JUST BREATHE

THE PRES­SURES OF THE DEEP AREN’T SO DIF­FER­ENT TO OUR EV­ERY­DAY LIFE ON LAND. ONE FREE DIVER SHARES LESSONS HE’S LEARNT BE­NEATH THE SUR­FACE

Life & Style Weekend - - COVER STORY - WORDS: AN­NIE CAUGHEY To find out more about The Pres­sure Project visit the­p­res­sure­pro­ject.com.au/

“B eing at depth in the ocean, where you don’t have any stress or anx­i­ety and you are in that present mo­ment, there’s noth­ing like it. At that mo­ment, you are at com­plete peace, at one with your­self, and the ocean is just wel­com­ing you in.”

Adam Sel­lars be­lieves the hu­man body is de­signed to dive deep into the ocean. Not with equip­ment, not with scuba tanks, but with just one sin­gu­lar breath.

He be­lieves the power of our breath is so strong, it has the abil­ity to sta­bilise our stress, anx­i­ety and over­all health, there­fore “re­leas­ing the pres­sure” of our 21st cen­tury lives.

Quitting the cor­po­rate world five years ago, while strug­gling through mar­riage prob­lems and rais­ing two chil­dren, Adam found he wasn’t coping mentally.

But it was dur­ing that time he was first in­tro­duced to free div­ing by a friend. “He drove past my place one day be­cause I live right on the river. I hap­pened to be out the front and he was like, ‘Do you want to come spearfish­ing?’. I said, ‘What does it in­volve?’. He said, ‘Well you dive down on one breath and you shoot fish in the face.’

“I thought, ‘All righty. Yep. I can do that’.”

The two men went out far off­shore.

Adam, who had once been a pro­fes­sional swim­mer, had no fears around wa­ter. On this day, how­ever, some­thing was dif­fer­ent.

“I had this weight belt on – I felt like I was plum­met­ing,” he said.

“It was like jump­ing off a cliff.

“By this time, my mate was al­ready gone like 100m in front. I was watch­ing him get down to like 20m, pulling him­self through caves and hunt­ing fish, and I thought ‘that’s me’.

“When we sur­faced, I said to this friend, ‘Oh my god, that was amaz­ing. I feel like Adam again. I don’t know what it is about that?’

“He smiled and said, ‘Wel­come to spearfish­ing’. “But for me, it wasn’t spearfish­ing be­cause I didn’t shoot a gun. It was free div­ing.”

Cap­ti­vated by the sport, Adam be­gan re­search­ing cour­ses where he could im­prove his skill. At the time, they were of­fered only in Bali.

It was dur­ing this course that he re­alised free div­ing wouldn’t just be­come a hobby.

It would later de­fine the mantra of his life.

“Our in­struc­tor led the course by ask­ing us, ‘What is the dif­fer­ence be­tween scuba div­ing and free div­ing?’. I looked around and re­alised no one was go­ing to an­swer,” Adam said.

“I con­sider my­self as moder­ately in­tel­li­gent so I raised my hand and said, ‘In scuba div­ing, you have tanks and you can breathe, but in free div­ing you take one breath and you go’.

“My in­struc­tor replied, ‘Yes Adam, but what is the real dif­fer­ence?’.”

A star­tled and blank-faced Adam sat dumb­founded. He thought he had nailed the an­swer.

The in­struc­tor went on to ex­plain, “In scuba div­ing, you look around at the fish. In free div­ing, you look within”.

“I felt like I had stum­bled across a weird yoga, med­i­ta­tion place,” Adam said.

“Man, I just wanted to learn to dive deep. “How­ever, over my jour­ney, I even­tu­ally re­alised what he was talk­ing about.

“Es­pe­cially when you progress and you go deeper and deeper, if you don’t have the abil­ity to watch your thoughts, with­out let­ting them af­fect your dive or phys­i­ol­ogy and psychology, po­ten­tially things can go wrong.” Stress, anx­i­ety and other as­so­ci­ated men­tal-health con­di­tions have be­come en­demic in our so­ci­ety.

Our fast-paced, go-go-go life­styles of­ten have us feel­ing dis­con­nected from our bod­ies – and ex­ist­ing in these states for too long can cause an im­bal­ance of hor­mones.

