In this latest article in The Guide, freediver and yoga teacher Lisa Mattes meditates on the virtues of good nutrition, silencing your mind, and getting off your butt…
Freediver Tomoka Fukuda clears her mind and slows down her heart rate before a competition dive
When people hear that I’m a freediver, and even an athlete—participating in competitions to see who dives deepest, farthest or longest on a single breath—they often envisage my training to be mermaid-like play in the water and that I would just be holding my breath a lot.
Though I do that too, of course, there is much more to it than that, and the things I do on top of “holding my breath and looking pretty” are not only an essential part of training, but can actually help anyone to live a balanced, healthy lifestyle, whether you are an athlete or simply want to feel good.
To perform your best, whether it’s in a sport or at work, there are several things to consider—and they’re all easy to integrate into your everyday routine.
Lisa Mattes hitches a ride on Karl Stanley’s submarine off of Roatán, Honduras
Food is your fuel, and it can either keep you going for hours or put you into a coma-like state (nap time after a heavy lunch anyone?). Using foods to your advantage is not so much about counting calories but more about the kind of foods you eat and drink, and their nutrient density.
My personal favorite way to start the day is to drink a large glass (1/2–1 liter) of water mixed with the juice of 1/2–1 lemon. Water will rehydrate your body after resting for several hours, it will wake up your organs and stimulate your digestive tract. The lemon juice also helps to flush out waste and toxins, and balances your PH levels (your body wants to be alkaline and despite their sour taste, lemons have an alkalizing effect, limes even more so).
Lemon juice also works as an anti-inflammatory and helps with the reduction of mucus in your body—great for clear sinuses and therefore easier equalization. Give it a go and you might soon notice your morning coffee cravings have diminished, your skin has cleared up, lines are finer, dark circles lighter, and your digestion functions like clockwork!
Lisa Mattes and one of her delicious smoothies
To provide your body with optimum fuel—giving you constant, lasting energy while keeping you feeling satisfied—try a green smoothie for your next breakfast or as a post-workout snack. Unlike juices, smoothies still contain all the fiber of the ingredients used; you also sneak a handful greens into your body without really noticing it. I swear a green smoothie improves my mood within 10 minutes of slurping it!
To make a delicious green smoothie, keep it simple (a few ingredients will do) and make sure you have one creamy ingredient. “Creamy” means that the fruit used has water soluble fiber. This could be bananas (even creamier when frozen before blending: peel, break into pieces, freeze in a Ziploc bag; you will need less ice, which will in turn make your smoothie creamier still), mangoes, papaya, pears, avocados, peache or apricots. Apples, on the other hand, do not have water soluble fiber and will need the support of a banana to give you a creamy consistency.
Regarding greens, start with mild-tasting leafy greens and use only a little so your smoothie still tastes nice and sweet. Try fresh baby spinach, lettuce, swiss chard, beet greens, carrot greens or bok choy. Parsley, cilantro, kale, collard and dandelion leaves are a little more bitter in taste, but that can be balanced out well with some ripe, sweet fruit.
In terms of lunch or dinner, go for a huge plate of salad or veggies, for instance. It will fill you up just like a plate of pasta, but unlike the pasta, it not only contains lots of fiber, which your digestive system will love, but also a whole bunch of macro- and micronutrients. Plus, it will give you long-lasting energy, without that bloated or heavy feeling.
A Caribbean reef shark checks out Lisa Mattes off of Roatán, Honduras
Your body was built to be on the move a lot, but unfortunately, most of us have a sedentary lifestyle and only move from the couch to the car/public transport to the office and back. But your body will thank you for any physical activity. Exercising before work gets the whole thing out of the way, gives you an energy boost for the day plus that great feeling of accomplishment. If you’re confident you won’t bail, getting moving after work has its appeal too. You can run off or stretch out all the stresses of your day, balance the sitting around for hours and finish with a refreshing shower to start your recreational time nice and relaxed.
Yoga instructor Brittany Trubridge stretches in front of Deans Blue Hole, Bahamas
Yoga is a great place to start. (But if yoga isn’t your thing, do something else!) Practicing yoga regularly will keep you strong yet flexible, while teaching you to listen to your body (bullying oneself into a pose often only results in injuries), to focus on yourself (comparison with others is the thief of joy), and to let go of expectation—paradoxically, once you drop your expectations, things fall into place, freediving depths are reached, yoga poses (asanas) are fully expressed.
There are many different kinds of yoga: fast and vigorous, slow and gentle. Have a look for studios around your home or work, or check out video clips online. You will find countless sequences, from five minutes to a couple of hours. Keep two things in mind: (i) even five minutes will make you feel better, and (ii) whatever the teacher says or does is a suggestion only. Follow your breath, listen to your body, and find the balance between comfort and discomfort. Never push yourself into pain.
Really another aspect of yoga, meditation trains your strongest asset—your mind. Many truly underestimate the power of thought, but anyone who has worked with it for a while will agree that the right mindset can get you further than anything else. Meditation calms you, centers you, and trains your focus as well as your reactivity to distractions.
Spend just five minutes every morning to get some quiet time and meditate or visualize. Set a timer, then sit with a straight spine, either cross-legged (on a yoga block or pillow if you like), or on a chair, with your palms on your thighs or knees. Palms facing downwards will give you a more grounding feeling; palms up will stimulate your creativity and imagination. Gently close your eyes and start focusing on your breath, through your nose.
Antero Joki of Finland meditates before setting a new freediving national record
For meditation, simply continue breathing, slowly and relaxed. If any thoughts enter your mind, observe them (“ah, a thought”), and then let them pass without judging them or holding onto them. As soon as you notice your mind trailing off, get back to your breath. For visualization, imagine anything you like, e.g., a certain situation or just your day ahead, the way you want it to be. Visualizing will help solve problems better, and set your mind onto “I can do it.” Most world-class freedivers swear by visualizing their dives before big competitions.
Finally, direct your mind towards positive thinking. It can bring a smile to your face, and improve your mood and outlook on your work and life in general—and that’s good for all of us.
About the Author: Lisa is a freediving instructor and five-time national record holder for Austria, a yoga teacher and the creator of Rohtopia, a bilingual platform for holistic wellbeing. She has presented raw foods in Thailand, Australia, Austria, Canada and Germany; published four raw recipe books; and her videos have gained worldwide recognition. Lisa healed herself from allergic skin rashes through juicing for 35 days and eating raw foods, and her deepest wish is to move, touch and inspire as many people as possible.
On Rohtopia, she offers free recipes on raw foods, DIY natural beauty and body care, eco-friendly living for detoxed homes, and guided meditation for self-development. Lisa is also available for private coaching, workshops and events via Rohtopia.com. You can connect with her on YouTube and Instagram @Rohtopia.