WaterWomen's 6 Minute Breath Hold Practice


If you’ve read our Plan of Action for Hold Downs and want to take the next step to prepare yourself for conditions a little beyond your comfort zone, this is it. Start a daily breathing practice that focuses on connecting with your breath and increases your maximum on land breath hold.

I hope you’ll agree that spending a few minutes each day breathing can have a tremendous effect on your surfing and your life.  Breathing is the first thing we do when we die and the last thing we do when we leave. In between, you can chose to breathe consciously to conquer your fear instinct, diminish stress, and stay centered even in the most tremulous seas.

“Conscious breathing is my anchor.” - Thich Nhat Hahn

Here is a 6-Minute Breathing Routine that I use everyday to improve my breathing for surfing and prime myself for success during the day.

Step 1 - Relax

Sit in a comfy chair or lay on the floor.  Start by taking a few deep breaths through your nose and out your mouth.  Breathing deeply and slowly allows you to activate your parasympathetic system and counter your fight-or-flight instinct and stress.  You can do this for 60 seconds or 10 minutes if you like. I use this practice as part of a longer meditation routine or as a standalone meditation when I am short on time.  Thus, I reap the benefits twofold. First, by being able to hold my breath longer for wipeouts and hold downs while surfing and second, by connecting with my breath and the present moment to reduce stress and anxiety in my life.

Step 2 - Pranayama Breathing

I find this kind of breathing wakes me up and energizes me.  It also helps me get ready for my Practice.

Step 3 - Diaphragm Pumps

The best way to breath is to use our diaphragm and engage our core muscles, rather than breathing shallowly. These exercises help strengthen our diaphragm muscles and a more powerful diaphragm allows for more even, rhythmic breathing in times of stress or high exertion. A stronger diaphragm also increases the uptake of oxygen and elimination of CO2, enhancing both mental and physical performance.  

Step 4 - Lung Stretches

We do this exercise to improve our lung capacity by slowly stretching and strengthening our lungs. This is basically stretching for the lungs just like you’d stretch your body before you surf.

Step 5 - Breath Holds

    1. 30 Second, followed by recovery breathing

    2. 1:00 Minute, followed by recovery breathing

    3. Go for time, followed by recovery breathing

    4. Repeat if desired

Step 6 - Recovery Breathing

After each breath hold, when you’ve held your breath as long as you can, you take three recovery breaths. They are strong active inhales where you hold your breath at the top for one second followed by a relaxed passive exhale.  This trains your body to start automatically breathing if you were held under and loss consciousness.

This is the process:  Active inhale, Brief pause, Passive exhale.

After you’ve done a few rounds of Recovery Breathing. Close your eyes, breath in and out through your nose, and concentrate on relaxing and bringing your heart rate down.

Do this after every single breath hold.

Step 7 - Record Progress:

Keep a record of all your breath holds on our Breath Hold Worksheet or in your phone to chart your progress.  

Download the Breath Hold Worksheet Here:

Watch a video of the entire Practice Here: