1. Equalization takes muscle
There are more than 50 muscles in the head and neck. And over time, you will learn which ones to use, which ones not to use, and how to coordinate the muscles in a way that make equalization happen. Moreover, depending on which technique you learn, different muscles are engaged. Training to use these muscles effectively and efficiently takes time. Is it not unlike learning a new language where it can be challenging to make certain sounds like the throat clearing “R” sound in German or the rolling “R” sound in Spanish.
In language learning, you will be stringing together sounds you may have never made in your life, using combinations of muscles that are very unfamiliar to what you have been used to. So the only way to learn is to keep making these sounds, until the muscles used to produce them become familiar with the action. You do not learn a new language overnight! And so it is for equalization that you may take time to learn how to engage the muscles of equalization in a coordinated manner. It takes time for new neuromuscular patterns to be integrated in the body in a stable way.
2. Psychophysiological state matters
How you feel affects your body’s chemistry and physiology. If you are anxious, worried or upset, your mind will find it hard to focus and if your blood is circulating stress hormones like cortisol – and you are in survival mode, you will find it hard to learn something new. Conversely, if you are happy, relaxed and curious, you will learn more quickly.
Learn to spot yourself when you are being self-critical or feeling pressured and then take a step back to re-center yourself before trying again. Avoid demanding for perfection or getting it right when you are learning something new. Each time to practice equalization is a chance to learn. Learn to observe your errors with curiosity instead of with judgment and condemnation. Appreciate that it is already wonderful that you are trying to learn something new or difficult for you.
3. Self-awareness and self-insight are important
To problem-solve your issues, you will need data. Learn to collect data during each dive: How did I feel doing the dive I just did? What caused me to turn back during a dive? What pace of equalization is more comfortable for me? Is it easier to equalize when I do a free immersion or when I do a constant weight dive? Is it easier to equalize when I wear a noseclip or when I wear a mask? Do I have contractions during my dive? Am I pinching my nose comfortably or do my arm and shoulder feel strained and tensed? The data you collect offers you clues. For example, if it is easier to equalize when you wear a nose clip compared to a mask, perhaps your mask is not the best fit for you and/or you are using too much tension to pinch your nose.
4. Peer feedback helps
Often when we are diving, we are so focused on doing one thing that we may not notice the other things that we are doing or not doing. In such cases, our buddies or coaches who observe us when we dive can offer very good feedback. Is your mask positioned properly on your face? Are we overfilling our Mouthfill such that air always escapes? Are our jaws always clenched tight? Are our chins sticking out with necks outstretched and eyes looking ahead instead of directly in front? Your buddy can be an extra pair of eyes to help you spot things you miss and an extra brain to help you with troubleshooting. Once you receive the feedback and make an adjustment, it stays with you and the next time you practice again it, that problem area is eliminated. Hence, by constant feedback, adjustment and repetition, you increase your equalization effectiveness and efficiency.
5. Creativity is key
There are many ways to solve a problem. If one way of equalizing does not work, think about other ways. Think about who you are diving with – what kind of buddies bring out the best in you? What environment and ambience make you feel more relaxed? Control the factors that can increase your chance of successful learning. How about taking a break from line diving, and going for a leisure dive to look at sea life, with no pressure or expectations to succeed? How about taking a short singing course to learn to use your vocals and control airflow better? How about going to a gym and hanging upside down on a bar to try equalizing upside down on land?
To conclude, learning to equalize can take time. For every person who gets it almost immediately, there are others who don’t and learn it over a matter of weeks, months or years. You are not alone. And even if you did not have issues to equalize when you started, you can always improve your abilities and become better at it. Also, there are multiple techniques to be learned and you can become better at each one. Hence, learn to see the learning of equalization as part of your freediving journey. Marvel at each insight and improvement made, no matter how small. Take note of the things you can do today that you couldn’t do yesterday and celebrate them! And why not take the Equalization Gym course to help you better appreciate and mobilize the muscles of equalization?
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