How To Breathe Underwater – Breathing Tips for Scuba Divers

One of the most important things to remember when learning scuba diving is breathing properly under the water.

That may not seem like a big deal, especially because most beginners think that breathing underwater will be the same as breathing above the water. It is a common misconception that oxygen tanks make diving easy.

This is not true in most cases. Professional scuba divers are used to breathing underwater easily, but you should be a little careful if you are a beginner. It might be challenging at first, but if you learn the proper techniques, you can easily master them.

In this article, you will learn about the various techniques to breathe with ease while scuba diving. You will also find a few tips and tricks that you can use to master the art of underwater breathing.

How Can You Improve Your Breathing Underwater?

Breathing while scuba diving might be a challenge if you are a beginner. However, there are various techniques that you can learn and master to overcome this problem.

One thing to always keep in mind is that each person has their own breathing capacity. That majorly depends on the size of your lungs. The bigger your lungs, the more easily you will be able to breathe.

Breathing Techniques for Scuba Divers

The following techniques can boost your breathing skills. Each of these requires a lot of patience and practice. Over time, you will get to know and understand how you can manage your breath when diving.

Freediving Technique

Freediving is one of the most common techniques used by divers today.

Freediving is a technique that will help you develop better breathing habits that will prove to be beneficial while diving. It will also help you get in touch with the various senses of your body while underwater. Listening to these body signals will help you get better control over your breathing.

Besides that, free diving also helps teach you how to slow down your breathing when your oxygen supply is almost over. In this case, free divers tend to act more calmly, which also helps in saving oxygen.

Freedivers are also known to handle the pressure of the water well while in great depths.


By yoga, we mean the breathing exercises in yoga. Yoga is known to help improve and control your breathing patterns. It also teaches us how to expand our lungs, stomach, and chest fully to make the most out of breathing.

If you learn how to use these organs, you will find it much easier to inhale and exhale while diving.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

This technique involves using the diaphragm to transfer oxygen to the lower part of our lungs. That might sound strange, but when we are on land, our breathing is mostly shallow. That is because we do not make full use of our lungs.

However, it is essential to remember to use the entire lung capacity for using the oxygen effectively. By breathing from the diaphragm, you won’t have to inhale a large amount of air to provide the cells with oxygen. This way, you’ll be making the optimal use of the oxygen in your tank.

Skip Breathing

Skip breathing is a technique practiced by divers, and it involves holding the breath for a short period in between inhalation and exhalation. In theory, skip breathing can cause a lot of complications.

However, many divers often practice this technique. Why? Let’s take a look.

To Save Air

It is a technique that scuba divers apply to save air. Professional divers understand the importance of conserving air while underwater. They are used to taking quick, short breaths.

To Get Better Control Over Buoyancy

Every diver knows the importance of maintaining and controlling their buoyancy. One way to get better control over this is by practicing breath control. That is very natural; however, it is important to remember that breath control and breath holding are two very different practices.

Keep in mind to not get confused between these two. Instead of focusing more on holding your breath, adapt and practice to get better control over it.

Unconscious Breathing

Another reason why most people have the bad habit to skip breath is due to the subconscious mind. Most of the time, when we do skip breath, we may not even realize it.

However, habits adapted by the unconscious mind are hard to break. It is important to stay aware of when you are doing skip breathing and avoid it from developing into a dangerous habit.

When it comes to diving, a slow, controlled breathing pattern is best recommended. Most divers recommend people to practice controlled breathing instead of skipping breath. This technique is much safer and proves to be more beneficial even while swimming under the water.

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Can You Breathe Through The Nose When Scuba Diving?

cannot breath through nose when diving

The short answer is no. You cannot breathe through your nose while scuba diving. Because you need to use a mask.

When you put on a scuba mask, it helps to protect your eyes and nose and it completely seals them. That makes it impossible for water to enter your nose.

If you want to equalize your ears, you can always use the flexible straps on the nose and pinch them gently.

Every dive mask has been designed in a way to keep the nose protected from the water. That is because of two major reasons.

