When you first become involved in the sport of recreational diving, one of the most important rules to master is proper breathing techniques.
Divers use a scuba regulator to breathe the air from the scuba tank at ambient pressure and it often puzzles beginners why some divers seem to breathe underwater like a fish while others are complete 'Air Pigs'.
There is more than one reason that can affect a divers' air consumption rate, but the main one is using the correct breathing technique.
Holding your breath while diving is a bad habit for divers and could result in serious injury. If expanding air cannot escape from your normal exhalation then it can cause lung over-expansion injuries. So the breathing rule is to breathe normally and Never, Never hold your breath.
The best way to activate a demand valve is to breathe slowly and slightly deeper than normal. Make sure that your inhalation is calm, relaxed and slow which helps to fill the lungs with oxygen rich air and then slowly exhale fully to remove carbon dioxide.
This technique helps to avoid the feeling of air starvation which is actually caused by an excessive buildup of carbon dioxide; Not a lack of oxygen.
Try to pace yourself while you're diving, after all, what's the rush ? Scuba diving is meant to be a relaxing interaction with nature and not a race against it. Although you don't need to be an Olympic Athlete to enjoy scuba diving, it certainly helps if you are in good physical shape.
There is usually an amount of swimming involved in diving which helps you to maintain your position and direction in the water. Heart and circulatory problems are a significant contributor to the most common diving fatalities. If you're in any doubt then it may be a good idea to seek a physical exam before you go diving.
If we assume that you have chosen to dive with a true professional and caring instructor then he will have checked your scuba equipment for proper function and hygiene. However, it might help if you also know how to spot some common problems with regulators as part of these general breathing rules for scuba diving.
Most modern scuba regulators have a alternate reg sometimes called an octopus and you should check that both regs are giving you odorless and tasteless clean air by pressing the purge button.
Test the air and don't use it if there is a bad smell or taste to the air supply from the tank. It's also a good idea to check the regulator hoses for cracks, splits or any sign of corrosion.
Rental regulators tend to get abused by novice divers and they should be regularly maintained and serviced by an authorized scuba technician.
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