A glimpse into Anna-Karina`s practice
Freediving, yoga, and meditation strengthen the relationship with our inner self, mental awareness, nature - but it also helps us to reflect on every other aspect of our life.
In 2018, I discovered yoga. Just a few months later, I found my way into freediving. Since then, I always combine regular yoga practice with freediving. For me, yoga falls under the category of 'movement' and is one of five important pillars that I need for a healthy life. My 5 pillars:
This article gives an introduction of meditation and movement.
So far, I have had the opportunity to explore different styles of yoga. As a result, my daily practice and preparation for deep or long dives in the pool, or even competitions, consist of various elements.
In addition to performing the individual exercises, which I vary depending on my goals, it is equally important to take enough time for them. I regularly schedule enough time for my training so that I can enjoy my scarce free time as stress-free and uninterrupted as possible, alongside my professional life. For example, I try to reserve about 1.5 hours for my routine before deep dives. My routine varies depending on my physical and mental state. For me, it also includes making tea and playing my favorite music. Before deep dives, I usually do a nasal rinse, a "Jala Neti." It relaxes me completely, helps with equalizing pressure, and anchors my body in the right way. I adjust the individual exercises according to my daily condition. Sometimes the meditative part, in which I often practice visualizations, is longer, and sometimes the physical part is longer. It all depends on how I feel that day.
In general, I do not see yoga as magic but as a disciplined practice that helps me return from my mind to my body and be present in the moment. I work almost exclusively on the computer, and yoga, along with its associated philosophy, helps me maintain my health or return my focus to a healthy lifestyle if I have neglected my physical health and nutrition during stressful periods at work. This applies to me equally in freediving. For me, freediving works best in a consciously positive environment and with a good, healthy body feeling that comes from the inside out.
In the following, I would like to share poses and exercises with you that are particularly valuable to me.
Box Breathing or 'One Minute Breath' from Kundalini has become an instrument for me over the years that I cannot do without. Depending on how the intervals are practiced, the effect is different. In my practice, I generally aim for relaxation, a calm heart rate, maintenance of healthy lungs/full lung capacity, and higher CO2 tolerance. Patrick G. McKeown explains why having more CO2 in the blood and nasal breathing, in general, are essential in his book 'The Oxygen Advantage.' I can highly recommend the book. Basically, everyone can benefit from it. Especially people who want to improve their athletic performance, better balance their metabolism, lower blood pressure naturally, or seek help with asthma.
I specifically use visualizations for the sport and mental aspects of freediving. Visualizing helps me, for example, to go through the competition routine, eliminate and rationalize emerging fears, improve technique, achieve balance in stressful times, and especially sharpen the ability to truly be in the moment and thus do the right thing at every moment of my dive. This is a very powerful tool, and if practiced correctly, the same areas in the brain are actually activated as during a real dive!
This tool has given me a lot of confidence in the past, for example, when I announced a personal best at a World Championship that resulted in a white card. Then, at least I had the feeling of having already done this dive in a relaxed manner with a smile on my face. Katarina Lincz, Wellbeing Coach, accompanied me on this journey, and I learned a lot from her.
Sometimes listening to a guided meditation from my yoga mentor and fully focusing on it relaxes me completely. Following you will find an example of one of my favorite meditation by Michele Bartolo.
Elements of Iyengar-Yoga
To fully immerse myself in the practice of Iyengar yoga, I am not the right person. However, I would like to share my experiences, the benefits the practice offers for my overall well-being and freediving.
Iyengar yoga helps me identify deficiencies or imbalances in my body. For me, it is the best method to heal my body and rebuild or rediscover a deep connection of the nervous system.
In Santa Cruz, Tenerife, there is an incredibly competent and experienced yoga teacher named Nuria. She is simply amazing. With iron discipline, she guides you to experience each pose completely anew. Props such as blocks, ropes, and belts help to perform the original yoga asanas correctly. In this yoga style, the "how" is the top priority. She also provides occasional pearls of wisdom along the way. Her studio is more or less in the center of Santa Cruz. Let me know (she is not on the internet) if you decide to pay Nuria a visit for a yoga class. You will surely never forget this one!
Elements of Kundalini Yoga
I simply love the kriyas of Kundalini yoga. A short explanation of what is a Kriya is: In Kundalini yoga, the term "Kriya" refers to a sequence of exercises specifically designed to achieve a particular goal. Kriyas can consist of various yoga exercises such as asanas (body postures), pranayama (breathing exercises), mudras (hand gestures), mantras (sound meditation), and meditations.
Each Kriya has a specific theme or goal, such as strengthening the nervous system. A Kriya can also be focused on specific areas of the body, such as the digestive tract or the immune system. In practice, the kriya is performed in a specific order to achieve the desired effect. Each exercise is performed for a certain amount of time while performing specific breathing or concentration exercises. A kriya can last only a few minutes or up to an hour. They help harmonize and cleanse the body, mind, and soul and can be a powerful tool for promoting health, well-being, and spiritual growth.