Long-term stress has been linked to a range of life­style dis­eases such as heart at­tack, di­a­betes and cancer, but Adam be­lieves these side ef­fects of West­ern so­ci­ety can be man­aged through the prin­ci­ples of free div­ing.

“The only thing that sci­ence and medicine or hu­mans know – to bring your­self down from a stressed state or anx­i­ety – is clos­ing your eyes, length­en­ing your exhale and breath­ing through your belly,” he said.

“Be­ing in your sym­pa­thetic ner­vous sys­tem (stressed) sup­presses your im­mune sys­tem.

“We pro­duce cancer cells ev­ery day – it’s only our im­mune sys­tem’s abil­ity to fight those cancer cells that keeps us from get­ting cancer.”

Through breath con­trol and re­lax­ation tech­niques, Adam said peo­ple could bring them­selves into their parasym­pa­thetic ner­vous sys­tem – the op­po­site of our stress sys­tem.

This sys­tem low­ers the heart rate, re­laxes the muscles, in­creases the body’s di­ges­tion and burns less oxy­gen.

Rest­ing in this state can help the body to oxy­genate its cells and re­store it­self.

“Through diet and breath, you can make your body al­ka­line, and cancer can’t thrive in an al­ka­line en­vi­ron­ment,” Adam said.

As a man who can dive to depths up to 75m with one breath, the 34-year-old is living proof of the power and ben­e­fits of breath con­trol.

His busi­ness, The Pres­sure Project, was born out of this ide­ol­ogy.

Through a se­ries of work­shops, cor­po­rate stress-man­age­ment train­ing, free-div­ing cour­ses and pub­lic pre­sen­ta­tions, Adam brings these tech­niques to ev­ery­day peo­ple.

On av­er­age, most be­gin­ner free divers have tripled their breath-hold­ing ca­pac­ity by the time they leave his course, and the teach­ings of the sci­ence be­hind the sport al­low par­tic­i­pants to push them­selves in an en­vi­ron­ment where there are strict safe pre­cau­tions.

“When I have a course, I tell ev­ery­body ‘OK, this is a free-div­ing course – we’re go­ing to have a breath’. Al­most ev­ery­one just breathes from their chest and they hold a lot of ten­sion,” Adam said.

“Quite of­ten, I put an oxime­ter on them, which mea­sures oxy­gen sat­u­ra­tion, and when they start their breath hold and when they fin­ish, their oxy­gen sat­u­ra­tion has not moved.

“It starts at usu­ally 98 per cent and af­ter that first breath, it’s still at 98 per cent. It’s just be­fore 50 per cent where we be­come at risk of con­di­tions like hy­poxia.

“So with the right train­ing, there’s a lot of space to move within safe lim­its.”

How­ever, while free div­ing is a skill ev­ery­one can learn, Adam in­sists it is not a sport to try with­out pro­fes­sional train­ing.

Un­trained spearfish­er­man and divers who head out on ocean expedition­s cause him grave con­cern.

“I live near the boat ramp – I see it all the time, these guys, of­ten alone, head­ing out over-weighted,” he said.

“I hate over-reg­u­la­tion but I think there should be a spearfish­ing li­cence, where they have to do a short course, even if it’s just half a day.

“The sport is get­ting more and more pop­u­lar, and more peo­ple will die if they don’t know what to do. “Those guys who go out alone, if some­thing goes wrong, it then be­comes a re­cov­ery mis­sion.”

Adam is one of only three peo­ple in Queens­land qual­i­fied to teach free-div­ing cour­ses – and the only one in the state to teach full-time – and has com­peted in national com­pe­ti­tions.

He be­lieves his love for the ocean has saved his life.

“The ocean can calm a busy mind the minute you dip your toes in,” he said.

I FELT LIKE I HAD STUM­BLED ACROSS A WEIRD YOGA, MED­I­TA­TION PLACE, MAN, I JUST WANTED TO LEARN TO DIVE DEEP.

PHOTO: KALINDI WIJSMULLER

AT ONE WITH THE WA­TER: Adam Sel­lars can dive to depths up to 75m with one breath.

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