Meet British record breaker and Yoga for City Surfers new teacher Rebecca Coales...
In September I'm extending my Yoga for City Surfers class to Bristol to help keep the city's thriving surfing community surfing-fit and flexible when they're away from the sea. As with my London class I've carefully chosen a couple of teachers to teach the class while I'm working abroad (this winter will be beautiful Bali!), so before the classes get started I thought it would be worth introducing the Bristol YFCS team but letting them explain who they are and their connection with surfing/yoga.
First off, I'm SO EXCITED to have professional free-diver and British record breaker Rebecca Coales on board! Take it away Rebecca!
To begin with, can you tell us the style of yoga you teach?
I teach a blend of dynamic ‘Hatha flow’ postures with breathing and relaxation exercises. My teacher training has been with Sun Power Yoga and Yoga Sport Science, with influences from Kundalini yoga and Vinyasa Krama.
You’re a professional free diver. Can you describe the style of free diving you do and how it’s different to depth free diving.
I enjoy all forms of freediving (in the sea, lake and pool), but I only compete in the pool. My best disciplines are swimming horizontally with and without fins (known as Dynamic Apnea), for which I’ve set 5 British records. With a mono fin (swimming like a dolphin) I can swim 186m which is almost 4 lengths of an Olympic pool! The difference with depth diving is that pool freediving is more athletic as you have to swim continuously, however we don’t have the challenge of increasing pressure as with depth.
How did you get into diving and what drove you to compete?
I’ve always loved scuba diving, but I tried freediving as I liked the idea of moving freely in the water without bulky equipment. That was over six years ago, and I started training to compete three years ago after I met my coach Steve. I’m motivated to explore the limits of my physical and mental potential and improving my ability to handle stress. Believe it or not I used to suffer from anxiety before I took up yoga and freediving, and this has almost disappeared!
What’s the biggest mental challenge about free-diving?
The obvious one is overcoming the urge to breathe. We use thought-challenging techniques, much like that found in cognitive behavioural therapies, to train ourselves to ignore these urges (up to a point of course!) and relax into the moment. The less obvious one is believing in yourself and having the confidence to let go and allow your body to do what you’ve trained it to do.
What connection you do you'll there is between yoga and diving?
Freediving is a form of active meditation which requires the body to move gracefully and stay relaxed under pressure. I find my yoga practice keeps me physically honed to move efficiently through the water, it keeps my lungs healthy through regular pranayama and it helps me to relax and focus. I actually find it quite difficult to relax so yoga is a life-saver for me!
And what can surfers learn from free diving?
The techniques we use to train our tolerance to low oxygen and high CO2 would help surfers when they’re suddenly caught in a wipeout. Learning to hold your breath without preparation and under stress could save your life. I think divers and surfers also share the need to let go of trying to control their environment and circumstances and trust the body to do its thing.
Where’s your favourite spot to surf and where’s next on your bucket list of places to surf?
My favourite surfing spots are North Devon and Morocco. I’d like to try Portugal next as I’ve never visited the country and can’t wait to see the old towns and enjoy the food and waves.
What motto do you try to live by?
Trust that your body has more intelligence and ability that you could ever dream of – you just need to get your mind out of the way!