In addition, Kundalini Yoga is characterized by singing sessions of mantras. It took me a while to really enjoy singing mantras. What I find interesting is that singing affects the hypothalamus through 84 meridian points on the palate. These points are stimulated differently by the tongue in different mantras and can have different effects depending on the mantra.
Magnetic Field Kriya
There is this kriya that I did very often in my yoga teacher training. It only brings positive thoughts to my mind. Physiologically, it helps to strengthen and mobilize the shoulders. Spiritually, the up-and-down movement of the arms cleanses the field surrounding us. I interpret it as a way to easily receive and give good thoughts or deeds and to speak my truth louder without being distracted by external disturbances. I often feel very centered after doing it. Some may think it sounds like nonsense, but it fits for me :)
The Physical Effect: I was able to improve my streamline with this Kriya. But mentally, if applied correctly, this Kriya also helps to relax the body when it gets really difficult. I consciously try to relax all the muscles and body parts that I don't need for this exercise. I can transfer this skill to the water very well. For example, if I want to relax my belly during the pressure equalization maneuver in the depths to prevent injuries.
Execution of the Kriya:
Starting in a seated position (Sukhasana - seated position). Sit up straight, spine forming a line. Try to keep your head straight. Imagine the crown of your head pulling you a little bit longer towards the sky. Extend your arms out to the sides with your fingertips touching the ground. Palms facing your body. Inhale and bring your arms as straight as possible over your head. Once you reach the top, touch the back of your fingers (nails) together. Exhale and bring your arms back down as straight as possible. Imagine the movement being carried by the breath. The movement does not come from the elbow but rotates from the shoulder. Very important: After finishing the Kriya, take a deep breath, hold your arms up and hold your breath for as long as it feels comfortable. Then exhale and lower your hands back to the ground. Fingertips touching the ground. Close your eyes and feel yourself. Sit completely still. Only when you have fully felt yourself, open your eyes again and move as you like. For example, roll your shoulders, do a twist. Duration: 2-4 minutes
Effect of the Kriya:
- Blood circulation in the neck and shoulder area
- Strengthening of the shoulder muscles
- Improves streamline
- Good exercise against typical computer ailments. We move our arms too little towards the sky in our daily lives.
The Frog Kriya releases negative emotions such as fear, stress, and anger and makes us feel free, light, and happy. It improves the energy flow in the second chakra and promotes creativity and self-confidence. It is also a full-body cardio workout that stimulates blood flow, strengthens leg muscles, and lengthens the spine. The starting position is a squat on tiptoes with fingertips on the ground. Exhale and look up, bring your buttocks towards your heels. Inhale and bring your chin to your chest, lift your buttocks, bring your nose to your knees, and fingertips to the ground. Practice carefully and stop if you feel pain. 30 cycles are recommended, but it is useful to divide them into smaller units if 30 cycles are too much for you at first. Also great as a warm-up exercise before an intense pool training.
Acro (acrobatic) Yoga
Acro Yoga is a form of yoga that combines acrobatics and partner work. The aim is to work together in a cooperative and playful way, making physical contact with a partner to achieve various yoga positions together. One person forms the base and the other person is the flyer. The base carries the flyer on their hands, feet or other body parts, while the flyer takes different positions, such as the headstand or the handstand. This yoga style helps me let go and trust my "buddy". Acro Yoga can be practiced passively or actively. The passive form helps to release even more and to stretch and deeply relax the body. This also involves targeted massages. Especially in preparation for diving, this can be a very interesting tool. Of course, it always requires two people and unfortunately I only know one buddy, Laia Sopeña, with whom this is possible. There is a very nice community in Zurich, so if this is something for you, I am happy to provide you with my contact upon request.
Asanas - general Yoga postures
In general, there are many asanas that are valuable for freediving, depending on the focus. Whether it is about building strength in the legs for swimming techniques like Nofin, Bifin, or Mono, or about reducing residual volume (to mobilize more air for pressure equalization at depth), or increasing lung capacity overall.
I particularly enjoy practicing the Peaceful Warrior and the Extended Side Angle Warrior alternatively.
The peaceful Warrior
Benefits of the Peaceful Warrior:
- Strengthens the legs, arms, and core of the body
- Stretches the hips, chest, and shoulders
- Can help reduce stress and improve concentration
- Can boost self-confidence and promote a sense of calm and serenity
- When combined with a held breath on the inhale, the opening of the chest is even more pronounced, and an increase in lung capacity is also possible
In this article, I only briefly touched on some topics, such as visualizations or specific breathing exercises. There is so much more to discover and learn. If you want to delve deeper into specific topics, I am happy to answer questions or provide workshops.
Upon request, I can personally help you shape your own unique style based on your goals and personal preferences.
Or, if you prefer to dive directly into practice, join us on july 15th, 2023 for our yoga & freediving event at lake zurich. Experience the underwater world in a new way combined with yoga.
"The love for the underwater world has accompanied me for as long as I can remember. I couldn't even swim yet, and I was already diving."