British freediver Helena Bourdillion has been in Selsey to help launch a new diving group.
She talked enthusiastically about her experiences and how the sport has helped her in her life.
The presentation, Go Deep: My Journey into Freediving, was made at Selsey Town Hall as part of the launch of Mulberry Freedivers.
Anya Frampton, dive control specialist and retail manager at Mulberry Divers, said: “Freediving is an amazing sport that is open to all ages and levels of ability – the peace and tranquillity is just amazing.
“This was the first talk Helena has given but it will not be the last. Having enjoyed the experience, she will continue to spread the message when home from training.”
Helena is a member of the GB 2017 Freediving Team and competed in the world championships in Roatan in August.
Anya added: “Mulberry Divers were delighted to be able to help with her sponsorship for this event as, like many non-Olympic sports, the athletes competing receive no funding for training or taking part. Helena used a crowd funding site to raise the money needed to represent her country.”
During the presentation, Helena explained she began as a two-metre diver and after just a few years of dedicated training, the official table ranked her fifth out of 31 female competitors.
She had achieved three white cards, in three disciplines. This involves completing a clean dive, reaching the depth announced, retrieving a tag to prove it and completing the surface protocol on return to show control, all done on a single breath of air.
The focus of the talk, however, was a frank and honest account of what freediving has meant to Helena, a long-term sufferer of severe depression and mental illness.
Anya said: “Helena was kind enough to tell us how the sport has helped saved her life, from a dark place where she could not imagine being alive any longer to representing her country.
“Freediving has allowed her to find a peace and acceptance of herself that she never knew before. It has built her confidence and trust in herself.
“The relaxation breathing and meditation, an integral part of the sport, has led Helena to a balance that she can take with her when on land, helping to heal.
“The dark is now behind her. The overall message of the talk was that she wants to show other sufferers there is hope, there is a future and you can achieve – so dream. It is an important message and Helena actively seeks to talk and help others through her experience.”
Helena also ran a relaxation breathing session at the Selsey Centre and began by explaining that adults tend to forget how to breathe correctly.
She said the stress of everyday life gets in the way but people should remember ‘we can go three weeks without food, three days without water but only three minutes without air’.
People who do not breathe with their diaphragm cannot fully benefit from the oxygenated blood every inhale brings. Helena demonstrated some exercises to help people start to use the diaphragm to breathe and then ran a guided relaxation body scan exercise.
Anya said: “I must say it was very relaxing and enlightening. We started by counting our normal breaths – do not change them but just count how many in a minute.
“The number varied in the class from nine to 20 a minute - time for most of us to slow down. Learning how the body moves when breathing correctly teaches you what to look out for.
“Correctly placing your hands to feel the motion and see how well you are doing, some of these muscles have not moved in a long time.
“The guided relaxation body scan was so relaxing than I could hear the gentle sounds of snoring as several people drifted off to sleep. I was awake but barely there, just able to hear Helena on the edge of my consciousness talking me though the steps. I can recommend it as a way to unwind and relax at any time.
“The class was very popular and we will run some more over the next couple of months. Helena has promised to come back in January to run an advanced class.
“It was a great couple of days and we must say thank you to Helena for her time, dedication, enthusiasm and honesty.”
Visit www.mulberrydivers.co.uk for more information.