Author and free diver Claire Walsh shares her learnings on the meditative power of breathwork
After spending her twenties living a life that didn’t feel like her own and dealing with intermittent bouts of depression, Claire Walsh finally decided to make a change at the age of 32.
She booked a flight to South America where she discovered freediving – a risky sport that involves diving without breathing apparatus, using only your lungs and skills to come back to the surface.
Here are just a few of the invaluable lessons she learned while 60 metres underwater:
1. Using breath to bring focus
“Growing up, I spent a lot of time in my head. Endless conversations, imaginings, over-thinking, rebuttals. My thoughts filtered down, tension settling into my jaw and furrowing my eyebrows without me even realising.
“Breathing techniques helped bring my focus out of my head and into my body. Suddenly, a bridge appeared, my breath tentatively connecting my body and mind. My spiralling thoughts lessoned and I began to receive information in a different way, a fuller way.”
2. The power of the pause
“Freediving blew wide open when I had learnt about breathing. It introduced me to the pause – the part between the inhale and the exhale – where I found a way to create a space to observe and to soften.
“It became a way to explore discomfort without reacting. It helped put me in the ‘driver’s seat’ giving me a sense of autonomy around my emotions, thoughts and reactions.”
3. A simple practice to be present
“There are many types of breathing practices, each serving different purposes. My favourite is a simple one and therefore, the one I do the most. I pick a piece of music and for the length of that piece, I commit to being present with my breath and allowing it to anchor me in the moment.
“It’s a promise to myself that for those minutes, I’ll park the ‘to do’ list. If I find my mind wandering, I steer my thoughts back to the gentle sound of breath in and breath out.”
You can read more of Claire’s breathwork tips in the latest edition of Irish Country Magazine. Her book Under Water: How Holding My Breath Taught Me To Live is available in shops and online now.