art in action. And it is the feeling of being immersed within the medium of water that stimulates visual or written artists to communicate and interpret beauty, exhilaration, fear, or delight of the experience.

To understand the images, you need to look carefully at the details of the composition – for instance, at the angle of the arms, the sinusoidal movement of the stroke, the undulation of the fins, the direction of the trails of bubbles. This observation conveys a better understanding of how to move through the water without creating too much drag. To view the films or the photographs as art, a certain level of mental and emotional engagement with them is needed to appreciate the images and allow the feelings (both in and out of water) to be explored imaginatively.

After the release of her film AMA in March 2018, the French freediver and dancer tells the story of the shooting and her artistic performance that has been around the web. Last October, Julie Gautier launched a new video a year and a half after. She confides on the reasons that led her to perform this choreography completely underwater. ” AMA is a very personal project in which I wanted to put emotion, a test and a story, ” says Julie Gauthier who wanted her film to be ” a sharing of emotions “. It is for this reason that she used the dance and she did not want to put words to impregnate his video of the maximum of modesty possible.

She explains that the constraints of the realization forced it to turn in swimming pool and not in open water, ” to have a controlled medium ” I wanted to forget the liquid element and that it seems that I fly”

In the 1940s 6000 Ama were reported active along the coasts of Japan while today Ama practice at numbers more along the scale of 60 or 70 divers in a generation. Maybe, AMA film inspires a new cohort of female free divers all over the world to practice this amazing sport.

References:

S. K. Hong et al. (1963), Diving pattern, lung volumes, and alveolar gas of the Korean diving woman (Ama), Journal of Applied Physiology, May, pp 457-465

S. K. Hong et al. (1967), The Diving Women of Korea and Japan, Scientific American, Vol. 216, No. 5, pp. 34-43

H. Tanaka et al. (2016), Arterial stiffness of lifelong Japanese female pearl divers, Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 310: R975–R978S.

Gould (2007), Appreciating swimming: beauty and instruction with underwater swimmer photographs, Visual Communication, V6-2: pp 170-179

Free-diving underwater photography a new sport to protect the environment

The marine coastal environment is threatened both locally and globally in different ways. Coastal habitats have been progressively degraded over the last few decades. Furthermore, an increase in the number of introduced species and climate-induced stressors are contributing to changes in biodiversity, emphasizing the need to foster the surveillance of coastal systems.

Littoral fish communities are threatened by numerous stressors, including habitat loss, global warming, changes in the continental water discharges, artificialization of the coastlines, the introduction of alien species and fishing pressure.

Numerous studies support the use of fish assemblages as biological indicators for marine coastal waters. Studies of fish populations in shallow littoral waters usually rely on underwater visual censures for monitoring the progress towards biodiversity. Valuable data gathered by public agencies or private entities also have informative potential that is worthy of being analyzed. This is the case of recreational fishing tournaments in certain regions, which have extensive spatial coverage and/or temporal continuity and have been shown to be valuable for characterizing and monitoring littoral fish assemblages.

Pic (C) One ocean One breath

Another potential source of information is under water photo contest. The technological developments in under water photography have led to the expansion of a new sport activity: free-diving underwater photography. Participants are given scores according to the number of species photographed, and they, therefore, search in every possible habitat to obtain the largest possible number of species. Consequently, the species richness resulting from these tournaments is expected to be higher than when traditional visual survey techniques are used. In Spain, the country I am from, these tournaments began in the 1980s and have now become regular. In particular, Canary Island has been hosted several underwater photography world championships. In fact, the last CMAS World Championship of Underwater Photography and the World Championship of Underwater Video, organized by the Spanish Underwater Federation and the Canarias Underwater Federation was held in Tenerife, Canary Island, last September 17, to 22, 2019.

This type of contest enhances competition between participants to obtain maximum fish diversity, therefore could be a complementary information source to scientific monitoring.

GoPros could become a tool for citizen science and environmental education.

