Q: I’m getting fed up with my dive club making jokes about how bad my gas consumption is. I admit I’m not the slimmest card in the pack but I’ve been trying to exercise more, going to the gym and swimming twice a week. My girlfriend does yoga and thinks I should try it as she reckons it makes your lungs bigger. I always thought it was a bit weird but I’ll give it a go if it makes me less of an air pig. Is this true, or would I be wasting my time?
A: Yoga has come a long way from being a vaguely disconcerting habit of quirky hippies in the 1970s. There are now specific scuba-orientated yoga trips the world over, from the Bahamas to the Red Sea. So how can gaining inner peace benefit the humble diver?
For a diver, the essential elements of yoga can significantly reduce the likelihood of injury. Specific exercises can improve core stability, working on the lower back to protect it from the trauma of twinsets and weightbelts. Targeting the legs and hips can improve finning (both technique and stamina). The breathing exercises that are fundamental to yoga are also ideal for improving lung capacity and encouraging effective breathing during hard exertion. Ultimately this will extend bottom times and reduce feelings of panic underwater, which we all want, don’t we.
And what of the more, ah, spiritual aspects to the ancient Yogic arts? Visualisation techniques in yoga are often practised by freedivers, and can help prepare any diver for challenging or particularly strenuous dives. So before belittling the posh toffs of yogaland too much it’s worth giving the practice a chance to make us better divers.
Q: In the summer I went diving in Milford Sound in New Zealand. It was amazing, green water, the vis wasn’t great but stacks of critters and strange fish there. Anyway, I dived in a lot of wetsuit – I had 15mm of neoprene on and could hardly bend my knees or elbows! Despite all the rubber I still felt really cold on the dives, and the dive guide poured asks of hot water down our backs during the surface interval. When I got back to the campsite I found a strange rash on my arms and legs, lots of little raised bumps, different sizes, which were really itchy. I went straight back to the dive shop and they sent me to a doctor. Thankfully she didn’t think it was DCI (and I couldn’t believe it was either as we only did two dives and they were really safe). She thought it was an allergic reaction to the cold, but I’ve never had that before. I didn’t get any other symptoms but the bumps are still there, four months later. Was she right, or should I come and see you?
A: The rash you’re describing sounds very unlike the classic mottled appearance of a skin bend, and I’ve never heard of one lasting four months. In the absence of any other symptoms, I think DCI is unlikely; this sounds to me like something called cold urticaria. It is indeed a form of allergy, triggered by exposure to cold, where hives, wheals or bumps form on the skin. They can be incredibly itchy, and last for anywhere from minutes to months. The treatment is pure rocket science – stay warm. Antihistamines will sometimes help the itch and possibly reduce the number of hives. Although it sounds trivial, cold urticaria can sometimes result in serious anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal, so more severe sufferers should carry an adrenaline injection around with them.
Main photo: Stock image by Sebastian Pena Lambarri