  1. To clear out the mask – One of the major reasons why the nose stays inside the mask is because you will need to push out any water that has entered the mask. That is an important and mandatory lesson that instructors will teach you if you ever start scuba diving. Professional divers will also tell you that water entering into the mask is a common problem. In order to get rid of the water, you will simply need to breathe in through the mouth, pinch the top portion of the mask and then exhale through the nose. That will gently push the water out of the mask.
  2. To avoid a mask squeeze – Mask squeeze is another common problem faced by divers. A mask squeeze is where the diver’s mask gets uncomfortably tight on the face. That causes the mask to “squeeze” against their face. Usually, this problem can easily be fixed by getting a mask with the right fit in the first place (so if you have a larger face choose a mask accordingly). However, if you want to avoid a mask squeeze, you will need to exhale through your nose gently while descending into the water. By doing this, you can easily prevent mask squeeze.

How to Increase Your Breath Hold for Scuba Diving

Yes, it is possible to increase your breath hold. Similar to mastering any other technique, this one too requires a lot of patience and practice.

The process of breath holding can be easily done in one simple step.

Before trying to practice under the water, it is best to see how well you can do it above water. And that is the first step.

Sit upright on a chair or lie down straight on a bed. Before you start holding your breath, breathe normally for two minutes. Inhale and exhale peacefully. Once you feel ready, take a deep breath in and slowly exhale it out.

After this, take a really deep breath, as deep as your lungs can. Hold your breath here. Do not focus on the activity you are doing at the moment. Try to distract yourself by thinking about other things.

When you start to find it a little difficult, exhale the air out. Keep practicing this technique over and over again.

You may find it a little difficult at first. However, as time goes on, you can easily master the art of breath holding.

Why is it Important to Practice Breathing Techniques?

scuba breathing techniques

When a person is at rest, they can easily inhale and exhale 20 times a minute. However, when you master the art of controlled breathing, you can easily hold your breath for longer without struggling too much.

And what’s even better is that you will also learn how to make full use of your lungs. This way, you can take shorter breaths that will help you last longer as well.

When you have completely learned how to use your lungs, you will find that you can breathe easier underwater and you will not face any pressure or struggle

That is why it is necessary to practice these techniques before you go scuba diving. One reason beginner divers find it difficult under the water is that they are not familiar with breathing techniques.

On the other hand, professional divers have years of experience and have full control over their breathing patterns.

If you are a beginner diver, we would recommend you practice your breathing on land first. During this process, you can familiarize yourself with the various techniques used to control your breathing pattern.

Once you are confident about your skills, you can try testing them out in a swimming pool. Make sure you try these techniques in a shallow pool, as this is much safer. It might be difficult at first, but you will be ready to scuba dive with time and constant practice.

How to Breathe the Right Way While Scuba Diving

Even after you master the breathing techniques, you might still find scuba diving a bit troubling. Listed below are a few tips and tricks that you can make use of the next time you take the plunge.

Swim Before You Dive

Before you go scuba diving, make sure you go for a quick swim first. That will help get prepared for what is to come later.

Stretch Your Body

Scuba diving is an activity that requires you to stretch out your body. In order to avoid muscle cramps and pulls, remember to stretch properly.

Swim Naturally

When you are underwater, do not force yourself. Keep in mind to go with the flow and swim easily. Do not get stressed or anxious at any point.

Experience Diving

Beginner divers always struggle when compared to professional divers, but that is completely normal. As time goes by, you will eventually get the hang of it, so just keep practicing.

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Final Words

Scuba diving has been and still is one of the most exciting adventurous activities. With the rise in its popularity, a lot of people are curious to experience it.

However, you need to keep in mind that the rules of breathing are important, especially if you are a beginner. Please make sure you regularly practice it before you go underwater. This way, you will have a safer and more enjoyable experience.

My unbounded love for the oceans and everything it has to offer motivated me to pursue my passion and become a professional scuba diving instructor.

I keep reading, exploring, and learning more about scuba diving and the underwater world all the time, so I’m excited to share my knowledge with fellow scuba enthusiasts and hopefully contribute a little to your development as a diver. I want people to fall in love with the oceans with as much passion as I have. Read more about me here.

Calculating Air Consumption Rates for Scuba Diving

Natalie Gibb owns a dive shop in Mexico and is a PADI-certified open water scuba instructor and TDI-certified full cave diving instructor.

Scuba diver with butterflyfish

Air consumption rate is the speed at which a diver uses the air in the tank. Air consumption rates are usually given in terms of how much air a diver breathes in one minute on the surface, at one atmosphere of pressure.

Knowing your air consumption rate is useful in scuba diving because:

  • It allows you to calculate how long you can stay underwater at the planned depth and whether you have enough breathing gas for the dive.
  • It’s useful in determining the proper tank reserve pressure for a dive. Divers are often surprised to find that for deeper dives, more than the standard 700 to 1,000 pounds per square inch of reserve pressure might be required to get a buddy team safely to the surface.
  • In some types of technical diving, such as decompression diving, air consumption rates are essential in determining how much gas to carry for decompression stops.
  • It’s useful to assess a diver’s stress or comfort level during a dive. If you typically use 200 psi in five minutes of diving at 45 feet and notice that you have used 500 psi, that high air consumption rate might indicate that something is wrong.
  • A diver who is breathing calmly but using breathing gas more quickly than normal might have a major leak. Breathing resistance and an elevated consumption rate might also indicate that a diver’s regulator requires servicing.

Ideal Air Consumption Rate?

Scuba diver swims through a kelp forest.

Divers have been known to ask other divers “How much air did you surface with?” because they’re proud that they can stay underwater longer than most others.

There is no “normal” breathing rate among divers. Different divers require different quantities of air to properly oxygenate their bodies. A diver need only be concerned with calculating his or her average breathing rate. Trying to lower air consumption to “beat” another diver may accumulate carbon dioxide or under-oxygenate a diver’s body, which can be dangerous. A diver should focus on slow, calm, full breaths that properly ventilate the lungs and not compete to use less air.

Surface Air Consumption Rate

Scuba Diving Gear

Divers typically express air consumption using surface air consumption (SAC) rate and respiratory minute volume (RMV) rate.

SAC rate is a measurement of the amount of air a diver uses in one minute on the surface. SAC rates are given in units of pressure, either psi (imperial) or bar (metric). Because SAC rates are given in terms of tank pressure, not volume of air, SAC rates are tank specific:

  • 500 psi air in a standard 80-cubic- foot tank corresponds to 13 cubic feet of air.
  • 500 psi of air in a low-pressure 130-cubic-foot tank corresponds to 27 cubic feet of air.

A diver who breathes 8 cubic feet of air/minute will have a SAC rate of 300 psi/minute when diving with a standard aluminum 80-cubic-foot tank but a SAC rate of 147 psi/minute when diving with a low-pressure 130-cubic-foot tank.

Respiratory Minute Volume Rate

Scuba Diver Explores the Ocean on Her First Dive

Because SAC rates aren’t transferable between tanks of different sizes, a diver usually begins air consumption calculations using the RMV rate, which is independent of tank size. The diver then converts the RMV rate to a SAC rate based on the volume and working pressure of the tank to be used on the dive.

RMV rate is a measurement of the breathing gas that a diver consumes in one minute on the surface. RMV rates are expressed in cubic feet per minute (imperial) or liters per minute (metric),

Unlike a SAC rate, an RMV rate can be used for calculations with tanks of any volume. A diver who breathes 8 cubic feet of air a minute will always breathe 8 cubic feet of air a minute regardless of the size of the tank holding the air.

So most divers remember their air consumption rates in RMV format. Gas planning is typically worked through in RMV format and then converted to either psi or bar based on the type of tank to be used.

Measure Air Consumption Rate: Method 1

Buddy team scuba diving under the ice in drysuits.

Every training manual lists a slightly different method of gathering the data to calculate a diver’s air consumption rate. Whichever one you choose, remember to enter the water and allow your tank to cool before beginning your data gathering. As your tank cools, the pressure shown on your submersible pressure gauge (SPG) might drop 100 or 200 psi. Failing to account for this drop in pressure will result in calculating an inaccurately high air consumption rate.

Method 1: Collect data during normal fun dives

  1. Hop into the water and allow your tank to cool for a few minutes.
  2. Note the starting pressure of your tank. It’s best to record the starting tank pressure on a slate or WetNotes.
  3. On the surface after the dive, record the final pressure of your tank before the tank can warm up in the sun.
  4. Use a dive computer to determine the average depth of the dive. Use this depth in your calculations.
  5. Use a dive computer or watch to determine the total dive time in minutes.
  6. Plug this information into either the SAC rate or RMV rate listed below.
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Many divers prefer this method of calculating air consumption because it uses data from normal dives. However, because the resulting rate is based on an average depth of an entire dive, it is unlikely to be as accurate as the following method. But if a diver calculates air consumption rate using this method over many dives and averages the results, it should end up as a reasonable estimation of air consumption rate.

Scuba Diving Breathing Techniques to Improve your Air Consumption

tecnicas de respiracion para buceo - main

Scuba diving breathing techniques are among the most interesting skills of this sport since you will be able to take advantage of them in and out of the water.

  • If you often ask for tips to improve your air consumption, this article is for you.
  • If you want to be a better scuba diver, you are in the right place.
  • If you haven’t even dived once in your life, read on, because these techniques also have a practical application on the surface and will surprise you.

The Importance of Scuba Diving Breathing Techniques

Breathing is a cycle that begins when you let air into your lungs and ends when you expel CO2 and other gases. Taking into account that we breathe in and out 21,000 times per day (an average of 18 times per minute) and that every minute we move between five and six liters / 1.3 and 1.6 gallons of air, we can say every 24 hours we move between 7,200 and 8,600 liters / 1902 and 2272 gallons of air. You know how to breathe, it is obvious. Now we have to improve the technique.

Controlling our breathing rhythm is essential to scuba diving. In fact, it’s one of the first things we were taught in our Open Water Course. Do you remember what the key message was? Yes, never hold your breath! The reason is that breathing you’re going to:

– influence your air consumption;
– control your buoyancy;
– relax.

tecnicas de respiracion para buceo - goggles

On what principle are Scuba Diving Breathing Techniques Based?

In the article: 10 Scuba Tech Tips to Improve Your Diving Air Consumption we treat this point in depth. Making a summary, CO2 is the main reason why our body needs to breathe. We need to remove carbon dioxide particles at the same rate as they are produced. If not, our brains will require our lungs to breathe faster. For this reason, we should never stop breathing when diving. Doing so will accumulate CO2 in our bodies. The lower the level of carbon dioxide in the body, the less the need to breathe. The second point on which scuba diving breathing techniques are based is to keep as much oxygen as possible in our blood with the least respiratory effort. The main issue is that, as far as the hydrostatic pressure increases, air consumption increases, respiratory effort increases, and fatigue occurs. To avoid this, we have to control the rhythm and breathe slowly and deeply.

tecnicas de respiracion para buceo - dive buddy

Scuba Diving Breathing Techniques: Slow Diaphragmatic Breathing.

This scuba diving breathing technique consists of using the diaphragm to bring air into the lower third of the lungs. In this part, we can produce a greater exchange of gases. However, we normally use the chest muscles, so our breathing is shallow.

This scuba diving breathing technique’s value is to bring air to the most efficient part of our lungs. What does this mean? It will not be necessary to inhale such a large volume of air to provide oxygen to our cells, saving air in our tanks.

Did you know psychologists teach this scuba diving breathing technique to their patients to calm anxiety? It is not a surprise if we think this type of breathing helps lower the heart beat and stimulates relaxation. This aspect is extremely useful for divers. You know: the less stress, the less CO2 we produce.

Practicing diaphragmatic breathing on the surface

This scuba diving breathing technique is also known as abdominal breathing, to practice it follow these steps.

  1. Put one of your hands on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
  2. Inhale slowly, counting to two. Do it so that the hand you have on the abdomen rises. The hand you have on your chest will serve to check that it does not move.
  3. Count to four to expel the air and feel your abdomen sink.

The breathing techniques practiced in Yoga are very appropriate as well. With them, you will learn to use the diaphragm to breathe and thus take advantage of all the capacity of your lungs to breathe more efficiently. With these breathing techniques for diving, you will also reduce stress levels underwater and during your surface intervals. You already know a little more about breathing techniques for diving, but if you still have any questions, don’t hesitate, contact us.




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