Aquatic habitats of particular concern are coral reefs, which are under threat from multiple anthropogenic sources. Such threats include warming waters, ocean acidification, eutrophication/pollution, and overfishing. As a result, accurate and precise large-scale assessments of global health, growth and diversity of coral reef habitats are necessary to further assess and monitor such impacts.

Pic (C) One ocean One breath

Low-action cameras that have depth tolerances equal to or below that of recreational diving have become highly popular. The most prominent of which is the GoPro. Due to their relative ease of use and high resolution/low -cost ratio, a number of novel methodologies that use action cameras for marine research have emerged. Recreational use of these cameras and techniques for exploration, scientific mapping, and environmental education have been growing, with community projects that include historical shipwreck mapping or modeling of tourist sites.

However, underwater photography, although it can be a sustainable source of environmental education, it can have also negative environmental impacts if not managed effectively.

Over the last two decades, a growing body of evidence has revealed that numerous unsustainable biological and aesthetic impacts from recreational diving can do occur. For instance, studies conducted on the Great Barrier Reef found that 15% of divers damaged or broke corals, with diver’s fins being the main cause (95%) of all damage.

Last year, Maarten De Brauwer and different colleagues from Curtin University in Australia, published a research paper talking about underwater photography on soft sediment habitats. They assessed the environmental impacts of diving (in that case scuba divers and not free divers) on coral reefs and soft sediments in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Pic (C) One ocean One breath

They found careless diver behavior as a repeatedly cause of damage to corals, and they explained that divers tend to cause the greatest amount of damage at the start of a dive while they are still adjusting buoyancy. It seems this concern should not affect the free diving community but we need to be aware that several studies on megafauna such as sharks and rays have shown that diver interactions can reduce mobility and change feeding behavior. On the other hand, is also reported that high numbers of snorkelers can alter the morphology and growth of seagrass.

It also reported that diver certification level and gender also have an effect on behavior, which should be taken into account when designing management strategies. It seems, during normal dive behavior, male divers made more contact with the substrate than females and beginner divers cause more damage than experienced ones. This difference could be attributed to males being more prone to taking risks, or less likely to follow dive guide instructions.

Therefore, it is very crucial for divers to be educated and made aware of their own impacts, as an awareness of impacts on animals has been shown to increase tourist willingness to make trade-offs that increase animal welfare.

We should be aware of the positive effects of underwater photography but also of its impacts on a global scale. The competitive aspects of photography offer avenues to influence diver’s attitudes concerning wildlife photography. Clear rules from the organizing committees of photo competitions to no lo longer accept unethical behavior would send a powerful signal. Large dive expos dive magazines and wildlife photography publishing agencies such as National Geographic can fulfill a role-model function by not publishing images that clearly the result of photographer manipulation.

The frequent touching of animals and often extended periods of time divers (again, as freedivers, we should feel relief about it) spend with individual animals is likely to cause significant stress and requires the attention of management bodies and targeted research.

To conclude, while underwater photography can be a powerful tool for conservation outreach, care needs to be taken that photography remains sustainable. What is your opinion about the following videos?

References:

Gordoa A. et al. (2018), Free-diving underwater fish photography contests: a complementary tool for assessing littoral fish communities, Scientia Marina, Vol 82, No 2, pp. 95-106

Raoult V. et al. (2016), GoPros™ as an underwater photogrammetry tool for citizen science, PeerJ 4:e1960

De Brauwer M. et al. (2018), Time to stop mucking around? Impacts of underwater photography on cryptobenthic fauna found in soft sediment habitats, Journal of Environmental Management, V 218, 15, pp 14-22

Hammerton Z., (2017), Determining the variables that influence SCUBA diving impacts in eastern Australian marine parks, Ocean & Coastal Management, V 142, 15, pp 209-217

Under water and into yourself: Freediving is not about numbers is about diving deeper into yourself

“Happiness is not a goal is a path.  Life is not a process; it is a battlefield. When you see little steps success you start to believe in yourself. Time makes me figure out what freediving is, not for a label and is not to become perfect. And the best feeling is when you can inspire people by what you do. I made the decision not to be afraid anymore, because fear can help you survive, but not to live.”

