Can You Breathe While Skydiving
Thursday, July 25, 2019
It’s an interesting phenomenon that many people report an inability to breathe during their first tandem skydiving experience. Sure, the experience does take your breath away – but not literally. Since these folks are conscious upon landing, they were clearly physically able to get air in there, but the fact stands that they were uncomfortable – and we don’t like that idea! Your first tandem skydive should be, hands-down, one of the most delightful experiences of your life. And breathing is, like, a pretty important part of that equation.
At the end of the day, it’s not the forces of physics during a skydive that’s causing the problem tensions in the nervous skydiver’s body. Luckily, with a little forethought, these can be handily prepared-for and controlled. Here’s how.
1. Understand the nature of the problem
The feeling of being unable to catch your breath is a symptom of profound nervousness. We understand! Everybody’s scared when they skydive for the first time. We were, too!
Remember this: when you get that short-of-breath feeling, it doesn’t mean you’re not getting actually getting enough air to live. If you’re able to say “I can’t catch my breath,” you’ve just proven that you’re getting air–that’s what you’re using to make those sounds. So: you’re not in danger. You’re just very uncomfortable, and you can summon the control to fix it.
2. Get your breathing off your chest.
Before you can truly take a real, deep breath, you have to remember to do one important thing: give away all the air you’ve already got. If you’re like most people, you’ve been breathing short, shallow puffs from your chest for as long as you can remember, so you don’t have the muscle memory to take deep, belly breaths when you really need them.
To see where you breathe from, place one hand on your chest and the other under your belly button. Most people find that, when they inhale, their chest hand moves and their belly hand doesn’t–meaning that they’re using chest muscles, rather than the diaphragm, to move the air in. That shallow kind of breathing contributes to nervousness and stifles the calming, parasympathetic system.
That parasympathetic system is what you need to be comfortable on a skydive. When it’s shut down, you can get chest pain or heaviness (because you’ve ratcheted the muscles of your chest super-tight), dizziness (because shallow breathing can produce the same symptoms as hyperventilation) and arrhythmia or rapid heartbeat.
3. Learn how to bring it to the belly.
Here’s a belly breathing exercise that you can do at home or at the dropzone before your jump. This will help you breathe while skydiving, bringing a sense of calm and control.
- Place one hand just above your belly button and the other in the middle of your chest.
- Relax your upper body with a sign. With your mouth open, let out a sigh (as if you’d just found out that your roommate had forgotten to do the dishes again). Let the sigh relax your shoulders and the muscles of your upper body completely.
- Close your mouth, pausing for a long moment.
- Keeping your mouth closed, inhale slowly through your nose, pushing on your stomach hand with the intake of air.
- When you notice that you’ve taken in as much air as you comfortably can without moving your chest hand, stop. You’re full.
- Pause with full lungs for a long moment.
- Open your mouth and exhale through it by pulling your belly in.
- Pause with empty lungs.
- Repeat at least ten times; if you can, more.
4. Ask for a hand.
If it’s really an equipment problem and the harness is too tight when you’re under canopy, no problem! Just ask your instructor to make some adjustments. He or she will be happy to do so, and you’ll be free to use all that extra breath to holler your way joyfully back to Earth.