Thursday, January 28, 2010

When the Sea Doesn't Want You

My birthday is quickly approaching and we all know what that means. Last year I let shoulder problems de-rail what could have been the perfect challenge - redpointing an Aussie grade 28 (5.13a). Creative use of 28 yes, but given the fact that I was working in Australia during my entire birthday month, this performance based challenge seemed the perfect follow up to the more “traditional” challenge I conquered in honor of my 27th.

Now in 2010 with yet another birthday on the horizon, I once again have a few, ahem... issues, that seem to be restricting my ability to train and perform. Even with a growing list of physical ailments, I’ve come up with a challenge that should be sort of interesting.

Over the course of 29 minutes, take no more than 29 breathes.

Ever since the accident I’ve returned to a regular pranayama (breath control) practice. Breath work is not only safe for the the fragile, but also is a highly effective centering practice. A far cry from the emptiness of deeper states discoverable through more esoteric forms of meditation, yet more essential than the flow state encountered in asana (pose) practice, pranayama pays huge dividends to the body and mind. Back in my “yogi” days, I regularly woke up well before dawn and did a solid 30 minutes of breathwork prior to 2 hours of asana. I love this shit. Like asana and other body based practices, the idea is to sort of trick trick mind into entering near meditative states through the refinement of awareness on simplistic physiologic activity. Over time one gains more control over these subtle processes and normal “limits” can be transcended. These “powers” are described at length in yogic texts, and many are debatable at best. However, there is documented evidence of yoga masters of the 20th century performing feats such as stopping their own hearts for minutes at a time. As the practice gets more intense, the body learns how to maintain a sense of homeostasis even in the most compromising of situations.

Like I said, assuming one doesn’t have any glaring heart problems and does this practice on dry land, pranayama is very safe. Of course, as soon as breath retention is taken to the water, it becomes the most dangerous sport on the planet. Freediving, simply put, is awesome. Did you know that the current static apnea (breath hold lying still in water without supplemental oxygen) record is over 11 minutes? Anyone doubting the pure unadulterated bad-ass nature of this sport, should take the opportunity to rent The Big Blue. Aside from being an interesting look into the world of free diving, obsession, and love, it may be one of the greatest films ever made. In fact, I still have a borrowed copy in stock. Champagne, pasta and a movie anyone?

Below:
-The Big Blue Trailer
-William Trubridge shows whats possible with nothing more than a single breath