 (Tatiana Stelmahovich)

The first post of my blog gathered the experience Sara Molou while she was attending a competition at Vertical Blue. Recently, she published a new paper to communicate further the emotional experiences of freediving.

 “When you lie at the surface breathing my heart beats really fast: bum-bum-bum-bum. Okay, okay, relax. But once you are going down, I think my mind gets blank, like, I don’t think about anything. And I just relax. When I cam here I thought I was gonna be really scared. I have, my mind tries to chase peace, tranquillity, love and blue.”

Because of the obvious risk of drowning that arises when the human body is submerged into the aquatic world, freediving is often categorized as an extreme sport. However, in contrast to most other extreme sports that are defined by adrenaline rushes and acceleration of speed, freediving is about the opposite: avoiding adrenaline because it consumes oxygen, and instead of generating a calm, meditative, almost sleep-like state of being to able to perform. Freedivers describe their experiences as a movement into a blissful, stress-free state of mind, providing a sense of serenity and balance rarely experienced otherwise. It is suggested that the meditative experiences of freediving become intensified and can develop into spiritual oceanic feelings.

Recurrently, freedivers emphasize the mental aspect of their sport, by which they mean two different things: a mental meditative experience is the most pleasurable outcome of the activity, and mental control is the paramount requirement to perform well and diving safely.

This active meditation is considered as a “therapeutic landscape” that possesses healing qualities. At the moment we dive beneath the surface, we apply that which is defined as a ‘deep regression’, a capacity to return the psyche to a state of calm. In the water, we joyously reclaim that dimension of relief from tension, of comfortable security, of the peace that we knew in the womb.

Based on the observations that the fetus lives in liquid and newborn babies are capable of diving and comfortable in warm water, it is suggested that we experience an extraordinary calmness and feeling of security and relief from tensions underwater.

With breathing exercises, freediving instructors teach beginners to calm down and relax, using inspiration from pranayama yoga to breathe slowly and diaphragmatically. Once breathing is controlled and the body is relaxed, the diver is able to stay underwater much longer than if stressed and having shallow breathing. They experience harmony, spirituality, and euphoria while freediving but also haptic pleasures.

Pic (C) One ocean One breath

In a study of nudist beach culture, haptic pleasures were found to be more important than the visual: ‘Being naked on the beach is a matter of feeling rather than seeing”. It seems nudism composes a pursuit of making the world touch us as freedivers closing their eyes and turn their attention to body sensations.

Legendary freediver Natalia Molchanova described freediving along the lines of the concept of oceanic feeling, a sensation of being one with the universe, the source of religious feeling. With this emphasis on inner journeys and spiritual emotions in connections with haptic sensations, freediving may be considered an example of what sociologists of the sport have called ‘post-sport physical cultures’. In opposition to modernist sports practices where bodies are disciplined to obtain external goals, post-sport physical cultures value human spiritual, physical and emotional experiences.

On the other hand, the term edgework was originally used to portray certain kinds of drug use, but it is also employed to consider high-risk sports, making the point that theses activities produce intense sensual experiences and feelings of being in control of one’s life. Handling life-threatening challenges make the edgeworker feel exhilarated and omnipotent, stimulating a heightened sense of self and mental control.

Freedivers hold that the sport has changed their lives, talking about the healing qualities because in some cases it has helped to overcome severe illnesses (psoriasis, arthritis, and depression). In this way, the therapeutic landscape of the underwater not only provides divers with sensations of well-being but also sometimes experiences of radical changes: “You meet yourself in a different way”

Pic (C) One ocean One breath

In this state of being and alone in the deep, the free diver may experience an altered sense of self. On return to the surface, this experience becomes even more profound. Hence, deep freediving seems to provide divers with liminal experiences of being on a threshold where identities can change.

