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Snorkel Yoga

Road to Wellness

By Diane Utaski · March 16th, 2005 · The Road to Wellness
In Jamaica at Rainbow Tree Villa, you can walk right into the surf of warm, blue and crystal clear water and within 5 feet be snorkeling along colorful coral. The surf is gentle, but the waves have just enough energy and force to create a sparkling bubble dance underneath the water. They crash on the shallow coral, a reminder that all waves are part of the whole and melt back down into the source as bubbles of bliss.

Sometimes I swim through those bubbles and feel an intimate union with that source. I also feel that union as my body rocks forward and back to the same rhythm that rocks the sea plants and fish below the surface. We are all one life, one source.

And when I put my head in the water, all the outside noise stops as I glide along hearing only the sound of my open slow breath through the snorkel. It feels like a version of yoga ujjayi, breathing through the mouth. I notice my breath gets deep, diaphragmatic and slow. As I explore, I decide to name this the "snorkel breath" and recommend it to asthma sufferers.

Some of the coral is quite close to the surface but just enough water for me to safely float over and not touch it. I found this takes total relaxation and calmness. I consciously soften my body and relax my neck and spine to float "lighter" and not resist the waves that I fear will push me down or against the coral.

With this awareness, I notice the waves actually cradle me and move me through the tight spots rather than inhibit my passage. And in the process my face is so close to the coral, plants and fish I can see brilliant colorful detail that I know not many mortals gaze on. I feel a sense of honor and gratitude as I surrender to the beauty that surrounds me.

I know I'm doing my yoga off the mat. I know this especially when my mask fills with water and the salt water gets close to my nose. I start to get irritated but then decide to use the backflow as a "neti pot" style nasal wash, and be thankful for the natural sinus cleansing.

Then every once in a while a big wave will throw water into the top of my snorkel, so I get to use sharp, deep exhalations to blow the water out. I feel a sense of yoga kapalabhati breath and the power from my core. It also creates heat if I get chilled and releases unconscious tension from my chest.

Thich Nhat Hanh writes about walking meditations. I feel I discovered snorkeling as a swimming meditation. Focus and present moment awareness is the magical reward. I go slow to look inside the caves, instead of fearfully swimming by them. Usually inside are beautiful iridescent fish and a light coming from a distant opening. Sometimes there's a big black eel, but they usually retreat or stay calm and unmoving.

All are metaphors for my own personal caves of daily life that I can approach with the love and consciousness that yoga brings. I enter and journey to the lighted opening and accept the present but non-threatening eel.

But like hatha yoga on the mat, I do keep an awareness of my "edge of comfort" and surroundings on all sides. I don't want to swim right into a shark or barracuda or get too shallow and crush or kill the coral. So I'm grateful for the neck flexibility I've developed from all my years of spinal twists on the mat. I can look around freely and enjoy the buoyant twisting of my neck, shoulders and spine in the water.

I watch for sharks and cudas. I'm still working at sending love energy, since I believe they feel "fear vibes" through the water, which could arouse their attention and curiosity even more. A friend of mine once asked if I knew the best way to make a shark go away when you are snorkeling. "Close your eyes," she said.

Sounds like a basic stress management technique to me. Just one more lesson to learn below the surface.



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