In a couple of studies of bungy jumping, the voluntary risk-seeking leisure activity of jumping into the abyss has been depicted as momentary and thrilling play with death that does not constitute a real life-changing experience, in fact quite the opposite. The studies suggest that bungy jumping and other forms of extreme sports, can be seen as an example of false consciousness, and can be best described as “limivoid’ activities: “a jump into the void – and that is it, then back to normality”. Instead of following the critical line of thinking, freediving may rather be understood along the lines of the edgework approach to actions sports. When freedivers suggest that diving into the abyss, emptying the mind and letting go, does not compose a void experience but an intense and life-changing encounter with oneself.

For detailed information, I truly recommend to read the paper of Sara Malou Strandvard, a colleague from Arts, Culture and Media, Faculty of Arts, now at the University of Groningen, in the Netherland.

References:

Strandvad, Sara, (2018), Under water and into yourself: Emotional experiences of freediving contact information, Emotion, Space and Society, V 25, 5, pp 52-59

Freediving gives you the same lesson that a yoga class, discover the spiritual part of life

“Yoga gave me the ability to control my mind and my fears. Sometimes to improve you need to step back and change your whole approach. People’s minds are a mess. Once you are in the water, and you hold your breath and you dive down, 10, 20, 30 meters, is the place where you find out that your mind is a mess, and you can not go deeper until you address them. Freediving turns a mirror in yourself, and when you think you are a relaxed person, maybe you have had a mask on, but that mask doesn’t work when you are underwater. The ocean is the most honest mirror we ever find and we can blame our lives, other people that our relationships are not working, we can blame our jobs, our parents, we can blame all kind of stuff, but when you are in the ocean breath-hold is just you, just you, and your subconscious fears come to the surface, and you have to deal with it, and the mask that you have created is off, and this is what I believe that people that come to freediving get so passionate about it, and is because in a space they see themselves for the first time, and that’s beautiful. It is touching. Freediving can be some moving thing with many tears that can be released on the buoy or under the water, and this is the beauty of realizing who you are. Freediving has huge potential because it attracts people who may not necessarily come to yoga class, but they get the same lesson, that they would get in a yoga class, and I think it transforms people so quickly. Freediving speeds up the discovery of the spiritual part of your life”

(Sara Cambell, The Freedive Cafe, the worlds freediving Podcast)

Sara Campbell was a World Champion in deep diving only after 9 months of training. Such an amazing achievement kept the attention of two researchers from the department of health Sciences at Mid Sweden University. They were wondering how this is possible?

Sara Campbell learned to free-dive at the age of 35, going from a beginner to a world champion very quickly. In other sports, it takes years of hard and dedicated training to reach even a national level. Like many other freedivers, Sara simply discovered that she could dive and the importance of deep relaxation. At the age she enters into the sport she was a well-experienced yoga instructor.

Pic (C) One ocean One breath

It seems that freediving can be easily learned by most people, given some training, and that some individuals, particularly with yoga or meditation experience, can reach astonishing results in a very short period. It could suggest that there was once a period in human evolution with selection for performance in and underwater and that our bodies still possess this ability, which can be revived with relatively little practice.

Reference:

Schagatay, E., Johansson, O. (2014) Sara Campbell, World Champion in Deep Diving After 9 Months of Training – How Is This Possible?. Human Evolution, Vol. 29, no 1-3, p. 67-73

Silence is essential to regenerate our brain

Michel Le Van Quyen, a neuroscientist, has investigated the effects of silence. He analyses the different types of silence and their consequences on our body: “There is an external silence, which is the absence of noise, and an internal silence: those moments in which we manage to reduce the background noise of our thoughts, both are essential for our health.”

The brain is a major energy consumer. In activity, it consumes a quarter of the glucose in our body. The consequence is that it produces waste that must then be disposed of. And to do it well, the brain uses these periods of inactivity. It’s called: brainwashing.

That’s why we need calm and sleep. Because while we sleep, the brain cleans itself. The problem is that our nights are getting shorter. We live in an increasingly digital world. Screens, notifications, unwanted solicitations, exhaust our brains.

Pic (C)  One ocean One breath

Some researchers from Dresden, in Germany, have discovered that silence has an important impact on our brain. They discovered that the brain of mice in silence leads to new-born neurons, in the hippocampus, an area related to memory, emotions and learning process.

On the other hand, another group from Italy discovered that just two minutes in absolute silence is more beneficial than listening to relaxing music. Let me repeat it again: Two minutes of silence a day is enough to slow the heartbeat.

Being immersed in silence is a unique opportunity to savor the present moment and above all, to relax. This change of pace requires us to refocus on more essential things and to listen to each other.

It seems that silence reduces stress, improves sleep, improves concentration and creativity while allowing your ear to rest and regenerate. Maybe this is the reason why so many free divers are so brilliant people. What do you think?

Pic (C)  One ocean One breath

References:

Michel Le Van Quyen, Brain and Silence

Kriste et al. (2015), Is silence golden? Effects of auditory stimuli and their absence on adult hippocampal neurogenesis, Brain Structure and Function, V 220-2, pp 1221–1228

Black D. et al., Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in Sleep Quality and Daytime Impairment Among Older Adults With Sleep Disturbances, JAMA Internal Medicine, 175(4):494-501

The counter-cultural social movements of lifestyle sports

Sara Malou Strandvad and Tracy C. Davis published a few years ago a sociological research during their visit to Vertical Blue:

In 2015, Performance Studies international’s Fluid States distributed global conference sponsored a concurrent event -Deep Anatomy – that brought a small number of artists and scholars to the site to observe, interact and interpret Vertical Blue.

Free-divers compete primarily against their own records, and competitors visibly support one another. Contestants turn attention to their own capacities and potentials for development. In sociological terms, these characteristics of a friendly, laid back, supportive community where participants challenge themselves make free-diving comparable to other lifestyle sports and serious leisure pursuits. In the sociology of sport, “lifestyle sports” designates new forms of sports that have grown out of counter-cultural social movements in the 1960s and 1970s and have different characteristics from traditional competitive, masculinized, Western sports cultures. In contrast to traditional sports, lifestyle sports are non-aggressive, mostly without bodily contact, and individual-centered on personal goals and challenges rather than competition against others. Surfing is another typical example of “lifestyle sport”. Participants seek and value experiences of self-actualization, losing oneself in the transcendence of the self, becoming one with the environment and the moment: in other words, composing an aesthetic manner of pursuing meaningful experiences.

Pic (C) One ocean One breath

Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow constitutes the most frequently used theoretical framing to describe the pleasurable states associated with these sports; free-divers invoke flow to account for the rewarding moments in their practices. There is a competitive world of diving for numbers, and on the other hand, there is the play of diving underwater for fun and enjoyment.

Whereas a typical extreme sports athlete pushes through a challenge on adrenaline, the apneist, must avoid an adrenalin rush at all costs. She mains remains supremely relaxed, efficient in muscular expenditure and focused on the basic tasks. Like yogis, and sometimes yogic practitioners, free-divers focus on placement and duration of the breath, utilizing visualization then executing a highly controlled inward-focused state.

Moreover, many free-divers today train for flexibility, particularly in the chest, by stretching and doing yoga. In particular, they practice pranayama (breath regulation) with antar-kumbhaka (inner retention of breath), which encourages mental and physical relaxation through repeated breath control and uddyiana banha (upwards diaphragmatic lift and abdominal lock), which stretches and tones the area affected by lung suppression at depth.

Free-divers rationalize themselves as being in harmony with the sea. The majority rated the importance of the mental over the physical in free-diving (75 percent mental; 25 percent physical).

Pic (C) One ocean One breath

Reference:

S. Malou et al. (2016), The Disappearing Act: Geometries of free-diving, Performance Research 21.2, pp 125-137